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Why the New Orleans Saints Could Win it All, Part VII: Linebackers

Players like Manti Te’o and Craig Robertson were forced to step up in w017.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

To see previous Parts, click below:

Part I: Offensive Line

Part II: Running Backs

Part III: Wide Receivers

Part IV: Tight Ends

Part V: Quarterbacks

Part VI: Defensive Line

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The Saints made a concerted effort to improve the Linebacking corps in 2017. They added A.J. Klein of the Carolina Panthers and former Notre Dame star Manti Te’o in free agency and drafted Alex Anzalone out of Florida in the 3rd Round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Then came the injuries. The Saints lost Anzalone early in the season when he was just beginning to show signs of promise. The Saints lost Klein in December to a sports hernia. Like in 2016, Craig Robertson was then thrust back as a starter for the Saints at linebacker and Manti Te’o saw significantly more spans than he would have foreseen at the time of signing the contract.

Because of all of the injuries, the Saints were forced to address the position yet again in the 2017-2018 offseason, adding former New York Jets LB Demario Davis early in free agency.

So here’s why they’re better in 2018:

NFL: New Orleans Saints-OTA Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Demario Davis had a great year for himself on a bad Jets team in 2017. In fact, he had Pro Football Focus’s highest grade for a single game in 2017 with his Week 3 performance against the Miami Dolphins. Davis brings his 97 tackles, 1 fumble recovery and 3 passes defended from 2017 to the Saints linebackers in 2018, and should help improve one of the few weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball. Davis’s health should also be noted, as he’s played a full 16 games each of the 5 years of his career.

In spite of the trade talks that have circulated, the Saints are slotted to have Klein and Anzalone returning from injury in 2017. Manti Te’o had a solid year in 2017 after being thrust into starter’s snaps, and now he and Craig Robertson can go back to be rotational and special teams pieces.

If everyone is healthy (which with Anzalone’s injury history is a big “if”), what was a weakness on the Saints defense in 2017 could be another strength in 2018.