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Saints roster breakdown: Linebacker

7/23/2014

A position-by-position look at the New Orleans Saints' 90-man roster heading into the start of training camp. Players report on Thursday and will hold their first practice Friday at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

Current depth chart:

Outside linebacker: Junior Galette, Parys Haralson, Victor Butler, Keyunta Dawson, Ronald Powell, Kyle Knox, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Kasim Edebali, Marcus Thompson

Inside linebacker: Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber, Kevin Reddick, Khairi Fortt, Todd Davis

Gone from last year: OLB Will Smith, ILB Jonathan Vilma, ILB Will Herring

Key roster battles: Lots of them! This is among the toughest position groups to project on the entire roster since it's so deep now with Butler returning from injury and Fortt and Powell being added in the draft. At least one or two very good linebackers won't make the team. But it's still too early to predict whether that could be a proven veteran or a young talent.

Technically, you could say that Haralson and Butler are battling for the No. 2 starting job at outside linebacker across from Galette. But they really play different roles, with Haralson more of a run defender and Butler more of a pass-rush specialist. The bigger question I have is whether we'll actually see four linebackers on the field together much this year now that the Saints have so many more options.

Last season, the Saints essentially used a 4-2-5 formation as their base package, and I expect a lot of the same this year. But if Butler delivers on his potential as a dynamic pass-rusher -- or if young athletes Powell and Fortt earn significant playing time early -- we could see some tweaks.