</span> <span> <span style="">In the weeks leading up to the start of the New Orleans Saints' 2009 training camp, NewOrleansSaints.com will take an inside look at some interesting facts and figures of various high-profile players on the Saints' roster. This is part four in the series.</span>
MIDDLE LINEBACKER JONATHAN VILMA
NFL Experience in 2009: 6th Season
Years with Saints: 2nd Season
College: Miami (Fla.)
- Acquired via an off-season trade in 2008 and signed to a long-term contract this past winter, Vilma has brought a blend of youth and experience to the middle of the Saints' defense. The University of Miami product has earned a reputation as one of the top middle linebackers in the league, having earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2004 and being selected to the Pro Bowl the following season. Through five NFL seasons, Vilma has recorded 611 tackles (410 solo), seven interceptions, 3.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 22 passes defensed, starting 69 of 71 regular season games that he has appeared in. Vilma recorded at least 100 tackles in four of his five NFL campaigns.
- Vilma was ranked first on the Saints with 151 tackles (100 solo), the fourth 100-tackle season of his career and the highest stop total by a Saint since 1997, two forced fumbles and a team-leading three fumble recoveries, while also adding a sack, an interception and eight passes defensed as he successfully returned from a knee injury that cut short his 2007 season.
- He was voted by his teammates as the team's 2008 Ed Block Courage Award winner, given annually to a player that has persevered through adversity and displayed professionalism and strength in trying situations.
- Vilma's defensive fumble recovery total (3) was tied for second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL. With four total takeaways, he tied for fourth in the NFC and sixth in the NFL for most by a linebacker in 2008.
NFC LEADERS IN FUMBLE RECOVERIES IN 2008
|1.||Ben Leber, MIN||4|
|2t.||Jonathan Vilma, NO||3|
|2t.||Oshiomogho Atogwe, StL||3|
|2t.||Darnell Dockett, ARZ||3|
|2t.||Antonio Smith, ARZ||3|
|2t.||Chauncey Davis, ATL||3|
|2t.||Jason Craft, StL||3|
|2t.||Karlos Dansby, ARZ||3|
MOST TAKEAWAYS BY AN NFC LINEBACKER IN 2008
JONATHAN VILMA'S 2008 HIGHLIGHTS
- In his debut in a Saints uniform (9/7/08) vs. Tampa Bay, Vilma led the Saints defense with 12 tackles, including eight solo stops.
- In his second start at Washington (9/14/08), Vilma enjoyed a stellar afternoon, recording a game-high 17 tackles (12 solo) and two passes defensed, the highest total of stops by a Saints defender since the 2003 season when former Saints S Jay Bellamy recorded 18 tackles vs. Dallas (12/28/08).
- Vilma's second quarter of a Will Smith forced fumble vs. San Francisco (9/28/08) set up the Saints' first touchdown of the afternoon.
- Vilma led the Saints with 12 tackles (seven solo) along with one pass defensed vs. Oakland (10/12/08) while leading a defensive effort that surrendered only 226 total yards on the afternoon.
- Vilma's fourth quarter interception and his first as a Saint occurred in timely fashion vs. San Diego (10/2/08) at London's famed Wembley Stadium. The pick off killed a potential game-tying Chargers drive late in the contest.
- Had a key stop on Chiefs running back Larry Johnson for a one-yard loss at the New Orleans one-yard line that resulted in Kansas City settling for a field goal on 11/16/08 at Arrowhead Stadium. The tackle was one of his four solo stops on the afternoon in the Saints' win.
- Eclipsed the 100-tackle mark for the season with an 11 tackle outing against the Green Bay Packers at the Superdome on 11/24/08.
- Vilma turned in a stellar performance at Tampa Bay (11/30/08) when he recorded seven tackles (six solo), a sack, a pass defensed, a career-high two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. In the first quarter, Vilma had his first forced fumble and a subsequent fumble recovery when he stripped the ball from WR Michael Clayton, which led to the game's first field goal. In the fourth quarter, Vilma sacked Tampa QB Jeff Garcia and stripped the ball, forcing the Bucs to punt the ball back to the Saints, leading to a scoring drive that would tie the game.
- Vilma finished among the team leaders with nine stops (five solo) vs. Atlanta, a key to stopping the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack to less than 100 yards on the ground and keying a Saints victory.
- Led the Saints linebacking corps with eight tackles (six solo) at Detroit (12/21/08), as the Saints held the Lions to 255 total yards of offense.