New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton’s first place Saints have taken the crown on several of these NFC South position rankings, but linebacker will not be one of them. The Saints are the clear exception to a strong division of linebackers, so it’s all up hill from here.
The group has been headed the last two seasons by 30-year-old Craig Robertson, who was second on the team in tackles in 2017 and second in 2016. Robertson’s career has been revived with the Saints. He’s become a rock solid player – his 2017 season may have been the best of his career, all stats considered. Along with his 80 combined tackles, Robertson had two sacks, two interceptions and six pass breakups.
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Formerly of the Panthers, 26-year-old A.J. Klein began the 2017 season as the starting middle linebacker for the Saints. Klein played in only twelve games but appeared to be the best Saints linebacker when he was on the field. Nearly setting a career high in tackles despite missing four games.
Doing his best Drew Brees impression, veteran middle linebacker Manti Te’o joined the Saints before last season after four years with the Chargers, and immediately bolstered the unit. When Klein went down with injury Te’o saw an uptick in playing time. Te’o didn’t register a sack or interception but did rack up the second highest tackle count of his career and played in all sixteen games of the season for the first time in his career.
The Saints were middle of the pack in run defense, which is somewhat emblematic of their linebacking group; not bad, but not good. The team didn’t draft any linebackers but did add Demario Davis in free agency who could be the most talented of the bunch.
Still, without a legitimate star, it’s tough to get too excited about the Saints linebackers this season.