New Orleans Saints 2010 Offseason Overview: Defensive Line

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst IFebruary 18, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Will Smith #91 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after a fumble as Anthony Herrera #64 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Saints enter the 2010 offseason with a distinction they've never held before: Reigning Super Bowl champs.

While many players and fans are still celebrating the once elusive title, the offseason has been in full swing for almost two weeks for coaches and management.

Between now and the draft, I will be taking a look at each position group and evaluating the starters and key role players.

Let's look at the defensive line.


Will Smith (starter)

Position : Right Defensive End

2009 Stats : 13 sacks, 4 FF (1 in the postseason), 2 INTs (1 in the postseason)

Contract Status : Five seasons left and is scheduled to make over $7 million in 2010.

Skinny : Smith has proven that he can be among the top defensive ends in the NFC when he's healthy. Smith is a pass rusher who's more of a power rusher than a speed guy. He is below average in run support.


Charles Grant (starter)

Position : Left Defensive End

2009 Stats : 5.5 sacks, 1 FF

Contract Status : Four seasons left and is scheduled to make $4 million in 2010.

Skinny : Grant has been the target of harsh criticism over the past four seasons. After emerging early in his career with consecutive 10-sack seasons, Grant has not managed more than six in any of the past five seasons. Grant is average in run support.


Sedrick Ellis (starter)

Position : Defensive Tackle

2009 Stats : 44 tackles (10 in the postseason), 3 sacks (1 in the postseason)

Contract Status : Three seasons left on his rookie deal and is scheduled to make $1.1 million in 2010.

Skinny : Ellis is the team's best and most versatile interior lineman. Unfortunately, health has been his biggest problem. He has already missed nine regular season games due to nagging injuries.


Remi Ayodele (starter)

Position : Defensive Tackle

2009 Stats : 35 tackles (5 in the postseason), 1.5 sacks

Contract Status: Restricted free agent

Skinny : Ayodele filled in as the starter early in the season when Kendrick Clancy went down with a season-ending injury. However, Ayodele is better suited as a backup in the NFL.


Bobby McCray (backup)

Position: Defensive End

2009 Stats: 18 tackles (6 in the postseason), 1.5 sacks

Contract Status: Three years left and is scheduled to make $2 million in 2010.

Skinny: Despite some of the big quarterback hits you saw on TV during the playoffs, McCray's production really took a nosedive. McCray was used as a pass-rushing specialist but there was nothing special about his pass-rushing abilities this past year.


Anthony Hargrove (backup)

Position : Defensive Tackle

2009 Stats : 48 tackles (6 in the postseason), 5 sacks

Contract Status : Restricted free agent

Skinny : Hargrove is the Saints' best reserve lineman. He is on the small side for a tackle (272 pounds) but plays with a quick burst and high motor. He started six games this season in place of Ellis.

Overall Analysis

The Saints gave up 357 yards per game and should be making the defensive line one of their top priorities in the draft. They need another defensive tackle to start alongside Sedrick Ellis.

New Orleans must get more stout versus the run. Teams with inferior talent (i.e. St. Louis) attacked the interior of the Saints' line to sustain drives and keep the Saints' offense on the sidelines. The Rams, who averaged 11 points per game, scored 23 and lost by just five points.

It's time to find a replacement at left defensive end. Grant has not produced like a starter for five seasons and McCray is not equipped to be a 16-game starter. The Saints ranked just 13th in sacks despite a blitz-centric scheme.