Another annual NFL off-season with players coming and going from team to team, and players working to come back from season ending injuries. Every team has them and needs to make decisions based on the injured players and other variables. For the New Orleans Saints, injuries took their course but the team still remained very competitive going into the post season.
The Saints being so strong after encountering injuries is one reason I feel that that drafted numerous players that are raw/projects that have good ceilings. All of the draft picks don’t have to be rushed into the starting line up. For example, Alex Okafor coming back from his achilles injury and the selection Marcus Davenport ease the stress and expectation of one another. Hau’oli Kikaha can also be placed in the same conversation. He has always shown flashes of putting heat on the quarterback, but finds his way to the IR regularly. If he can stay healthy, he can contribute on 3rd down and in rotations to help keep players fresh for the 16 game season as well as develop the younger players.
Moving back to the LB unit, there was solid play all around, but no real game changer. AJ Klein for the most part played as advertised with average athleticism, great leadership and tackling skills. He could easily move back to the Mike or Sam LB positions and continue his solid play. New Orleans has plenty of depth along the linebackers, there will be some good players that have to stay on the sideline. Alex Anzalone is one of them as well, and if returning from the IR. He showed promise as well as the ability to falter at times, but I think that was due to being young and inexperienced. He was a baller in college at Florida, and I think he can still transition that production to the NFL. He is an OLB with good instincts and range, his development is pivotal this summer with the numerous vets on the roster that helped this team improve drastically.
Doing a 180 and jumping to the offensive side of the ball; I will start with Andrus Peat. He has done a great job at OG for a team that usually is not that great at downhill running. He contributed to an underrated offensive that that sent two RBs to the pro bowl which is rare. He will have no competition for that starting job. Someone who will more than likely have competition not only for his position but potentially making the roster is Coby Fleener. He hasn’t exactly had the production most people have expected. The potential is there with his athleticism, but I think that has been said most of his career. The signing of Ben Watson and Fleener’s salary does nothing to help his case, but at the same time not drafting a TE still leaves the door open for him.
To sum things up, some players are returning to their role prior to injuries, some face more competition than others. The dog days of the summer is where plenty of questions will get answered whether is release, trade, or salary tweaking.
*Notable 2017 IR Saints still free agents: Kenny Vacarro, Delvin Breaux