2016 New Orleans Saints Mid-Season Grades – Defense

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Sep 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Craig Robertson (52) tackles New York Giants running back Shane Vereen (34) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Giants defeated the Saints 16-13. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports


Sadly but perhaps not all that surprisingly, the New Orleans linebackers are outmatched athletically against almost every team they play.

Perhaps the most surprising thing from this group is the ‘MIA’ member of last season’s 31st overall 2015 NFL Draft 1st Round selection, linebacker Stephone Anthony.

One of the best athletes on the team has struggled early with injury, slow to pick up a position switch to outside linebacker, and rumored to not be able to grasp the playbook.

Dannell Ellerbe has played less downs then the words being typed in this sentence about him. Hopefully the Saints coaching staff has realized that despite his immense talent, that he cannot be counted on to remain healthy for any significant amount of time to make an impact — and simply just move on.

Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker James Laurinaitis (53) in the second quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent pickup James Laurinaitis was thought to bring experience to the defense. While he certainly has that; the fact is that the position has taken a physical toll on him. He seems to be finished physically, lending credence to the belief by some that he was “washed up”; which was allegedly one of the reasons that he has been let go by the L.A. Rams.

Perhaps the MVP of the entire defense has been Craig Robertson, picked up from Cleveland this past off season. Robertson is all over the field, has a firm grasp of the defense, and seems to be playing even better in the middle after taking over for Laurinaitis.

Nate Stupar was yet another underrated signing (from Atlanta), and his filled in admirably at the weakside spot in Ellerbe’s absence. Stupar is not the most gifted athlete, but does seem to make plays at crucial times.

Let’s hope that Anthony eventually “gets it”, and becomes the play-maker through the second half of the season that many of us envisioned.

Either way, this is a unit that the front office needs to address in a big way this off-season yet again though the 2017 NFL Draft and 2017 NFL Free-Agency.