Nathan Stupar was one of three linebackers to come to the Saints this year in free agency (with Craig Robertson and James Laurinaitis the others). Like Robertson, Stupar was brought in primarily for Special Teams, but was pressed into more playing time on the defense with the combination of injury and poor performance from the starters.
Calling himself a “football swiss army knife,” Stupar prides himself on the ability to play multiple positions and help his team win games in multiple different ways. Stupar was a standout on special teams, as he was one of the few tacklers who could bring the opposing return man to the ground. He appeared in all sixteen games, starting six, logging a career-high in tackles and defensive snaps.
In his limited, but still greater than originally anticipated, playing time on defense, Stupar made a handful of big plays to help the Saints. He forced and recovered two fumbles, had two passes defended (including a great play on a ball to Kansas City Chief’s TE Travis Kelce at Arrowhead), and added in a big sack.
And oh yeah, he had a HUGE interception (the first of his career) in the game against Seattle, picking off Russell Wilson with a leaping grab. This was a momentum-shifting moment in the game, as this set up the Saints to tie the game with a touchdown after Mark Ingram’s early fumble. For a full breakdown of Stupar’s play, make sure you check out this video.
Moving forward, Stupar will (hopefully) be able to strictly focus on making plays on special teams. If or when he gets pressed into action as a rotational starter on defense, he is a serviceable backup who wouldn’t be exposed by an opposing offense. He does not have the elite skillset you would hope for in a linebacker, but he has shown a high football IQ that can carry him to success in brief bursts. If the Saints are able to bring in help into the linebacking corps, hopefully those brief bursts are all that will be required of Stupar as he plays only in moments to give the starters a breather.