When the New Orleans Saints were getting ready to enter the 2016 season, they thought the Linebacking Corps could present itself to be one of the strengths of the team. Second-year player Stephone Anthony would be able to shift outside to strong-side linebacker. Dannell Ellerbe, who had shown signs of great productivity, would be pencilled in on the weak side. Free agent signee and notable football mind James Laurinaitis would anchor the group in the middle and take play-calling duties away from Anthony.
Then Anthony took massive steps backward and was benched.
Then Ellerbe got hurt because of course he did.
Then Laurinaitis stunk up the joint before getting placed on IR and eventually released.
Craig Robertson, like Laurinaitis, signed a three-year contract to come to New Orleans this past offseason. However, unlike Laurinaitis, Robertson was expected to predominately contribute on special teams and not see much time as a defensive starter. With the original three starters missing time due to injuries or poor performance, Robertson was one of the players asked to step up and take on more playing time.
And he filled in admirably.
By season’s end, Robertson led the team in defensive snaps and tackles. He also added in a sack and created three turnovers (one interception and two forced fumbles) on a defense that was starved for finding ways to get the ball back into the hands of their offense.
Aside from Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley, Linebacker Craig Robertson might have been the best under-the-radar signings of the Saints offseason last year. When more was required of him, more was given, and he could be seen constantly swarming to the ball and making big plays.
Unfortunately, Craig Robertson should not be counted on to be the long-term answer at linebacker. For one, he’s about to turn 29 years old. And second, he does not have the track-record to show that last year’s production is sustainable. Also, while Robertson’s production was definitely a step above what we saw from Laurinaitis and Company, it still was nothing to write home about. Simply being “serviceable” should not be what the Saints are looking for long-term.
If the Saints do indeed stick with Robertson as the starter in 2017, that’s not to say it would be a bad thing. As a rotational player, Robertson would be stellar. At the same time, it would be nice to see an upgrade at linebacker for next season, but it’s definitely not as pressing a need as Cornerback, Guard, Defensive End and others.