It wasn’t Curtis Lofton or David Hawthorne, but in the end the Saints did get a linebacker to hopefully improve their recent poor play at that position. Coming to the Saints on a 3 year contract is Chris Chamberlain, formerly of the St. Louis Rams. Chamberlain is a 4 year pro that was originally drafted in the 7th round out of Tulsa and he primarily plays at weakside linebacker.
Before you get too excited he started 13 games last season on a defense that ranked 22nd overall. While Chamberlain defied odds by cracking a starting spot, he’s mainly regarded as a special teamer. He reminds me a bit of Scott Shanle in his prime. Speaking of which, Chamberlain will likely compete with Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring and Martez Wilson for a shot at starting, which will come with no guarantees. He did play for Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis last year, so his familiarity with the defense and the fact that Spags clearly likes him is a leg up on the competition.
Pro Football Focus ranked Chamberlain in 2011…
at 20th overall among 4-3 outside linebackers with a +3.6 rating. That’s out of 44 rated linebackers, and he did finish ahead of Fujita (32nd), Casillas (38th), Dunbar (40th), and Shanle (42nd) to name a few. He was rated at +4.3 against the run and -1.7 in coverage, which perhaps suggests he’s more valuable on first and second down and maybe not in passing situations.
He’s noted as a sound tackler with solid technique which explains his prowess on special teams and his ability to help in run support. He is a tad lighter than you’d want a linebacker to be, but he manages fine on the weakside.
Bottom line, Chamberlain is a player that seems like a good guy and a high character player that will fit well in the locker room, but while he has some strengths and represents an upgrade, he is not what I would quantify as a difference maker. I think the Saints signed a bit of a one dimensional linebacker that by no means will transform a unit that has struggled mightily the past two seasons. That said, it’s a good start provided they can find more talent elsewhere. And of course, the special teams coverage unit which was already a strong point has been made better overnight.