As summer seems to get hotter and hotter and we get down to only baseball on TV, there’s only one thing to do to keep our interest – answer questions and give our thoughts about the Saints heading into training camp.
We’ll run out one question a day in a hope that we satiate your thirst until actual toe meets leather. The questions are in no particular order of importance…except for No. 1.
17. What impact will Curtis Lofton have?
Forget, for a second, that there’s a strong possibility that Jonathan Vilma won’t be with the team during the fall of 2012 due to his season-long suspension.
And remember this – Vilma is 30 years old and coming off an injury-riddle season, one which forced him to have offseason knee surgery. He’s at a high-impact position and his body has taken a toll.
Vilma played in 47 of 48 games his first three seasons with the Saints. But in 2011, he played in only 11 of 16. And after recording 132 tackles in 2008, his totals dropped to 110 and 105 the next two seasons.
So in comes Lofton.
And in come the positive benefits.
Lofton rated better than Vilma in each of the past three seasons according to statistical analysis by Pro Football Focus.
In 2011 (and yes, we realize Vilma was injured), Lofton finished with a plus-12.8 rating, 15th in the NFL for middle linebackers who played at least 50 percent of the team’s snaps. Vilma was No. 35 out of 37, finishing with a minus-15.6 rating.
But it’s not just last year. Vilma’s production went down in each of the past four seasons, he went from ninth in 2008 (for those seeing 75 percent of the snaps) to 15thh of 23 in 2009 to No. 25 of 25 in 2010.
Lofton played 75 percent of the snaps in Atlanta in each of the past three seasons, finish sixth in ’09, 20th in ’10 and 12th in ’11.
He’s average in pass rushing and pass coverage, but he’s strong against the run.
In 2011, he finished with 112 tackles. Quarterbacks targeted him in coverage 81 times and completed only 67.9 percent of their passes.
He finished the season keeping quarterbacks to a 95.5 rating, 14th-best in the league.
Lofton’s impact could be large.