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After Further Review: Four intriguing position battles to keep an eye on during Saints OTA's, training camp

Hau'Oli Kikaha's health will be a factor for the Saints in 2017. (FOX 8 Photo) Hau'Oli Kikaha's health will be a factor for the Saints in 2017. (FOX 8 Photo)
(WVUE) -

It's football in May, let the overreaction begin! All kidding aside, we’ll get our first chance to view the 2017 Saints on Thursday. It's only the first week of OTA's, so any observations should be met with caution. It's still way early in the process. Nonetheless, with the roster now set, this team has significant questions at certain positions. We broke down the top four.

4.) Long Snapper 

Chase Dominguez

Jesse Schmitt

It’s isn’t sexy, but it is crucial. The Saints made sweeping changes to their special teams coaching staff and it appears they did the same with some personnel. The team has moved on from Justin Drescher and brought in two long snappers with zero NFL experience. They signed Schmitt in January and brought Dominguez on as an undrafted free agent. Of all the position groups, this is easily the most wide- open. No one really knows much about either player.

3.) Defensive End 

Cam Jordan

Hau’Oli Kikaha

Darryl Tapp

Alex Okafor

Trey Hendrickson

Al-Quadin Muhammad

Mitchell Loewen

Royce LaFrance

Obum Gwacham

Jordan has been an anchor on one end of the Saints defensive line for quite some time now but has long needed a running mate on the opposite side. The Saints addressed that in the draft but didn’t do so until their final two picks of Hendrickson and Muhammad. They also brought in Okafor via free agency, who signed a ‘bet on myself’ one-year contract. That worked out well for the Saints last season with Nick Fairley; the hope is the same will be done with Okafor.

The wild card here is Kikaha. Between college and the pros, he’s now torn his ACL three different times. But, when healthy, Kikaha contributed well in 2015 and could add quality depth to the defensive line.

2.) Cornerback

Delvin Breaux

P.J. Williams

Damian Swann

Marshon Lattimore

Sterling Moore

Ken Crawley

De’Vante Harris

Arthur Maulet

Anthony Gaitor

Taveze Calhoun

Injuries depleted what looked like a strong cornerback unit last year. This year, the Saints added numbers to the position once again. If healthy, Delvin Breaux is likely one starter. The question comes opposite of him. The Saints drafted Marshon Lattimore, the top cornerback in the draft, and brought back Sterling Moore. Swann and Williams both showed flashes but both have sustained serious injuries in each of their first two seasons. They’ll have to prove they can stay healthy. Crawley and Harris both earned roster spots last year; Maulet was one of the club’s most coveted undrafted free agents this year.

There’s also the question of the Saints’ nickel defense. Last year, they employed the ‘heavy nickel’ scheme which utilized three safeties instead of three cornerbacks. Coach Payton hinted at the possibility of going to a more traditional nickel this season depending on personnel. In today’s NFL, the nickel corner is essentially a starter.

1.) Linebacker 

Stephone Anthony

Alex Anzalone

Adam Bighill

Dannell Ellerbe

Travis Feeney

A.J. Klein

Craig Robertson

Nate Stupar

Manti Te’o

Your guess is as good as mine. The Saints added quantity this offseason in hopes of adding quality to the linebacker position this season. They drafted Anzalone, signed Klein and Te’o in free agency and brought in Bighill from the CFL.

No player is tied to any specific position. New LB coach Mike Nolan will have plenty of players available to find the right combination. In particular, I’ll be curious to see if Nolan can resurrect Stephone Anthony, who struggled mightily in year two. If he can’t, the Saints may be forced to move on from their former first round pick.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.

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