NFC Mailbags: Hawthorne, Collins, Bridgewater

Here are some notes from some of the most recent NFC mailbags coming out of New Orleans and Minneapolis.

  • The Raiders pried Curtis Lofton, the Saints‘ best second-level player in recent seasons, away from New Orleans. As a result, the Saints are planning to use veteran David Hawthorne in his place in the middle and as the defensive signal-caller, ESPN’s Mike Triplett said in the second part of his Saints mailbag. Entering his age-30 season, Hawthorne started weakside backer in the Saints’ 4-3 last year and while he’s a mid-tier performer at best at this point in his career, Hawthorne is incredibly versatile. He’s played four different positions the past four seasons, lining up as the Seahawks’ starting middle linebacker in 2011, before backing up on the strong side in New Orleans in ’12, then moving to an inside spot in a 3-4 look a year later before moving back outside last season.
  • While expecting Hawthorne to start regardless of who the Saints draft, Triplett notes the team hasn’t used a first- or second-round pick on a linebacker since Sean Payton arrived in 2006. While they’ve acquired Jonathan Vilma, Lofton and most recently Dannell Ellerbe and Anthony Spencer through trades or free agency, Triplett lists inside backer as possibly the Saints’ No. 1 need. He doesn’t expect the Saints to use their No. 13 pick on such a player but sees that as a key option at Nos. 31 or 44, possibly both, with Shaq Thompson (Washington), Eric Kendricks (UCLA) and Stephone Anthony (Clemson) among the options in that case.
  • Landon Collins may be too much of a run-stopping safety to mesh well in the Vikings‘ defense, writes ESPN’s Ben Goessling in his mailbag. Since upper-echelon safety Harrison Smith ventures around the formation with blitzing tendencies, Goessling notes the Vikings probably need a player who can cover ground deep.
  • Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner recently traveled to Montana to observe ways to incorporate more quick passes into the Vikings’ offense. A Division II coach for many years, Bob Stitt‘s now at Montana, and Turner was intrigued by the way his offenses can find myriad methods of putting the ball in receivers’ hands via screen passes. With Teddy Bridgewater already having success in the screen game with Jarius Wright and, at times Cordarrelle Patterson, he now has speedster Mike Wallace, which would make acquiring additional intel in this area relevant, Goessling said.
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