What’s up Who Dats!? Today, I’d like to share another one of my 2016 New Orleans Saints X-Factor players. Some of you may be familiar with this series, but for those who are not, it’s pretty simple. Prior to the 2015 season, I selected six Saints players who I felt had a little something extra to offer the team and possibly swing a few games in the Saints favor.
In some cases, the x-factor was simply based on talent, and in others my choice was based on intangibles such as toughness and leadership. I chose three players for offense and three players for defense. We’ll start with our first defensive player, and I’ll release the other four players as the Saints roll through the preseason.
We got the 2016 X-Factor series started with my #3 Saints offensive player whom I believe will be a key member of a unit that has been highly regarded and very strong statistically. Now we shift our focus to the defense and we kick things off with linebacker Dannell Ellerbe! The veteran is not the flashy, big-play specialist you might assume would make an X-factor list. Instead, he is a quality, veteran linebacker whose presence on the field has shown a positive impact on the defense. And here lies the biggest knock on Ellerbe, as he hasn’t participated in as many contests with the Saints as one would hope. From a fan’s perspective, this is disappointing to say the least. But internally, I’m sure the Saints front office was well aware when he was acquired via trade in 2015 that he may not be fully available and healthy until 2016.
Ellerbe missed almost all of the 2014 season after injuring his knee in week one with the Miami Dolphins and was only able to participate in six contest (four starts) with the Saints in 2015. One thing that should not be overlooked is Ellerbe’s impact when he did suit up for the Saints. In a little over one-third of the season, Dannell Ellerbe totaled 39 tackles, one pass break up and one forced fumbled. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that given a full season, Ellerbe could easily surpass 100 tackles.
The X-factor in Ellerbe’s game is his ability to cover from the LB position, something that has been sorely lacking in the Big Easy since the days of Jonathan Vilma. Ellerbe’s presence also helped rookie LB Stephone Anthony in 2015, and he'll look to provide the same with newly acquired James Laurinaitis in 2016. The linebackers corps as a whole looks to be much improved in terms of pass coverage, so there should be no pressure on Ellerbe to exceed expectations and that alone should allow him to play fast and loose and give the Saints what they expected of him when he was acquired. This writer is expecting a big year from Dannell Ellerbe!
Well good people, that’ll conclude our second X-Factor player for 2016, be sure to come back for our next X-Factor! As always, thank you for reading and Be Cool Who Dats!
Next Up: Offensive X-Factor #2