No, we are not finished with our search for fresh new front page talent here on Canal Street Chronicles, to make the best Saints blog on the net even better. Here is yet another audition candidate.
In case you missed the introduction to our little talent search here, be sure to read it first before continuing. Remember, any and all criticism must be 100% constructive and positive in nature. Keep Da Chronic classy!
Please welcome the next contestant of Da Chronic's Got Talent! S/he is willing to contribute once, maybe twice a month.
Losing Heat: What Saints Defenders Might Follow Williams to the Rams?
When Payton and Loomis brought in Dr. Heat, New Orleans scored more than just a blitz-happy coordinator, prone to gems such as, "I have guys that couldn't catch a cold butt naked in a rain storm." Our dearly departed Gregg Williams also brought a slew of former players sold on his brand of damned if you do, damned if you do defense. Okay, to be fair, that defense, helped seal the deal on New Orleans' first-ever Super Bowl. For that, Dr. Heat should always have a special place in Whodat hearts.
But players have followed Williams when he's left other teams. This raises two questions: Which Saints might follow Williams to St. Louis? And are there any Ram defenders who might follow Spagnuolo to New Orleans?
After the Super Bowl win (and just before the "No Catching M*&^@-*F%*%R" clip), I think the best thing Greg-with-two-Gs, brought us is Jabari Greer (Nobody Understands Him!). He's been the most reliable and probably the best corner we've had-Porter's 2009 playoff performance not withstanding- since he's arrived.
Jabari is the best player who followed Dr. Heat, but not the only one. To my count, we also signed Clint Ingram, Pierson Prioleau, and Paul Spicer. (Bobby McCray and Leigh Torrence signed before Gregg, I think, but please tell me if I'm missing anyone.) Of the three Not-Jabari's, Prioleau is the only one who really got playing time, but he was a solid special teams and locker room guy, and if Ingram had been healthy, who knows.
We've got Jabari wrapped up through 2012, so we don't have to worry about him headed up-River in Williams' wake for a bit. However, homegrown UFA talents Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Tracy Porter have thrived to some extent in Williams' system. Would Williams' draw be enough for them to leave a contender like the Saints for the uncertainty of Fisher's Rams?
If Spagnuolo has the same pied-piper effect, could we end up with a Jabari 2.0 if a few of Spags' former players decide to come along for the ride?
It wouldn't be the first time. Three former Giants' defenders followed Spags to St. Louis: Fred Robbins, James Butler, and Craig Dahl. Granted, the Rams' defense wasn't exactly on fire this year. In fact, the Rams' 22-ranked defense was pretty bad, short of one given Sunday against the Saints. But, it's the off-season, and it's all hopes and dreams from now until pre-season (just as soon as we can wipe the bitter taste of Air Alex out of our mouths).
According to ESPN Insiders, here are the top four 2012 Rams free agent defenders:
Seventh-year UFA OLB, Brady Poppinga is the highest rated of the bunch, scoring a 62*.
According to ESPN Insiders:
Poppinga doesn't have outstanding raw talent but wins with toughness, intensity, intelligence and technique. He is a high-motor player who is a bit of an overachiever. He uses his hands well and understands how to leverage blockers at the point of attack. Poppinga is a solid tackler and runs well in pursuit, but lacks great lateral agility to redirect in space. He can be a liability in pure man coverage but is effective in combination zone schemes. He has never really developed as a pass rusher, and with Clay Matthews ahead of him on the depth chart Popinga will likely make his biggest contributions on special teams.
*62 isn't great, but they score Jo-Lonn Dunbar a 62, and I think we all agree that he did a fine job filling in for Vilma this year.
Next up is fifth-year UFA DT Gary Gibson, who scores a 61.
According to ESPN Insiders:
In 2009 he signed with St. Louis and has worked his way up to being their starting right DT. In 2010 he played in and started all 16 games and finished with 18 tackles on the year. He has adequate size for the position with good initial quickness and shows good awareness of blocking schemes as well as an understanding of how to keep his pad level down to leverage and squeeze blocks down. He lacks the strength to plug things up when double teamed but can penetrate gaps and knows how to use his hands to defeat and shed blocks. He is a good fighter in the trenches and shows excellent effort from snap to whistle.
Ninth-year UFA CB Roderick Hood and fourth-year UFA OLB Bryan Kehl round things out, both scoring a 59.
Again, according to ESPN Insiders:
Hood has athleticism and good downfield speed. He can extend the cushion with a fluid, easy backpedal and can flip his hips to turn and run with receivers deep. He shows good transition quickness and can close on the ball in front of him with a burst. He shows above-average route awareness and the ability to read the quarterback's eyes from off coverage.
Kehl has developed into a nice sub-package substitute and role player. He brings a nice combination of size, speed and athletic ability and understands the defensive schemes used by the Rams. He lacks great upper-body strength and could do a better job of using his hands to defeat and shed blockers. He shows good agility and foot speed when dropping into space and can lock on most tight ends and running backs on downfield routes.
None of these players sound like the kind of get-after-the-quarterback difference-maker the Saints go after each year but never seem to land. Then again, with the big three of Brees, Nicks, and Colston looming in free agency this year, likely the best we can hope for in free agency is to pick up a couple of solid defenders who might be special team standouts and just maybe, just maybe, might even find a second life down in New Orleans. It's happened before.