The early stretches of New Orleans Saints training camp has seen young players steal the show. However, in addition to the young guns, some older veterans are coming along nicely, especially on defense. Three players who are showing some resiliency are Champ Bailey, Patrick Robinson, and Victor Butler.
All three are coming off injuries in 2013 and are looking to bounce back and contribute. Football enthusiasts everywhere know Bailey as a first ballot Hall of Famer. However, in his latest Saints’ incarnation, he is a wily veteran with plenty of miles logged. Last season was Bailey’s worst as he was battling a chronic foot injury throughout the entire season. However, the season before, he played 15 games, and, according to Presnapreads.com, still had a great season despite its ugly ending against the Ravens.
Bailey has come out of training camp showing no ill effects from the foot injury and has been running with the first team defense in the beginning stages. He already has a highlight with a forced fumble and, with the help of Rafael Bush, recovery, on fullback Erik Lorig. If Bailey continues to show flashes of youth, he will be hard to unseat as the second starting corner.
Competing with him is 2010 first round pick Patrick Robinson. Robinson was looking solid before tearing his patellar tendon. In what some are saying is a make or break year of Robinson, he has shown flashes of brilliance with multiple pass deflections, including one on the taller Brandon Coleman and the speedy Charles Hawkins.
Robinson’s career has been tumultuous up to this point, but he has a chance to revive it with a solid season. Rob Ryan has heaped constant praise for Robinson’s athleticism and says that he is “smooth” and can “bend” well despite his bigger frame.
Lastly, there is Victor Butler. The excitement within the coaching staff is palpable with his return. Last year’s prized free agent had to sit out the season with a torn ACL. He hasn’t made that many plays during camp like Robinson and Bailey, but the coaching staff says that his rehab went great and that he looking “one hundred percent” out on the field.
Butler should be the projected starter, and an important one at that. His experience in Ryan’s system from his days in Dallas will be a great advantage. In addition, his presence will allow Ryan to play a more traditional 3-4 alignment with Galette on the other side.
According to Pro Football Focus, Butler was 10th in pass rushing productivity the season before he was with the Saints. And he was able to do that in a backup role. If healthy, he along with Galette could be a scary combination coming off the edges.
The return of these three players can elevate the Saints’ defense to new heights. Bailey, if he is able to regain any of this 2012 form, will give the secondary a nice cornerback set. And even if Robinson doesn’t win the 2nd cornerback job, he will still be extremely valuable since Ryan loves to mix and match personnel packages. And with the addition of Butler, the Saints’ can have a pass rushing front that can rival anybody in the league. All the coaching staff wants at this point is for them to hit the field healthy, so we can finally put all these ifs to rest.