Three thoughts: Saints appear to be thin at outside linebacker

Three thoughts: Saints appear to be thin at outside linebacker

Martez Wilson (95), Parys Haralson (98) and Junior Galette (93) are the only outside linebackers on the Saints roster as of Aug. 31, 2013.

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 31, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 11:29 AM

OPINION

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

Three thoughts on Saints initial 53-man roster (we call it initial because it may or may not be final depending on waiver wire moves):

*For the list of those who were cut, click on this link: Saints release Roby, Richardson to get to 53-man roster limit

1.) The OLB dilemma
Considering injuries to both Will Smith and Victor Butler, that New Orleans kept only three outside linebackers is a bit of a surprise. The Saints held onto Junior Galette, Martez Wilson and Parys Haralson. That means they released athletic sixth-round pick Rufus Johnson.

What’s surprising is that a position wrecked by injuries now has little depth. But rosters aren’t necessarily finalized right now and the Saints could still add an outside linebacker who was released or waived by another team.

Still, the Saints are rolling the dice a little bit. Of the three outside linebackers who were kept, they have combined for a total of zero minutes played for the Saints this preseason. Galette and Wilson are coming off of injuries while Haralson came to New Orleans on Wednesday via a trade.

2.) A very young roster
Andy Tanner made the 53-man roster. So did Rod Sweeting, Glenn Foster, Khiry Robinson, Tim Lelito, Josh Hill and Kevin Reddick.

What do they all have in common? All were overlooked at one point in their careers and none were drafted. The Saints tout all the time about looking for the best players regardless of how they get into camp.

This year, maybe more than any other, that rings true. Four of New Orleans’ five draft picks made the roster, but the one with huge upside was released (Rufus Johnson).  There are 10 legitimate rookies on the roster and 12 if you consider Tanner, who has only been on a practice squad, and Nick Toon, who was on injured reserve for his true rookie season.

But no player may have deserved his spot on the roster more than Tanner. His bio in the Saints media guide includes more than 30 transactions, all having to do with the practice squad. He has been consistent throughout his time in New Orleans and has gained the respect of his teammates.

3.) Some numbers breakdowns (all averages based on '06-'11. Payton wasn't around in '12)

  • At five cornerbacks, the Saints are on average. Payton’s seven rosters average 5.1 cornerbacks. Rob Ryan has averaged 5.9 cornerbacks in his nine previous seasons as defensive coordinator.
  • At five safeties, their above Payton’s 4.6 historical average and Ryan’s 3.8 average.
  • Thanks to the switch to the 3-4, the Saints are at nine linebackers, way above Payton’s average of 6.9 per roster. Heck, it’s even above Ryan’s 7.6 average. This is the most linebackers Payton has ever kept.
  • Again, the 3-4 helped New Orleans stick with just two interior defensive linemen. That’s a full two players below Payton’s average while also being below Ryan’s 3.3 average.
  • The eight offensive linemen are on part with Payton’s 8.6 average.
  • Keeping five receivers isn’t abnormal. Payton has kept an average of 5.7 receivers per roster since 2006.
  • The five running backs, however, is a first. Until this season, Payton’s average was a perfect 4.0 per roster
  • With 24 offensive players and 26 defensive players, this is the first true unbalanced Payton since 2007, when he kept 28 offensive players and only 22 defensive players. He started 2011 with 25 offensive players and 24 defensive players, but that was because he had to keep two kickers with Garrett Hartley starting the season injured.

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