As a veteran who was an integral part of the Saints' Super Bowl victory but has seen a decline in performance over the past few years, Jonathan Vilma is No. 23 on my list of the top 25 Saints' for 2013. I'm sure the vast majority of you would put Vilma in your top 15, but his play on the field is just not what it used to be and in most people's minds he isn't even the best inside linebacker on the team anymore. Vilma's leadership is still unquestioned, but leadership only goes so far when your play is regressing.
It's difficult to truly evaluate Vilma's 2012 performance since so many variables came into play. Firstly, he didn't even see the field until Week 7 due to the scandal that shall not go unnamed. Second, Sean Payton was not around and Vilma had to come into a defense run by Steve Spagnuolo, an unfamiliar defense coordinator. Lastly, Vilma was playing a lot of outside linebacker instead of the middle linebacker spot he has occupied throughout his career before Curtis Lofton arrived. This last reason also contributes to Vilma's low ranking, as there is a fair amount of uncertainty as to how he will fit in the 3-4 defense. I do think, however, that Vilma's intelligence will allow him to pick up Rob Ryan's complicated schemes quickly. So in my book it's just a matter of if his level of play will be high enough.
In 2011, Jonathan Vilma was Pro Football Focus's third worst inside linebacker against the run. While it's hard to accurately gauge his performance in 2012 due to the aforementioned reasons, his play against the run seemed to improve in 2012. Coverage has been Vilma's forte, but that aspect of his game has also regressed a bit recently. He will definitely need to improve his tackling, though, as he missed nine tackles on 410 snaps in 2012 in comparison to 5 missed tackles on 657 snaps in 2012. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how he performs in this new scheme and with a chip on his shoulder, to say the least.
Time's Picayune's No. 23 - Patrick Robinson
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