The New Orleans Saints lost three linebackers during the 2021 offseason. The biggest loss was the release of LB Kwon Alexander, who teamed with All-Pro Demario Davis to help make this defense one of the league's best units down the stretch of last year.
Part-time starter Alex Anzalone departed in free agency, signing with the Detroit Lions. Versatile veteran LB Craig Robertson has also not been re-signed but is still available as a free agent.
The losses of Alexander, Anzalone, and Robertson left a void of talent around Davis that many expected the team would address during the offseason.
New Orleans spent a second-round choice on Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner. They also expect a big jump in the development of 2020 third-round pick Zack Baun, but questions about the depth at this position remain.
A possibility remains that the Saints bring back Kwon Alexander, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during a Christmas Day victory over Minnesota.
The Saints are also counting on further development from this late-round draft choice from 2019 to bolster their linebacking corps.
KADEN ELLISS, LINEBACKER
Elliss was a seventh-round pick by New Orleans in the 2019 NFL Draft out of the University of Idaho. Son of former Detroit Lions Pro Bowl defensive lineman Luther Elliss, Kaden made the New Orleans roster after a standout preseason.
Elliss didn't see any defensive action as a rookie but played on 47 special teams snaps over the first three contests of 2019. A knee injury suffered in the third game landed him on injured reserve and ended his season.
A loaded linebacker position allowed little playing time for Elliss in his second season. He appeared in 17 of 18 games including playoffs, playing only 11 defensive snaps but 61% of the team’s special teams snaps.
The 25-year-old Elliss will have to make an impact on defense during training camp and preseason games to stick on the roster for a third straight year. A tight end early in his college career, he has underrated athleticism and good size at 6’3” and 240-Lbs.
As the son of an NFL Pro Bowler, Elliss exhibits a good understanding of his position. His frame is ideal for a strongside position, but also has the versatility to play middle linebacker.
Elliss has the strength to take on run blockers at the point of attack. He has nice lateral quickness to flow to the ball in pursuit. He’s a strong fundamental tackler and takes smart angles to the ball carrier.
Elliss doesn't have the open field speed to match up with athletic tight ends in pass coverage. He has an excellent understanding of zone schemes and showed outstanding ball skills in college.
Pete Werner, Zack Baun, and Kaden Elliss are all somewhat unproven at the NFL level, which sets up a fierce training camp competition for playing time.
Elliss has the slight edge in professional experience but will have to make a big jump in development to have an impact on the New Orleans defense in 2021.
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