Saints Are Wise To Stack Up On D-Line For 2015


The New Orleans Saints had a 2015 NFL Draft that boasted a heavy hand on the defensive side of the ball.

While some analysts expected three to four of the picks to be defenders with offensive-minded head coach Sean Payton at the helm, it was the exact opposite.

With six of the nine picks the team chose to bolster several positions that already seemed stacked, like cornerback, they were wise in loading up on the defensive line.

The Saints selected defensive tackle Tyeler Davison in the fifth round out of Fresno State to be not only a hole-plugger on the line but a defender who posted, according to the Saints website, at least 40 tackles, 7 for a loss, and two sacks in each of his three seasons.

September 20, 2014; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs defensive lineman Tyeler Davison (92) sacks Southern Utah Thunderbirds quarterback Ammon Olsen (2) during the first half at Bulldog Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Following the draft, the Saints called up these undrafted free agents on the defensive line and signed them or at least invited them in for a tryout at the upcoming rookie mini-camp:

  • Tavaris Barnes, Clemson, DT
  • Kaleb Eulls, Mississippi State, DE/DT
  • Ashaad Mabry, Texas-San Antonio, DT
  • Bobby Richardson, Indiana, DE
  • Sam Wren, Oklahoma State, DE

Saints GM Mickey Loomis said following the draft that there is “nothing wrong with drafting to a strength” when questioned about the first round selection of offensive tackle Andrus Peat.

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This applies to the selection of Davison as well as the other undrafted free agent defensive lineman, because strengths can become a weakness if not placed in constant check.

Next year the team could possibly be without two starters in defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks who are finishing out their original contracts.

Jordan’s fifth-year option was picked up by the Saints which they hoped to parlay into an extension this offseason but never materialized.

After a down year, the Saints were looking to strike a deal with him so if Jordan has a monster 2015 season like he did in 2013, they’d be paying a pretty penny for him or forced to let him walk.

Hicks is in the same boat as Jordan and will look to capitalize on this year to boost his stock for when free agency comes calling.

Only Loomis really knows how much the Saints feel that both are worth and what they’re willing to pay, but Payton has expressed how much a factor Jordan is on their defense.

The defensive tackle position will see some shuffling in 2016 as well with current starter Brodrick Bunkley most likely on his way out leaving John Jenkins the next player up.

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While Jenkins has been serviceable, his two seasons with 51 tackles and 1 sack aren’t blowing the charts up either.

Yes, things look secure for 2015, but the 2016 season could bring an inevitable change along the defensive line.

The Saints can’t afford to wait until the offseason to bank on bringing in a veteran, which we saw the recent effects of with cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker Victor Butler.

Aug 28, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Champ Bailey (27) against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a preseason game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

They also can’t cross their fingers hoping they land a player in the draft that can contribute at defensive tackle or end either.

That scenario actually played out in this draft where the Saints were one pick away from selecting defensive tackle Danny Shelton but the Cleveland Browns snatched him up.

The old philosophy of waiting for a weakness has thankfully been abandoned in favor of drafting to a strength for the Saints.

A way of thinking that will wisely pay off for them along the defensive line in the upcoming season….

Next: Saints Rookie Mini-Camp: 3 Things to Watch