New Orleans Saints 2010 Offseason Overview: Linebackers

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New Orleans Saints 2010 Offseason Overview: Linebackers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Saints' offseason began as soon as Super Bowl XLIV ended. While players and fans are still celebrating, coaches, scouts, and management have long been evaluating players.

In my second look at the Saints' offseason, I take a look at the linebackers.

 

Scott Fujita (starter)

Position : Outside Linebacker

2009 Stats : 69 tackles (11 in the postseason), 1 sack, 2 FF

Contract Status : Unrestricted free agent

Skinny : Fujita has been a locker room leader ever since Sean Payton brought him over from Dallas four years ago, but his age (31 in April) and decline in production make him expendable. Fujita missed five games due to injury.

 

Scott Shanle (starter)

Position : Outside Linebacker

2009 Stats : 92 tackles (23 in the postseason), 2 INTs

Contract Status : Scheduled to make $1.8 million in 2010, which is the final year of his contract.

Skinny : Like Fujita, Shanle has been a solid veteran since his arrival four years ago. But also like Fujita, Shanle lacks the athleticism to consistently make game-changing plays. Shanle missed the final two games of the regular season with a concussion.

 

Jonathan Vilma (starter)

Position : Middle Linebacker

2009 Stats : 123 tackles (13 in the postseason), 2 sacks, 4 INTs (1 in the postseason), 1 FF (1 in the postseason), Pro Bowl selection

Contract Status : Entering the second year of his five-year, $34 million contract.

Skinny : Vilma is everything you want in a middle linebacker playing in a 4-3 scheme. He makes tackles from sideline to sideline and can drop 20 yards to cover a tight end running a seam route. Vilma has a knack for making clutch plays, as shown in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.

 

Jonathan Casillas (backup)

Position : Outside Linebacker

2009 Stats : 21 tackles (1 in the postseason)

Contract Status : In his second season and will make the league minimum in 2010.

Skinny : New Orleans signed Casillas as a rookie free agent. He had 17 tackles in two starts while replacing Shanle.

 

Jo-Lonn Dunbar (backup)

Position : Outside Linebacker

2009 Stats : 20 tackles

Contract Status : Entering the final year of his contract and will make the league minimum in 2010.

Skinny : Made 12 tackles in two starts in place of Fujita. Dunbar was placed on IR after week 13 because of a hamstring injury.


Troy Evans (backup)

Position : Outside Linebacker

2009 Stats : 30 tackles (1 in the postseason)

Contract Status : Evans will make $755,000 in 2010 and will be a free agent in 2011.

Skinny : Evans has played eight seasons in the NFL (five with Houston, three with New Orleans) and is a career backup. He primarily makes his mark on special teams.

 

Marvin Mitchell (backup)

Position : Middle Linebacker

2009 Stats : 30 tackles (3 in the postseason)

Contract Status : Under contract but salary unknown (likely league minimum)

Skinny : Mitchell has the misfortune of backing up Vilma, who rarely misses a play much less a game. Mitchell made two starts this season, one in which Vilma was held out of the final regular season game of the season.

 

Overall Analysis

Other that Vilma, the Saints must get more athletic at linebacker. The entire unit combined for just three sacks. Backup defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove had more by himself.

The Saints need their outside linebackers to be better in coverage. Opposing quarterbacks throw a lot of underneath passes to beat the Saints' blitz, and the onus then falls on the linebackers keep the receivers under wraps.

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