Photos of Stephone Anthony from the 2015 regular season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)
Linebacker Stephone Anthony's adaptation to the New Orleans Saints' defensive changes, as well as an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for much of the preseason and for the first two regular-season games, were the leading contributors to his trade to the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday, Saints Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday during his teleconference with local media.
"I think there came a time in where he was at, with regard to where we at, in his development," Payton said. "I think that, unfortunately, his injury during training camp really prevented him from getting the snaps that we were hoping to see. Ultimately, it came down to a decision roster-wise for us. I love this kid, I think the world of him and hopefully, he can bounce back and make an impact for Miami."
Anthony started all 16 games for the Saints as a rookie in 2015, and led the team with 144 tackles. He also was credited with five passes defensed, a sack, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
But last year was a struggle for Anthony to adapt to the changed defensive scheme under coordinator Dennis Allen. He appeared in 10 games, with three starts, and posted 25 tackles.
The Saints hoped to see an improved Anthony this season, and he appeared to be trending that way during the offseason and training camp, taking snaps with the starting defense at Will linebacker. However, Anthony's injury stunted that growth.
The Saints have had five linebackers active for the first two games and expect to have Nate Stupar (hamstring) return to game duty soon.
"We're constantly paying attention to our own depth," Payton said. "(Craig) Robertson, Stupar, (Adam) Bighill has come up (from the practice squad to the active roster in the season opener). We'll be smart there about going into a game and then also handling the week's work at practice."
NO OLSEN: The Panthers will be without tight end Greg Olsen for Sunday's game against the Saints at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Olsen broke his foot last Sunday and will be out several weeks. He has been a substantial thorn to the Saints over the last several seasons. "He is a significant piece," Payton said. "I think that offense, though, over the years has played well when they've missed a key contributor. But he's someone that provides such a balance on the other side of the field and if he's opposite of (wide receiver Kevin) Benjamin, it becomes challenging with where you're going to roll coverage. But we're just going to have to be ready for that combination of (tight end Ed) Dickson when he's in the game, or how they're going to play (tight end Chris) Manhertz, they signed a fullback yesterday – there's a little bit of unknown."
THE McCAFFREY FACTOR: Payton and the Saints expect to see plenty of Carolina rookie running back Christian McCaffrey on Sunday. McCaffrey is a jack-of-all-trades back on whom the Panthers may rely a bit more with Olsen out of the lineup. "He provides a variable of personnel groupings," Payton said. "When he enters the game, there are a handful of things that you've got to defend. I think he's a very good runner, you see him in the passing game and then you see him in roles which you have to defend, and it might be with (running back Jonathan) Stewart on the field as well. So they've done a good job in the first two weeks of really getting in and out of a handful of personnel groupings, but forcing you to account for him. He's versatile. And then we haven't even talked about his special teams snaps."
SEASONED PEPPERS: The Panthers added to their defensive front this offseason with the addition of veteran defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers, in his 16th season, has 2.5 sacks in the first two games. "He certainly is the exception to the norm," Payton said. "He's got rare skills and he's in a perfect role for them. He's someone that can play on the edge, he's played inside and when you put him together with (defensive end) Charles Johnson, (defensive tackle) Star Lotulelei, (defensive tackle) Kay Short and (defensive end) Mario (Addison) – you start getting a pretty salty front that plays fresh. They've done a great job personnel-wise there."