New Orleans Saints Roster Review: Linebackers

Stacy Revere

The first submission in our search for new front page contributors is an in-depth look at the Saints linebacker overhaul over the past few years.

We're ready to kick off our search for fresh new front page talent here on Canal Street Chronicles, and make the best Saints blog on the net even better. Not possible you say? Yeah, you're probably right.

In case you missed the introduction to our little talent search, 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!

Now I present to you the first submission of our writer search.

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No other position on the Saints roster has experienced more upheavel in recent years than the linebacker corps and, not surprisingly, it has also consistently been one of the weakest links in the Saints defense. While it experienced a boost with the addition of Vilma, it also experienced a decline with the departure of Fujita following the 2009 Super Bowl win and, with the exit of much maligned (but under-appreciated, in my opinion) Shanle to free agency, the Saints linebacking corps has never been more uncertain in terms of proven ability or absence of experience.

Reviewing the roster going into camp, no roster spots are assured as the familiar names will be battling against some of the best young LBs in the country signed as undrafted free agents. However, by not choosing a LB in this years draft, the Saints organization might be sending the message it is more comfortable with the LBs it currently has on the roster than one might suspect .

This comes as a relief to anxious fans who, especially in recent years, have been at times dismayed by the poor tackling and porousness of the group. The recent listing of DE Smith as an OLB would also seem to substantiate any questions fans have regarding the depth and ability at the position.

Another twist in the LB saga is the success former defensive coordinator Williams had in often using strong safety Harper to blitz. Many are calling for Harper to be used in a similar role in new DC Ryan's 3-4 defense and the need to use Harper in a modified SS/OLB position, paired with Smith's hybrid DE/OLB position, only further highlights the questions concerning the Saint's LB corps.

Besides the possibility of Harper and Smith playing LB, a large number of returning LBs should be expected to make the Saints final roster. Former DE Galette, who was recently converted to OLB, showed flashes of pass rushing ability last season and should see significant playing time on the left side. Along with Galette, the recently signed from Dallas LB Butler should fill one of two spots at LOLB.

Opposite Galette and Butler, returning veterans Vilma and Wilson stand an equally good chance of occupying the right side at ROLB. There might appear to be a greater degree of uncertainty on the inside but there is little doubt the reliable Humber and Lofton will make the roster at RILB, while versatile Hawthorne, paired with either Chamberlain, who suffered a season ending injury from last year, or the veteran Herring should round out the LB corps at RILB. I believe Chamberlain will ultimately win the spot but Herring's versatility and veteran presence will undoubtedly ensure his phone number will be on the coach's speed dial.

The biggest cause for excitement, however, might be with the slew of young undrafted free agent LBs going into camp. With Johnson and Shipman listed at LOLB, Martin at LILB, Reddick at RILB and Thomas at ROLB, some of these top ranked LBs from around the country will undoubtedly compete heavily for spots on the Saints active roster and not just the practice squad. The level of competition may land someone on IR but we may very well be getting a glimpse of the Saints future LB corps. Regardless of the final outcome, the competition between veterans and rookies will undoubtedly position the 2013 with the best corps of LBs available. While the possibility of Smith and Harper playing hybrid positions may add a twist to our defense, I don't see them costing any proven or prospective LBs a chance at the final roster.

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