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John DeShazier: Linebacker Craig Robertson ready for return to Saints starting lineup

Posted Oct 12, 2017

Veteran likely will replace Alex Anzalone

With rookie linebacker Alex Anzalone now sidelined following surgery on his injured shoulder – the New Orleans Saints placed him on injured reserve – New Orleans can turn to a trusted source for production as a replacement.

Craig Robertson started all 15 games he played last season and led the Saints with 131 tackles in his first season with the team. Robertson also added a sack, an interception, five passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.

Anzalone, the second of the Saints’ three third-round picks (No. 76 overall) in this year’s draft, started the first four games and totaled 16 tackles and a sack. Robertson has seven tackles this season and was credited with three against Miami, when he replaced Anzalone, who was injured in the first quarter.

“That’s not what you want, especially a young guy like that,” Robertson said. “It’s hard for anybody to go through injuries. You want all your guys to be healthy because we want to play and everyone wants to go to the show at the end of the year. So you want all your guys there.”

For Robertson, it will be a seamless transition.

“Just playing the game,” he said. “Nothing changes, just got to go out and make plays and do whatever you can do to help the defense win.”

The defense has been on an upswing, allowing a total of 13 points (including a 20-0 shutout of the Dolphins) and 474 yards in the last two games.

“Our coaches are putting together great game plans and guys are going out and executing,” Robertson said. “That’s kind of what it all boils down to. That’s defense. You’ve got different game plans week in and week out but the whole thing is execute those game plans, and the past two games we’ve done a good job of that.”

BEWARE: The Saints already have faced dangerous return men this season, and another comes along Sunday in Lions punt returner Jamal Agnew. Agnew, a rookie, leads the league in punt return yards (155, including an 88-yard touchdown) and average (22.1). The Saints are allowing 4.6 yards per return, and punter Thomas Morstead is off to one of his best starts: 48.6-yard gross and 45.9-yard net, with five of his 12 punts downed inside the 20.

Robertson, one of the Saints’ core special team members, commended Detroit’s punt return unit, as much as the punt returner.

“The punt returner is good, but the unit as a whole is good as well,” he said. “They do a good job holding up at the line of scrimmage and just staying on blocks as you run down the field. So first off is getting off the block, and then going to run down and then corralling him, getting bodies in front of him. But T-Mo (Morstead) does a good job of hanging it up and giving us a chance to run under and go make plays.”

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