Saints rookie Anthony opening eyes at linebacker
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) Max Unger wasn't the only player the New Orleans Saints acquired when they traded star tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle in a deal that sent shockwaves throughout the NFL.
The Saints also picked up a first-round draft pick, one they used on linebacker Stephone Anthony. The rookie out of Clemson may never have teamed with Graham, but they will be forever linked by the trade.
By the looks of things, he is doing everything necessary to stand out on his own.
Anthony has been working with the first-team defense through the first five days of camp and has drawn rave reviews. Drafted as an inside linebacker, he has moved to the middle while Dannell Ellerbe, acquired in a trade with Miami, continues to sit out with an injury.
''I guess you want to learn all three positions,'' Anthony said, throwing the outside into that mix. ''With regards to whether I'm running with the (first-team) or (second-team) doesn't really matter right now. I'm just trying to focus in on getting better every day, taking things one play at a time and one day at a time.''
Anthony smiled as he said that. He has the cliches down, and he has a pretty good grip on football, too.
It is the middle linebacker's responsibility to wear the earpiece to which plays are communicated from the coaches on the sideline. That duty has fallen to Anthony.
''The headset, to me, kind of helps a play,'' he said. ''I would have loved to have one of those in college.''
It's certainly an illustration of the confidence Saints coaches have in Anthony. The Saints were last in the NFL last season in turnover margin, a distinction they have stressed needs to be turned around. Entrusting a rookie at such an important defensive position speaks volumes.
''The communication process is the first thing,'' coach Sean Payton said. ''He's getting the calls in from the sideline. He's handling that well. Much like Andrus Peat (the team's other first-round pick, at left tackle), you just can't give him enough reps. There's a physical presence to him when he's out there, and you can feel that.
''We've been careful about how much we're installing. I think that has helped him and some of the other younger players on defense. Still got a lot of work to do, but it's encouraging.''
Anthony likes that veteran players are looking to him for the next play.
''It's kind of nerve-wracking a little bit, but as time goes on you earn respect and you keep knocking down the trees every day,'' he said.
Veteran linebacker Parys Haralson believes Anthony will go on to become an impact player both on the field and in the locker room.
''He understands football and he works hard,'' Haralson said.
''That's the ultimate goal. I want to be great and I want (the veterans) to respect me,'' Anthony said. ''I want those guys to look at me as somebody they can count on.''
NOTES: Cornerback Brian Dixon practiced for the first time after opening camp on the physically unable to perform list. ... Left tackle Terron Armstead left Monday's practice early. Payton declined to discuss why. ... WR Marques Colston indicated his limitations in practice have not been related to injury, but rather an attempt to watch his ''mileage.'' Colston, 32, is a 10-year veteran.
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