The New Orleans Saints are continuing to re-build their defense to compliment their championship caliber offense to make the team into one of the NFC favorites for the Super Bowl. High draft choices have teamed up with mid or late round selections and a few smart free agent acquisitions to improve the Saints defense from a bottom ranked unit into an up and coming squad capable of shutting down most offenses they face. Today, we take a look at a few important offseason additions on the defensive side that are hoping to help transform the New Orleans defense into an elite NFL unit.
Demario Davis, LB
Davis was arguably the biggest free agent acquisitions of the 2018 offseason for New Orleans. The 29-yr. old veteran comes over from the New York Jets as one of the league's most underrated linebackers. He has explosive sideline to sideline athleticism, is a strong run defender, an effective blitzer, and has solid pass coverage ability. He is able to play any linebacking spot in either a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment, as well as sub packages. Davis is expected to be an every down contributor for the Saints defense, and further upgrades a linebacker unit that has re-built itself over the last two seasons. His tenacity and versatility will help New Orleans match up more effectively with running backs and the athletic tight ends throughout the conference, and allow coordinator Dennis Allen even more flexibility with his defensive personnel. The Saints expect a return to health of Alex Anzalone and A.J. Klein, along with continued effectiveness from Craig Robertson and solid depth from Manti Te'o. The addition of Davis should give New Orleans it's best linebacking corps of the Sean Payton era, and perhaps give the Saints a Pro Bowl caliber performer on every level of it's improving defense.
Kurt Coleman, S
Coleman enters his 9th year in the NFL, spending the last three with division rival Carolina before signing with the Saints as a free agent this spring. Over his career he has 21 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 4 fumbles forced. Coleman is not strong in man coverage, but is a capable read-and-react safety that can play solid run defense in the box as well. Vonn Bell and most certainly Marcus Williams will man the defense's top two safety spots, but New Orleans often runs multiple safety alignments. Coleman will likely compete with Chris Banjo and rookie 5th round pick Natrell Jamerson for snaps in those packages. He isn't as athletic as Kenny Vaccaro, who departed New Orleans as a free agent this offseason, but Coleman is a heady and experienced player who is always around the action to give himself the opportunity to make plays.
Marcus Davenport, EDGE
The Saints have high expectations for Davenport after trading up to the 14th spot in this year's draft to select him. Most considered Davenport to be the second best edge rusher in the draft, and the hope is that he will be an immediate contributor as a pass rusher. He brings an impressive combination of size, strength, and athleticism to a Saints defense still looking for a consistent pass rushing threat to compliment All-Pro end Cameron Jordan. Davenport will look to take snaps away from last year's starter, Alex Okafor, who finished second on the team with 4.5 sacks despite going down in the season's 10th game with an Achilles injury. Trey Hendrickson, a 2017 3rd round draft pick, Hau'oli Kikaha, a 2nd round pick in 2015, George Johnson, and Al-Quadin Muhammad could form a solid rotation at end behind Okafor, but New Orleans will need a standout performance from its top pick. Davenport may not be an immediate factor against the run, it may take some time for this small school star from UTSA to adapt to the NFL. Davenport's natural pass rushing skills, along with the ability of Cam Jordan to draw the attention of multiple blockers, could help the Saints prized rookie to an impactful rookie season.
Patrick Robinson, CB
Robinson was drafted by the Saints with the 32nd overall pick of 2010 draft, and played for the team from 2010-14. He returned to New Orleans as a free agent this offseason after playing for 3 different teams in the last 3 years, including being an integral part of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl championship last season. Robinson had 9 interceptions during his career with the Saints, including a team record 99-yd. return for a touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson was one of the highest graded slot cornerbacks in the league a year ago. He led Philadelphia with 18 credited pass breakups and 4 interceptions, tying his career best. Robinson is expected to fill the number 3 cornerback role with the Saints, and could challenge Ken Crawley for the starting spot opposite Marshon Lattimore, last season's defensive rookie of the year. Robinson struggled at times during his previous stint with the Saints, but he will have to play at a high level to keep playing time with this group. Returning veterans P.J. Williams, Arthur Maulet, and Justin Hardee figure to be in the mix for playing time, and rookies Linden Stephens, Kamrin Moore, and Jamerson, who can play either corner or safety, will make the cornerback position one of the most fierce battles of Saints training camp.
Which one of the new additions on the New Orleans defense is going to have the biggest impact in 2018?
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