6 New Orleans Saints That Could Break Out in 2012
Every year, there are young veterans, some going into their sophomore season, primed for a breakout season, and this year in no different.
A couple days ago, I highlighted Joe Morgan as a candidate to replace Robert Meachem and break out this upcoming season, so he's being left off this list. The remaining candidates are players who will be aided by a new coaching philosophy other ones will simply get better with more playing time.
Either way, the future looks bright in New Orleans.
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Chamberlain is the oldest player on this list at 26 and is, also, the only transplant to grace the breakout list. He comes from St. Louis along with coach Spagnuolo and brings starting experience in Spag's defense.
He is a four-year vet that started 13 games last year and had modest stats on an injury-riddled Rams team. He had a couple sacks and an interception last season in addition to 70-plus tackles.
Chamberlain should push Scott Shanle for playing time and could form an all-new starting linebacking corp joining Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, free agents also.
He reminds me of a younger Shanle, but more athletic than him at the same age. That athleticism should get him in the starting lineup sooner than later.
With Tracy Porter moving on to Denver and Patrick Robinson replacing him in the starting lineup, a hole opened up at the nickel corner position.
That spot could see Johnny Patrick, a third-round pick of a year ago, excel in it.
Patrick's rookie year was slowed by injuries, but he has been 100 percent in OTAs this year and it shows. He has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff coming away from the teams first, full mini-camp in early June.
He will have some competition from the newly signed, Elbert Mack, but his playmaking ability should be on display granted his health holds up. That's the leg he has up on Mack and others.
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You can add Abdul-Quddus to Mickey Loomis' list of undrafted gems.
He might not have made an impact on the stat sheet with only seven tackles, but he will be remembered, mostly, for his big hit on Hakeem Nicks that drew a flag for hitting a defenseless receiver.
Besides that big hit, he made his living on special teams with 11 tackles.
Despite that limited sample size, Abdul-Quddus is the third-best safety on the team, and, with Spag's running three-safety looks most of the time, his playing time could increase.
With increased playing time, Saints fans can expect to see more jaw-rattling hits from No. 42 this upcoming season.
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Wilson is being moved to what I like to call the 'Kiwanuka' role made famous by current New York Giant Mathias Kiwanuka. That position is a DE/OLB hybrid role.
With Romeus' unfortunate injury and the team's defensive end depth being slim, Wilson will be used more on the line, but could drop back in coverage on any play and that versatility could be lethal.
As I noted earlier, 'Tez' should break out and lead the team in sacks. His freakish athletic ability will remind people of a JPP-lite. That's how good he can be.
He still needs to improve his game versus the run, but for now Wilson will be used on passing downs, exclusively, and that could mean plenty of sacks.
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Ingram recently said that his offseason knee surgery was "as minor as it gets" and "will be 100 percent by the time training camp starts."
That's good news for Who Dat Nation, as well as the former first-round pick of a year ago.
Ingram battled injuries last season and ended up with a subpar performance before being shut down for the year with a big toe injury.
But his health being 100 percent and a full offseason program should help put to bed the doubters (me included) of the Saints trading a future first-round pick and a second rounder for him.
One of his key assets is his vision, and, with a great offensive line in front of him again, he should "see" more than 122 carries this season despite the way New Orleans shares the rock. It's simple, really. If Ingram gets hot, he will be counted on as the guy to carry the majority of touches.
Along with Abdul-Quddus and Morgan, Higgins was another undrafted gem found by Loomis and Co.
Higgins replaced David Thomas on the roster late in the year after Thomas was put on injured reserve with a concussion. The Saints carried two fullbacks last year because of their thin tight end depth.
New Orleans didn't address that issue in free agency or the draft. That could mean big things for Higgins who is more of a receiving threat compared to Thomas.
Thomas is more of an H-Back/tight end hybrid and his health will be critical to the Saints only keeping one fullback. And with Thomas' coming out of the backfield more, you can expect Higgins to be Jimmy Graham's partner-in-crime this year down the seams.