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More Fun With Tables: The Defense

I thought I would sit down and put together projected depth charts together for each position, as of the start of training camp. A lot of this is theory, which will be either proved or disproved over the next few weeks. The chart goes through third-string; beyond that, or any error that you may perceive, is fodder for the comments section.

Let's start with the Defensive line:

Left End Nose Tackle Other Tackle Right End
Grant Thomas Young* Smith
Ninkovitch Clancy Leisle Cooper
Palepoli Legree Clancy W. Evans

Discussion Points:

  • Grant, Thomas and Smith are givens. Young would be a given, but for his recent foot injury. He should be back before the season opener, but there is risk of reinjuring, and he won't be in shape. I assume that Leisle will get the first-shot at the other tackle spot in Young's absence, so as not to disrupt the nose tackle rotation. After Leisle, I'm guessing that Clancy would shift over, followed by the unlisted Antwaan Lake.
  • Grant's primary backup is Rob Ninkovitch, he of three career games-played. Smith's primary backup is Josh Cooper, he of seven career games--since 2004. With the recent release of veteran Willie Whitehead, the team lacks depth at the end spot. Let's hope the roster doesn't become pock marked there (couldn't resist).

Let's move to the linebacking corps:

Sam Mike Will
Fujita Simoneau Shanle
Jones Simmons Faulk
Fincher Mitchell T. Evans

Discussion Points:

  • While the Saints are thin at defensive end, they are plenty deep at linebacker. Gary Gibbs and Joe Vitt will have fun mixing and matching the different players this season. To wit:
  • Each of the Saints' top-six linebackers has started somewhere recently. Even the third-teamers will provide good value on special teams.
  • On Opening Day, I wouldn't be surprised to see Simmons in the middle, with Simoneau as his primary backup. Another configuration would put Simmons in the middle, flanked by Simoneau and Fujita. I like Simmons more than Shanle and Simoneau, I think he's a more athletic player with great experience. But honestly, the team can't go wrong.
  • Right now Trev Faulk and Troy Evans are competing for the backup role behind Shanle. It wouldn't surprise me to see Faulk win this competition, since he worked with LB coach Joe Vitt in St. Louis. The team could also carry both, since both have experience on special teams.

Finally, the defensive backfield:

McKenzie Harper Bullocks David Craft
Craft Bellamy Kaesviharn Thomas Thomas
Young Reis Burns Young Young

Discussion Points:

  • Jason David and Fred Thomas are technically competing for the right corner spot. I think they're both going to play, but the team didn't bring David over from Indianapolis to sit on the bench. I would expect him to start and to receive the majority of the snaps.
  • The return of Roman Harper from a torn ACL. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jay Bellamy supplant the highly-regarded Harper at strong safety. While Harper showed flashes of brilliance early last season, his relative inexperience, coupled with his return from a serious knee injury, make him a wild card in the secondary. To be sure, both players will see playing time.
  • Usama Young is listed at third-string for both corner spots. Young may be the best athlete in the secondary. I would expect Fred Thomas and Jason Craft to be the primary backups when the Saints break camp, but Young may pass one of them as the primary backup
  • Nickel Corner is wide open. For now, Craft is included as the nickel corner, but it really could be anybody. With his physical gifts, I'm hoping that Young wins out.

So that's the defense. Let me have it in the comments section ... if you dare.