Kristian: Top 5 defensive players on the Saints roster
Kristian@wwl.com - A major part of the Black and Gold focus this year is obviously the defense, coming off a historically bad year that we’d all like to forget. Do they have the tools to turn it around this year?
Well, on one hand, they don’t have a marquee name on defense. They don’t have a J.J Watt or a Patrick Willis, a top-caliber player that other teams have to game plan for. Still, they have some players that can make life miserable for opposing offenses:
1. Defensive end Cameron Jordan: Yeah, I might have him a bit high on the list, but given his youth (entering his third season) I think it’s warranted. Jordan had 8 sacks last season and is always a force against the run. He’s a player you can build a defense around and I think is the best New Orleans has to offer at this point.
2. Linebacker Curtis Lofton: In his first season with the Saints last year, Lofton quietly tallied 123 tackles. While he’s not on the level of Patrick Willis, (and not many are,) he’s a solid player and a tad underrated in the league. Lofton isn’t the fasted or the biggest on the field, but he finds the football. He has over 600 tackles into his six year NFL career.
3. Outside linebacker Will Smith: A few years ago Smith would have topped the list. He’s still one of the best pass rushers on the team and at times he has been dominant in the league. Smith is experimenting with a move to outside linebacker in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defensive schemes this season. Despite the defensive woes from last season, Smith still registered six quarterback sacks. His age (32) might catch up to him soon, but he’s still up there when you look at the numbers.
4. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks: It’s getting a bit hard at this point on the list. Hicks was a third round draft pick in 2012, and some scouts felt he could have been, and probably should have been, taken higher in ’12. He’s a massive man who might be the biggest benefactor in the switch to the 3-4 this season. Hicks possesses a non-stop motor and made his share of plays last season. The Saints might just be scratching the surface on a supremely talented player.
5. Punter Thomas Morstead: No, this isn’t a joke. Morstead is legitimate weapon for the Saints defense. His booming punts can put the Saints defense in great position pinning teams deep in their own territory and might allow Rob Ryan to take more risks. I know he’s not a positional player, but make no mistake about it, Morstead has the ability to change field position in games. That’s enough for me to put him at No. 5. Laugh if you want, he belongs. (Oh, and congrats…Morstead got married today!)