One of the more interesting battles in training camp this year will most likely be among the many linebackers fighting it out for just a few spots. Our premature look at the Saints roster this summer brings us to the guys roaming the middle of the defense.
We can't be sure how many linebackers the team will actually keep for the opening night roster but because many of these guys contribute heavily on special teams, they might decide hang on to one more than usual. Seven perhaps? For my analysis found below, keep in mind that I haven't paid too much attention to the particular linebacker positions i.e. SLB, MLB and WLB, since Gregg Williams incorporates a 3-4 and 4-3 and because some players are versatile enough to play more than one position.
So make the jump to find out how my take on the teams linebackers and how I imagine it will play out during training camp. There are a lot of varying opinions about a few of the players at this position so I definitely expect a lot of heated yet intelligent commenting on this one.
Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle
I'm going to skip right through the unnecessary Vilma analysis and just start with Scott Shanle. Worst case scenario for Shanle during training camp is that he loses his spot with the first team but there is no chance he doesn't make the final roster cut, whether you like that or not.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Clint Ingram
I would hope the Saints didn't sign free agent Clint Ingram last week only for him to not make the team; seems unlikely. In fact, because of his experience I expect him to be starting on the outside opposite Shanle when the season officially starts.
Thanks to his toughness, versatility and special teams play, I consider Jo-Lonn Dunbar to be a cut above many of the other players at this position. He's been a project that has progressed nicely for the Saints these last couple of years; now would be a great time to cash in. This could be the most important training camp of Dunbar's young career with plenty of opportunity to step it up and earn significantly more playing time.
On the Bubble
Stanley Arnoux, Marvin Mitchell, Jonathan Casillas, Troy Evans
I've been listening to all the talk from certain fans regarding Arnoux's potential; for the sake of the Saints I hope it's all true. But until training camp begins, it's just that: Talk. I don't think it would be fair to consider him any better off than 'On the Bubble' right now.
Marvin Mitchell and Troy Evans don't pose any threat for a starting spot but they have been cornerstones on the special teams unit for a while now. That could very well be their golden ticket onto the final 53-man roster.
Depending on who you ask, Jonathan Casillas is soon to be the next great Saints linebacker but I'm not sold quite yet. What little play we saw from Casillas last season was somewhat inconsistent. He's still got a lot to prove.
Sam Maxwell, Harry Coleman, Anthony Waters
Both Maxwell and Coleman come into training camp with a lot of hype surrounding them but this isn't college football anymore. They will each need to impress the hell out of coaches this summer. The good news for Coleman is that he could also test his luck at Safety as well.
Waters failed to make the cut during last years training camp and with the competition looking even tougher this season, Waters' future appears to hold more of the same.