Bringing back a series of pieces from the past three years, we’re going to check each position group on the New Orleans Saints and discuss how they improve the Saints’ chances of making a run in 2019. On to the what has become a strength on defense: the linebackers.
To view previous parts, see below:
When the New Orleans Saints started three linebackers in 2018, the primary group was AJ Klein, Alex Anzalone, and Demario Davis. Anzalone was solid if unspectacular in his sophomore year, on his way to an Approximate Value of 4 in 2018, in 16 games, starting 7. Klein was better, if only due to opportunity, logging an Approximate Value of 7 for the year. But it was Demario Davis who ended up solidifying the group. Davis played and started in all 16 games (to an Approximate Value of 8), logging 110 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in the regular season, and he tacked on an interception in the playoffs.
Behind those three, the Saints had Manti Te’o and Craig Robertson as depth, and both were solid in limited opportunities. The Saints’ starting three are all slated to start in 2019, and the Saints extended Robertson as a key special teamer for 2019. Te’o is still a free agent.
So here’s why they’re better in 2019:
The biggest reason we can expect the Saints linebackers to be even better in 2019 is because the group has had another year to develop together. Anzalone’s rookie season was de-railed due to injury, as he played in only 4 games in 2017. In a sense, 2019 will be Anzalone’s second season in the NFL, so hopefully he takes a big step forward.
Additionally, as the defensive line and secondary should be better in 2018 (spoiler alert), this should help put even less pressure on the linebacking corps. With Anzalone occasionally asked to defend tight ends out running routes, the return of Patrick Robinson should help ease the responsibilities on Anzalone. With the defensive line expected to be flying around opposing quarterbacks and running backs, this will allow the linebackers to simply plug up holes or clean up messes.
And with a player the caliber of Demario Davis leading the defense, the Saints should be able to expect big things again in 2019.