“I don’t walk around old,” Robertson said Sunday (June 10) at a charity event in which he gave about 100 New Orleans-area children a chance to go bowling. “I don’t walk around with ice bags on.”
Since Michael Mauti, who joined the team in 2015, was cut last month, every linebacker on the roster has been acquired within the past three years, including Robertson and Nate Stupar — who is one month younger than Robertson — joining the team in March 2016.
Since drafting Stephone Anthony — whom they traded last year — in the first round in 2015, the Saints have primarily turned to the free-agent market in pursuit of linebacker help. In March 2016, the team added James Laurinaitis, Robertson and Stupar. Laurinaitis was, of course, the big name of the group. Robertson and Stupar were expected to primarily be special teams contributors, but both made more of a defensive impact in 2016 than Laurinaitis, who was cut in November that year.
In March 2017, the Saints again reloaded the position, this time signing A.J. Klein, 26, and Manti Te’o, 27. Both players had experience, but arrived with question marks. Klein had yet to be in a full-time starting role after spending four years with the Panthers, and Te’o was coming back from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his time with the Chargers.
The Saints then drafted Alex Anzalone in the third round last year, and Anzalone blew away expectations when he arrived, earning the starting weak-side linebacker position in Week 1 ahead of the veterans in the group, including Robertson.
Suddenly, the Saints had legitimate linebacker depth, and it paid off last year as injuries piled up with Anzalone, Klein and Stupar all going on injured reserve during the season.
Now, heading into 2018, the group is even deeper after signing 29-year-old free-agent Demario Davis, giving him a three-year, $24 million deal that’s worth significantly more than any of the other recent linebacker signings. With Davis around, all of the linebackers will have a harder time earning playing time, but Robertson sees that addition as a benefit for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
“Just having that goal in mind, it makes you look at our linebacker room like we got a chance to be something special,” Robertson said.
The Saints have so many possible lineup combinations at linebacker that it’s easy to see how the group could overcome potential injuries in 2018.
Davis played in the middle for the Jets last year, but he’s also been working out on the weak side this offseason. Klein split time in the middle and on the strong side last year with the Saints. Te’o has lots of experience in the middle. Anzalone has impressed on the weak side. Robertson has played weak side and in the middle for the Saints. Stupar has played on the weak and strong sides.
“Whenever (backups) get their chance to play, there won’t be any tick down if anybody gets hurt, and that’s the thing we’re most excited about,” Robertson said.
The team is also giving edge rushers Hau’oli Kikaha and Jayrone Elliott a chance to practice on the strong side, and undrafted rookies KeShun Freeman and Colton Jumper are trying to make an impact this summer, too.
All told, the Saints have a lot of experience and depth even if the players aren’t that old or haven’t been with the team long. And with heightened competition coming at training camp this year, Robertson said he’ll try to fit in wherever possible.
“I just want to win,” said Robertson, who made his first career postseason appearance last season. “After you win, you just want more. You don’t care where you’re at. Like me, I don’t care where I’m at. I know what I bring to defense, to special teams and to the team. I just want to win. That’s all I’m worried about.”
Robertson on Sunday evening at Fulton Alley hosted a charity event through nonprofit agency Strikes for Kids. In addition to free bowling, the children from Hagar’s House, Community Works and Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) received a backpack, T-shirt and goody bag.
Robertson said he hosted a similar event in Cleveland during his time with the Browns, but this is the first time he has done it since coming to New Orleans. He said the event affords some kids the chance to go bowling, a sport not as easily accessible as ones played outdoors.
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