Is Vilma's Time Nearing An End In Nola?
By Greg Barber
New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma will begin practicing with the team as soon as this week after missing the team's first six games. Vilma is a 10-year veteran, the last six of which were spent with the Saints.
During Vilma’s first three years with the Saints, he was the captain on defense during a time no one could imagine the Saints defense being successful without him. But over the last three years, Vilma’s play has slipped significantly due to injury. Not to mention the fact that he has been out all this season recovering from knee surgery.
For the last two seasons, MLB Curtis Lofton has picked up the slack and become the leader and play caller for the defense, and so far this season, the Saints have been one of the top defenses in the NFL. With a very deep defensive line and the linebacking corps being led by Lofton and David Hawthorne, and the defense as a whole playing well without Vilma, you have to wonder where he fits in now.
It will probably take a few weeks for Vilma to gets his legs under him but all of the inside linebackers have played pretty well, so it is hard to think he will supplant one of them.
What can Vilma possibly give the team when he is ready to return to the field? Will he be able to hold up well enough to cover receivers or return to the tackling machine he once was?
It is hard to imagine Vilma playing at the level he once did after the multiple knee surgeries and a time away from football. There is no reason Vilma will start ahead of Lofton or Hawthorne, or be the first one off the bench to play ahead of Ramon Humber or Kevin Reddick. Now there is a possibility that Vilma could play ahead of Will Herring, who is strictly a special teams player usually.
Still, just because he gets the opportunity to play does not mean that Vilma will play well. Last season, he played okay but it was still evident that his skills were on the decline. With that being said, however, this could be attributed to his playing weak side linebacker in a 4-3 defense last year, which means he was out of position.
Even in this 3-4 defense the Saints play now, there is not much of a chance Vilma will play on the weak side or strong side linebacker positions either since he is not much of a pass rusher.
Vilma's time seems to be up in Nola, but it remains to be seen if that is really true. Be sure to stay tuned to Football.com for the outcome of this story.