Top 5 New Orleans Saints Outside Linebackers Of All-Time
Who are the top 5 outside linebackers in the history of the New Orleans Saints?
Yesterday, we unveiled the five best inside linebackers in franchise history.
Today, we stay on the defensive side of the ball.
1)---RICKEY JACKSON---Really, is there any doubt? As a member of the “Dome Parol” linebacking corps, Jackson was a 13-year starter for the Saints, compiling 1,104 tackles, to go along with 115 sacks, seven interceptions, and 27 fumble recoveries. A six-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Saints, Jackson was a key fixture in of one of the top defensive units in the league during his time with the franchise, and ranks as arguably the best player in franchise history. In all, Jackson played in 15 seasons in the NFL, recording 1,173 tackles, 128 sacks, 8 interceptions, and 29 11 fumble recoveries. In 2010, Jackson was inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. He is considered by many to be not only the best outside linebacker in franchise history, but the best player, period.
2)---PAT SWILLING---As a member of the “Dome Parol” linebacking corps, Swilling was a six-year starter for the Saints, compiling 354 tackles, to go along with 76.5 sacks, three interceptions, and seven recoveries. A four-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Saints, Swilling was a key fixture in of one of the top defensive units in the league during his time with the franchise. Swilling’s best season was 1991, when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, after leading the league with 17 sacks. In all, Swilling played in 12 seasons in the NFL, recording 468 tackles, 107.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries, and one touchdown, while named to the NFL All-Pro team five times, in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. Swilling, who was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009, was elected to the Louisiana State House of Representatives from New Orleans in 2001, serving one term, and currently works as a real estate developer in New Orleans.
3)---WHITNEY PAUL---People tend to forget about this guy. Paul, along with Rickey Jackson, Dennis Winston, and Jim Kovach, rank as the second-bet linebacking group in team history. He played 4 years for the Saints, appearing in 55 games, including 39 as a starter. Now, playing linebacker, even outside linebacker, is more than just piling up sacks, but Paul accumulated 23 sacks in New Orleans, which ranks third at outside linebacker, behind only Jackson and Swilling. He got to the quarterback and made big plays, especially in the 1983-1985 seasons, while he totaled 20 sacks over a 3-year period. He was a playmaker. Simply put, Paul is one of the more underrated players in team history.
4)---KEITH MITCHELL---After a rookie year in which he started two games and totaled 4.5 sacks in 2001, Mitchell became a fulltime starter for the next four years, including the 2000 season, in which he was selected to the Pro Bowl, after racking up 60 tackles, to go along with 6.5 sacks. In five years with the Saints, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Mitchell compiled 259 total tackles, including 18.5 sacks, to go along with eight fumble recoveries, four interceptions, and one touchdown. In seven complete NFL seasons, Mitchell accumulated 285 tackles, including 19.5 sacks, to go along with eight fumble recoveries, four interceptions, and one touchdown.
5)---SCOTT FUJITA---In 56 career games with the Saints, including 54 as a starter, Fujita compiled 247 tackles, including 7.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries. A member of the Saints team that won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season, Fujita signed with the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2010 season, where he played for three seasons before retiring. In 11 NFL seasons, Fujita racked-up 598 total tackles, including 23.5 sacks, 7 interceptions, and 3 fumble recoveries.
Just a note; I thought Renaldo Turnbull, who made the Pro Bowl as a outside linebacker in 1993, when he compiled 13 sacks. But he only played outside linebacker for two seasons, while playing defensive end in his other five years in New Orleans. Longevity means something. For instance; Turnbull had a terrific 1993 season, and had 19.5 sacks over two seasons at outside linebacker, which is very good. But again, it's only two years. By comparison, Paul had 23 sacks in four 4 years. Turnbull was impressive, over the short term, but for me, he just didn't play the position quite long enough. One more year at the position and he would have likely made the list. One year less, and Paul may not have made the list. I like for a guy to have four years at a position, with a minimum of three, to be considered. That being said, some Saints fans may have Turnbull as high as #3 on their own personal list.
Another guy I thought about was Jim Merlo, who people forget, due to the fact that the Saints were so poor in the 70's.
An finally, Scott Shanle deserves some mention, for obvious reasons.
You could make a case for any, or all three of these guys, but I'm sticking with my five.