Aug 15, 201708:05 AM
Full Sport Press
'The games we play in New Orleans and beyond'
The Saints’ new-look defense
A typical languid summer afternoon was injected with some NFL heat with one breaking story — the Saints’ Delvin Breaux is on the trading block.
After practice coach Sean Payton did not confirm that the team was exploring trade opportunities for the third year cornerback but he definitely didn’t say anything to the contrary either. Payton employed typical coach speak by informing the media that it is common to discuss moving different players as it is part of, “club business."
Even though the Breaux situation is officially up in the air the Saints will, without a doubt, have many new faces in starting roles on the defensive side of the ball this fall.
Personally, I think the Saints may just be sending a message to Breaux and the ball club. Yes, injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of the game and some players — like Breaux — have been repeatedly bitten by that bug but, on the other hand, the Saints are molding a team for Drew Brees' last push and are cutting guys who can’t stay healthy. As Payton keeps mentioning, a player has to be available.
However, it would be a mistake to get rid of Breaux. He almost costs the team nothing in terms of salary and, more importantly, he’s the Saints best cornerback. For a team lacking on the defensive side of the ball, getting rid of Breaux is a bold and errant move.
Even if first-round draft pick Marshon Lattimore impresses the team enough to start on week one, do the Saints have enough faith in the rookie lining up opposite P.J. Williams, a player who has missed 30 of 32 games due to injury? I don’t think so. The Saints got plenty of looks at the Ken Crawleys and Sterling Moores of the world last year and they performed ably in a pinch, but they’re just not the guys to lock down the opponents passing attacks. The Saints need to keep Breaux.
Speaking of performing in a pinch, one of last year’s highlights was the play of Craig Robertson, who led the team with 115 tackles. Robertson started 15 games after Dannell Ellerbe (who is now on IR with the expectation of being cut when he returns) and James Laurinaitus (cut last year) went down with injuries. This year, Robertson will battle to get onto the field as the Saints could start an entirely new linebacking corps.
A.J. Klein, former Carolina Panther, will play strong side and middle, calling the plays while Manti Te’o, former San Diego Charger, is in the mix at middle linebacker on run packages. There is a lot of buzz around the play of third-round draft pick Alex Anzalone. The former Florida Gator has been making plays in the run game and in coverage — something the Saints have been sorely lacking these past few seasons.
Another “newcomer,” but in his third year with the Saints, is Stephone Anthony. After a rookie season that saw Anthony lead the team in tackles but still had a shaky grasp of the defense, Anthony sat most of last year in the doghouse. Yet, hope might spring eternal as the Saints are taking long looks at Anthony in the pre-season, even recently switching him to the weak side in hopes of keeping him on the field. Whichever position he’s in, this is a make or break season for Anthony.
You can’t stress how much the Saints will miss Nick Fairley this season. Fairley was coming off a solid year with the Saints and provided veteran leadership along the defensive line. With his season, and possibly career, at an end the defensive line gets decidedly younger.
So, who is going to stand up alongside the Saints All-Pro Cam Jordan to wreak havoc upon opposing quarterbacks and running backs? At first all eyes will turn to the two second-year defensive tackles, Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata.
Rankins, a 2016 first-round pick, missed the first half of last season but picked up four sacks to end the year. Onyemata, was seen as a “project” when the Saints drafted him in the fourth round out of the University of Manitoba. Onyemata is adjusting to the game and has improved his play in camp or as Cam Jordan so eloquently put it, according to theadvocate.com, “He is progressing, and he no longer is just a meathead moving forward.” I can’t wait until Cam Jordan has a talk show one day.
I am by no means the sports junky that I use to be but, in light of recent events across the nation, I couldn’t be happier that football is back. Call your friends and hang out with your neighbors, let’s enjoy our community and appreciate the best in one another.
In other words, don’t be a meathead.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: 40 Arpent’s “Good Hopping Times” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Archie and Edith Bunker – “Those Were the Days”
Around the Way
For the gamers out there, I feel like I need to mention Michael Naquin’s 40 Arpent Brewing. Naquin has created a chilled out tap room in Arabi and along with five or six delicious beers has an old arcade game that plays Centipede, Missile Command and Bowling. It’s free.
Yes, beer nerd, you can knock back that IPA while playing free video games. You’re right, dreams do come true. Go.