In recent “past” drafts I was a proponent for drafting linebackers to help our defense. In 2015 the Saints drafted somewhat along these lines. Even so they took OT Andrus Peat with their first pick. Their next first round pick was linebacker Stephone Anthony, the 31st pick. Anthony was tested by fire in his first season, and whether or not you liked the results, it appeared a good pick, again in my opinion. With their second round pick they grabbed another taking Hau’oll Kikaha. Kikaha has already suffered what we assume will be a season ending torn ACL.
In the third round they drafted QB Garrett Grayson, then cornerback P.J. Williams. Williams would spend his first season on IR so we are still waiting to see the results of this pick. Other than the last, 7th round pick the Saints went all defense. LB Davis Tull, DT Tyeler Davison, and CB Damian Swann. After playing in 14 games Swann wound up on IR when he suffered his 3rd concussion of the season. Swann had a decent season, accruing 25 tackles while breaking up 5 passes. The concussions are very concerning, leading to our biggest depth problem going into 2016. The secondary.
My personal biggest draft concern in 2016 was the pass rush. With only Cameron Jordan to be counted on, the Saints went on to give up unbelievable yards, 1st downs, and touchdowns during 2015. Due to injuries lack of a pass rush and weak depth in the secondary, the Saints were force to play Brandon Browner in a situation he was poorly suited for, and as a result he turned into the penalty machine he was. “Much Vaulted” 2014 free agent pickup Jairus Byrd managed to make the final 13 games in 2015, starting 12. He had 59 tackles, 1 sack, 1, INT, defended 3 passes, forced 2 fumbles and recovered 1 fumble. Hopes are that he can make significant contributions, in his 2nd year removed from his knee injury. Rapheal Bush went on IR. See the trend here. Depth in the secondary is a great concern going into the 2016 season. Delvin Breaux was the surprise of the season, and Keenan Lewis, after a disappointing 2015 also went on IR week 12. Suffering a horrendous looking knee injury in 2014, Lewis suffered a hip injury in 2015 limiting him to 5 games. 2014 UDFA Brian Dixon contributed mainly on special teams and pretty much rounds out our depth at cornerback. CB Kyle Wilson has already been placed on the reserve/injured list with a torn labrum.
We signed LB James Laurinaitis, and DT Nick Fairley, so our depth on the DL and with the line-backing corps appears to be okay. Still, the biggest team need, pass rush was largely unaddressed in the offseason. Defensively the Saints drafted DT Sheldon Rankins, SS Vonn Bell, and DT David Onyemata. While Rankins is expected to immediately help with the teams run defense, the need at pass rush is still a glaring need. In fact my argument is this is the biggest problem going into 2016. With no pass rush even the worse QB did and may again, have all the time the needed to “matriculate the ball down the field.” Offensively I think we are good with both position needs and depth. While I have more than a little concern with our secondary depth, I’m very concerned with our strongest need. Pass rush.
So what do you think fans. What is your biggest concern going into 2016.