Continuing on with our roster breakdown position by position we now come to the linebacking corp. This position has had one heck of a makeover this off-season. With so many more talented players battling it out this year, the Saints are sure to see improvement from the middle of their defense. Let's take a look at who they've got.
Here's a quick glance at all of linebackers currently on the Saints roster:
There is quite a crowd ready to fight it out for a final roster spot this year. The Saints will start off with eleven possibly candidates and will probably need to cut it down to about six, possibly seven.
Vilma and Fujita are probably the only two players on the list that are a lock to make the team. Both are undeniable leaders of this position group both on the field and in the locker room. Moving on to the other returning players we come across Scott Shanle and Mark Simoneau. Simoneau missed all of last year and as the oldest player at the position, I think he's reached the end of the road with the Saints. Payton has been trying for years to get rid of Shanle but the little bugger just won't go away. With all of the talent added to the roster this off-season, I think Payton has finally improved the weak side. I hope Shanle is gone but we've been wrong about this before.
Dan Morgan is an enigma whose play just can't be predicted. If he remains healthy he could be one of the biggest improvements to this entire defense. He's that good. But he also hasn't played in a year and he may trip over a few cobwebs. Morgan says he's in the best shape of his life so all we can do is believe him. He definitely makes the team if he doesn't die during training camp.
I think Troy Evans had better shine on special teams. That's been his specialty (pun sort of intended) and it might be his meal ticket this year.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Marvin Mitchell are the young returnees. Both show a lot of upside, particularly Dunbar, but competition hasn't been this tough in recent years. These guys are big contributors on special teams so they're always a consideration. Either of these guys could surprise coaches with a bit of hard work. Dunbar seems to be a favorite of fans and coaches.
Your guess is as good as mine regarding what kind of production to expect from Anthony Waters. He certainly won't start but he'll be battling with Marvin Mitchell for a spot as Vilma's backup. Because of Mitchell's special team contributions, I don't see Waters beating him out.
Then there are the new guys: Stanley Arnoux and Jonathan Casillas. Arnoux comes in as a fourth round pick so expectations are only moderate. Working his way into a starting spot will be a bit of a long shot but the hope is that he will become a quality player with a little coaching and time. I think the Saints keep him around as a backup on the outside. Casillas, though probably the most highly touted rookie free agent, still has his work cut out for him in training camp. If he lives up to the hype then the Saints got away with robbery. Helping out on special teams will definitely give him the best chance at cracking the roster.
To be sure, this is going to be one of the most intriguing position competitions during training camp this year. What do you think is going to happen? Who are you most intrigued by? Will there be any surprises?