One of the most talked about positions for the Saints this year will be the linebackers. Throughout the course of the offseason, the Saints upgraded the group from top to bottom by adding a number of veteran linebackers. The squad now proves to be younger and more athletic.
After the first round of cuts, the Saints are left with eight linebackers. But even though there is more depth at this position than there has been in the past, the injury bug has taken a toll on the group. Newly acquired linebacker Chris Chamberlain's season came to an end before it even started.
Make the jump to see my linebacker predictions for the 2012 season. As always, drop your thoughts in the comment section below.
Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas
Curtis Lofton was the Saints biggest offseason acquisition. He comes to the team from their most hated rival, the Falcons. While with the Falcons, Lofton was a major contributor on the defensive side of the ball. He finished fifth in the league for total tackles with 147. Lofton will be Vilma's replacement at middle linebacker.
David Hawthorne was a big addition as well. The former Seahawk has tallied over 100 tackles each of the past three seasons. Hawthorne will likely be the starter at the weakside linebacker position.
Scott Shanle has been with the Saints the longest out of this group. He has been the starter at the strongside position every year. This year he probably would've been demoted to backup due to the addition of Chris Chamberlain, but he recently suffered a season ending injury. Now, Shanle will be battling it out with Jonathan Casillas for the starting spot.
Casillas is the versatile player of the group because he can pretty much play any of the three linebacker positions. He usually plays on the outside, but this past preseason game he played in the middle for Curtis Lofton. As I said earlier, he will be fighting Shanle for the last starting spot.
Will Herring provides good depth for the Saints linebacking corps. He doesn't necessarily have stand-out numbers, but he really isn't an every down player either. Last season he played in eleven games and only started one. His role is to sub in for a couple of plays and try to make something happen. If he can put up around 40 tackles this year, that would be suffice.
On the Bubble
Barrett Ruud was once one of the most feared linebackers in the NFC South. He has also been praised as being a very intelligent player. When he was a Buccaneer, he was a perennial 100 tackle player. Now, it has been said that he is well past his prime. The Saints brought Ruud in to give him another chance. Personally, I think he still has another year or two left in the tank. But if the Saints don't see him fitting into the system, they will likely bring in another veteran linebacker to replace him.
Ramon Humber, Kadarron Anderson
Ramon would normally be labeled as a "bubble" player at least, but this season is different. For the first three games of the season, Ramon will be suspended. I don't think it would be wise for the Saints to waste a roster spot for three games on a player that isn't a big contributor.
If the Saints hadn't added so many linebackers over the course of the offseason, Kadarron Anderson would probably have a shot at making the final roster. As a Furman Paladin, Anderson led the team in tackles for three straight years. He finished with 372 total tackles. He will probably be a good candidate for the practice squad.