Sun Times Editor
Don’t look now, but it seems that the New Orleans Saints are finally addressing the defensive side of the ball these days.
You know, the part of the team that is supposed to actually stop other teams from scoring touchdowns?
What a novel idea that is?
That’s right. We haven’t seen too many of those players in the Black and Gold for quite a few years now. And while we won’t know for certain how much better, if at all, that part of the team will be in 2009, at least we’ve gotten some new defenders to take the place of the “dead wood” that was impersonating defenders last season.
The Saints got an unexpected surprise when former All-Pro linebacker Dan Morgan announced his return to the NFL this year. Morgan, a former Carolina Panther stud who had signed with the Saints last year but was too hurt (concussions) to take to the field, declared himself totally healed and could have a major impact at weakside linebacker if that is indeed so.
If Morgan was a surprise, the signing of middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma was not. Vilma, a free agent who played very well for the Saints last season, will return and hopefully lead the New Orleans defense to bigger and better things, especially if Morgan is back to his old form and replaces current Saint linebacker/imposter Scott Shanle.
Needing desperate help in the secondary at both cornerback and safety, the Saints dipped their beaks into the free agent pool again and lured ex-Buffalo Bill standout Jabari Greer to the Crescent City. Greer, a six foot, 180 pound corner, is an incredible athlete who was a world class hurdler as a collegian at the University of Tennessee. Greer’s presence should immediately upgrade the cornerback position and help keep the much-maligned Jason “Burnt Toast” David off the playing field this season in New Orleans.
After signing Greer, the Saints turned their attention to the defensive line and signed ex-Jacksonville Jaguar Paul Spicer to a free agent contract. Spicer (6-4, 290), who has been very productive throughout his nine-year NFL career, will likely serve as a starting defensive end for the first four Saints’ games, as both New Orleans’ starters at that position--Will Smith and Charles Grant--will probably be on probation for substance abuse violations incurred last season.
Then, this past week, the Saints finally came to terms with free safety Darren Sharper, a 33-year-old former All-Pro from the Minnesota Vikings. Sharper leads all active NFL players in interceptions with 54 and has been selected to four Pro Bowls during his 12-year career. The 6-2, 210-pound product of William & Mary has played in 183 career regular season games, with 167 starts to his credit, and has racked up 992 tackles, 140 passes defensed, 54 interceptions, nine forced fumbles, seven sacks and seven fumble recoveries.
If Sharper can play anywhere close to how he did during his Pro-Bowl days, the Saints’ defense would improve drastically and could become one of the best in the NFL South Division.
The Saints are probably done now until the annual NFL Draft this coming April 25-26, 2009, where they have just four picks in seven rounds. The Saints have the 14th overall pick in the first round, two fourth round picks, and one seventh round selection. New Orleans lost their second and fifth round picks in the trade for tight end Jeremy Shockey last season, and gave up their third round pick for Jonathan Vilma. Their sixth round pick was traded for the rights to 6’-3”, 210 pound wide receiver Adrian Arrington of Michigan, who spent last season on injured reserve.
Here’s hoping the Saints mine gold in the draft this season. They still have to address the running back position, as well as their overall defense. Personally, I hope that they can trade down to acquire more picks on draft day, but you have to find a willing partner to do that dance. With no Super Bowl appearances since their inception in 1967, this old Saint fan just keeps on dreaming.