When the Saints selected Martez Wilson, my first thought was "it's about time." While in Loomis/Payton I trust, I have always wondered why we continued to neglect to address a position I felt was our weakest, linebacker. The former Illini should prove to be the man we have been missing.
At Illinois he was dubbed the "Freak 2," and while the term "athletic freak" is tossed around too much these days, Martez fits the bill. Just watch Jeff Duncan stammer about his build here. At 6'4'', 250 lbs, Wilson ran 40 yards in 4.49 seconds. That was the fastest time of any linebacker at the combine. He's got orangutan arms to boot which he uses well to both shed blockers and wrap up.
There's been a trend recently for defensive players to just slam into players rather than wrap up (something I think that will change with the new helmet-to-helmet rules), but if you watch the most consistent linebacker in the game, Ray Lewis always wraps up well and finishes the job. Wilson does as well. Once he gets those arms around someone, there is no escape. Even against big guys like Terelle Pryor or fast, elusive ones like Denard Robinson; Wilson gets them down. He wraps up so well, in fact, that he was fourth in the Big Twelve last year with 112 tackles. He also uses those arms to shed blockers and weave inside for the tackle or sack. While I love watching and waiting for a forced fumble, our defense could definitely use some more wrap up tacklers and fewer strip attempts.
Watching the film, Wilson is always near the football even when other defenders clearly have the tackle made. This will work well with the "population to the football" defensive strategy our boys play. It also shows he possesses good instincts in being at the right place most of the time.
The one issue I take with Wilson is that he seems to watch the game sometimes. There is the occasional split second that he hesitates before reacting. In college, this cost him a few critical plays as he lost the angle of pursuit whilst watching. In the lightening fast NFL, he's going to end up watching from the sideline if he keeps watching on the field.
Thankfully, we have the most intelligent middle linebacker in the league in the amazing Jonathan "You're mind is tired" Vilma. Wilson will probably line up at the Sam position and Vilma can point him in the right direction and turn him loose. No more thinking required. Vilma should also provide some critical tutelage to help the young man blossom so that one day he can be making those calls himself.
While Wilson may hesitate, he always plays heads-up football. He never stops his pursuit. He made some excellent tandem plays of fumble recoveries and intercepting a tipped pass with another Saints pick Nate Bussey. The two play excellently together. Unfortunately, I doubt Bussey will see much time on the defense seeing how he won't have much time to prove himself due to the lack of an offseason.
The linebacker corps got a lot stronger this offseason, and with it, the Who Dat defense should finally get the recognition it deserves and lead us to another Super Bowl caliber season. I am very excited to welcome such an outstanding player to the New Orleans Saints. Who Dat!
Some good scouting videos: