Firstly, let me thank you all for the conversations that you all contributed to part one of this write-up. I’m exciting to bring you the defense and punter as my part two. Again, these are my top players at each position, determined by a mix of career achievement and my own personal bias. The fun part is when you get involved, however. Let me know who you think you agree with and if there’s anyone you believe was missed. Again, I will try to avoid present players, but there are a couple that I can’t leave out on this one.
Oh, and I pulled this as a base 4-3 structure. I know some of these players wouldn’t fit the scheme of a 4-3 at all but it’s really just for the structure. Some of the past players on this list played in a 3-4 while we now run a nickel package. It seemed like a happy medium. It also let me get a guy in here that I feel like not enough Saints fans talk about.
DE – Will Smith (2004 – 2012)
Though Will Smith’s life came to a tragic end, his career was one of the brightest. Fourth all-time franchise sack leader with 67.5 over nine seasons. His best season came at the right time when he wrangled 13 sacks in the 2009 Super Bowl year. He had more than 10 sacks one other time in his career in 2006, his lone Pro Bowl year. Smith is also an early success story in the Ohio State – New Orleans Saints draft pipeline, selected in the first round of the 2004 draft. Smith was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 2016, the year of his death. Smith was an undeniable leader in the New Orleans defense.
DE – Cam Jordan (2011 – 2017)
Here’s one of those current players I couldn’t avoid listing. Cam Jordan is well on his way to being the best Defensive End to play in black and gold. To some, he already is. Already with 59.5 sacks over seven years with three Pro Bowl nominations and a First-Team All-Pro designation, he’s certainly the most decorated Saints end. Which is ironic, because he’s also among the league’s most underrated players, at least until 2017 when he exploded for 13 sacks, 10 batted passes, two forced fumbles, and an incredible self-volley for an INT touchdown in the endzone against the Lions. He’s the clear leader of a rapidly improving Saints defense who has won the hearts of the fanbase with his quirky personality and loyalty to the team and city. Since his second year, he’s never accumulated fewer than seven sacks in a season. And now, with running mate Marcus Davenport, who’s sure to draw the attention of opposing offensive lines, he’s primed to continue his ascension up the ladder of the league’s most disruptive players.
DT – Wayne Martin (1989 – 1999)
Remember how I said earlier that doing a 4-3 defense helped me include a guy that not a lot of today’s Saints fans talk about? Wayne Martin is that guy. Now, for those of you going “I KNOW WHO WAYNE MARTIN IS!” I know, and I’m not talking about you, so it’s Gucci. Wayne Martin played both DE and DT in his 12 seasons with the Saints (his only team.) Number two on the franchise sack leaders list, Martin compiled 82.5 sacks in his career going over 10 five out of six seasons between 1992 and 1997. In 1992, he went for 15.5 and tied for fifth in the league. Three of his >10 sack seasons were at DT where he shifted in 1995 after starting at DE the six years prior. The one-time Pro Bowler (1994) was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2003.
DT – La’Roi Glover (1997 – 2001)
La’Roi Glover was an unmistakable force for New Orleans. He played only five seasons for the Saints but compiled 50 sacks in the time. Including a six and a half sack season in which he only started two games and a league-leading 17 sack season in 2000. He added 219 tackles and a remarkable 11 forced fumbles. Glover appeared in the Pro Bowl in both of his final seasons in 2000 and 2001 and was named First Team All-Pro in 2000. That same year he was also named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. Glover was originally drafted in 1996 by the Oakland Raiders but was waived the year after his rookie season and signed with the Saints. He was named to the 2000s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2013.
LB – Rickey Jackson (1981 – 1993)
15-year pro and 13-year Saint Rickey Jackson transcends the conversation of best Linebacker in franchise history and jumps straight into the best player in franchise history conversation. Jackson was part of the fearsome Dome Patrol defensive unit of the 1980’s and ’90s. His 115 sacks as a Saints ranks him at the top of the franchise sacks list. That puts him 32.5 sacks ahead of Wayne Martin’s second place. Jackson was a second round pick by the Saints in 1981 and was a three-time Pro Bowler before the Dome Patrol was a thing. In fact, he wrangled 505 tackles and 39.5 sacks in those five years alone. For the next eight seasons, we went on to dominate alongside Pat Swilling, Vaughn Johnson, and Sam Mills as one of the best Linebacker corps ever assembled. Jackson had more than nine sacks eight of his thirteen seasons going for more than ten in six times. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-Team All-Pro, NFL Hall of Famer, and Saints Hall of Famer.
LB – Sam Mills (1986 – 1994)
Sam Mills tends to be absent on lists like this, but I had to include him. As one of the Middle Linebackers in the Dome Patrol 3-4 defense, he was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. Mills was one of the stars of the short-lived USFL (United States Football League) along with Reggie White. When the league was dissolved after its three-year run, Mills came to New Orleans with head coach Jim Mora. In his time with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars he lead his team to two USFL championships and was named to three All-USFL Teams. He continued his success into the league while playing with the Saints and totaling 894 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, and four interceptions. He was a huge part, along with his running mates, for the Saints’ first ever winning season in 1987 at 12-3. He was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1998.
LB – Pat Swilling (1986 – 1992)
Pat Swilling is the third of four members of the Dome Patrol (missing from this list is LB Vaughn Johnson). Swilling played on the outside opposite Rickey Jackson and is third on the Saints’ franchise sacks list with 76.5. In his seven seasons with the Saints, Swilling also had 354 tackles and a ridiculous 24 forced fumbles. He lead the league in sacks with 17 in 1991 leading him to his first of two First-Team All-Pro honors. Swilling also made four straight Pro Bowls with the Saints from 1989 to 1992 and added a fifth straight after being traded to the Lions in 1993. Swilling was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in the year 2000.
CB – Tracy Porter (2008 – 2011)
Super Bowl XLIV hero, Tracy Porter is a must for my list, which includes some bias. Firstly, his number over four years were solid, 158 tackles, 34 passes defended, but only 7 interceptions. That, however, doesn’t include post-season interceptions. Which is where Tracy Porter earns his stripes. In 2009, on the way to the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl victory, he picked off an ill-advised throw from Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game with 0:07 left on the clock. Setting up a huge home win to send the Saints to the Super Bowl. This comes after Porter caused a huge fumble with the Vikings in scoring position earlier in the fourth quarter. But he saved his best heroics for last, we all know the play. Oh, and that was only his second season in the league, by the way.
CB – Dave Whitsell (1967 – 1969)
Whitsell makes this list over Dave Waymer, who also deserves a shoutout as the organization’s leader in career interceptions (37). Despite Waymer’s numbers being greater than both Whitsell’s and Porter’s, these guys are here because of their impact on the city of New Orleans. Just like Tracy Porter is known for his services in capturing the Saints’ first Super Bowl win, Dave Whitsell is highly recognized as the organization’s first cornerback. Okay, so I’m getting sentimental- leave me be. Whitsell came to New Orleans via the 1967 expansion draft marking the Saints’ inaugural season. He went on to play three seasons in New Orleans (his tenth through twelfth) and became the first Saint ever selected to the Pro Bowl. He had 10 interceptions his first year, which is still a franchise record. Originally from Kenner, LA, Whitsell is a hometown hero for the organizations and one of the most important players in the team’s history.
note: I could easily throw Marshon Lattimore in one of the two slots above, but I’m leaving him off as he’s played only one year. A great yet. But only one.
SAF – Sammy Knight (1997 – 2002)
Third on the team’s all-time interception list, Sammy Knight has always been one of my favorites. Hosting 436 tackles, five sacks, 28 interceptions, and four touchdowns Sammy Knight is one of the few outstanding safeties to take the field for New Orleans, despite being an undrafted free agent. We an consider him one of the reasons we get so excited about UDFAs that make their way into New Orleans as he was an early success story in many’s memories, the likes of Sam Mills before him and Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore after him. Knight was nominated to the Pro Bowl and selected to the All-Pro Second-Team in 2001, but deserved so much more recognition. Perhaps he never lead the league in single-season output, but he was mad consistent. He roped in five or more interception in five of the six seasons he spent in New Orleans. Beyond that, from 1997 – 2002, he was second in the league amongst Safeties in interceptions with 28. Putting him behind only Rod Woodson with 31. That same number places Knight fifth amongst all defensive players during that period. Despite leaving on what wasn’t the most positive note, Sammy Knight was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2011 after retiring in 2008.
SAF – Tommy Myers (1972 – 1981)
Another Baghead alumnus, Tommy Myers sits second in the Saints’ all-time interceptions list with 36. But it wasn’t just his interceptions that makes him one of the best to play for the Saints. He’s legendary for hitting people so hard, he’d hurt himself. He was the first ever Saint to be named First-Team All-Pro in 1979 while simultaneously being nominated for Pro Bowl recognition. He was also the first ever Saints defense player to be inducted into the franchise Hall of Fame in 1989. Myers played before the Saints ever achieved a winning record, but still put himself on the line for his team and played with everything he had. That’s the kind of determination and dedication that build success. Let’s just say that if Myers was playing in his prime now, he’d have to make some adjustments to his game, but I have no doubt that he’d still make his way to a New Orleans roster.
P – Thomas Morstead (2009 – 2017)
The only other current player on this list, Thomas Morstead is the easiest choice at this position. Morstead holds the franchise record for career yards per punt average at 47.0 including an incredible 50.1 yard average in 2012, which stands eighth best all-time. He was nominated to the Pro Bowl that year as well. He’s only ever had one of his 527 career punts blocked. Morstead also handles kickoff responsibilities as well and has been known to not be afraid of some contact. He famously broke a rib during the 2017 NFC Divisional game against the Vikings, played through it, and then was one of eight members to take the field during the meaningless extra point after time had expired. His efforts caused an outpour of love from the fan of Minnesota who went on to donate to his charity. However, his effects have been felt since his very first season. 2009 landed him a Super Bowl ring in a game during which he was instrumental. Morstead’s successful onside kick, “Ambush” would turn the tide and lift the Saints’ momentum en route to a Super Bowl victory. There’s no mistaking Morstead’s toughness, leadership, and loyalty to the only team he’s played for so far in his 9 year career.
Honorable Mention – SAF – Steve Gleason (2000 – 2006)
Steve Gleason will never be an afterthought to Saints fans. In fact, his inspiration exists far beyond the boundaries of the Who Dat Nation. But the epicenter of his influence lives on Poydras. I mentioned the names of Tracy Porter and Dave Whitsell on this list earlier due to their contributions to the Saints culture, so it would be completely unfair of me to leave off the person that single-handedly reinvigorated an entire city in a matter of just seven seconds. Gleason, of course, is known for the Rebirth of New Orleans and, as I explained in a much earlier article, its people. As Gleason continues to inspire and invigorate people across the world with his Team Gleason initiative, a statue of his sits outside the Superdome to commemorate his gift to the city. Something we don’t often talk about is that Gleason wasn’t a starter. In fact, in his seven years playing for the Saints he only started a single game in 2005. That goes to show you that you don’t have to have your name in lights to be incredible. And while there are names omitted from my lists of all-time choices- everyone plays a role in the functionality and success of a unit. No one better illustrates that then Steve Gleason.
So let us know, do you agree with the selections above? See someone missing? Hit us up and share your thoughts.