New Orleans Saints

Saints LB Stephone Anthony experiencing growing pains

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) gets past New Orleans defensive back Roman Harper (41), Saints defensive back Sterling Moore (24) and outside linebacker Stephone Anthony (50) on Sept. 26 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) gets past New Orleans defensive back Roman Harper (41), Saints defensive back Sterling Moore (24) and outside linebacker Stephone Anthony (50) on Sept. 26 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans Advocate

Stephone Anthony’s second season in the NFL has gotten off to a much slower start than his first.

Anthony started at middle linebacker as a rookie, played 93 percent of the snaps for the defense and led the Saints with 112 tackles.

But he had issues making the right calls and identifications for the defense, and New Orleans shifted him to strong-side linebacker in the offseason. Now, the 2015 first-round pick has played just 51 snaps, or 17.8 percent, in four games and made four tackles in four games.

“I think the thing that you look at with Steph, is he’s a big, physical guy that can run,” defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “So his issues, and his things he’s got to improve on, really come from his understanding of what we’re trying to ask him to do.”

Anthony has shared time with Michael Mauti at strong-side linebacker – Mauti has six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in 42 snaps this season – and he still remains a devastating physical specimen.

The problem is making sure he’s pointed in the right direction.

“The biggest challenge is putting him in a position and asking him to do some of the things that he does well,” Allen said. “One thing he can do well is run and hit, so we’ve got to put him in positions where he can do those things, and maybe take a little bit of the thought process out of it.”

The New Orleans coaching staff rejects the notion that the Saints have given up on Anthony in his second season with the team.

“I think we still have confidence in Steph, and we’ve got to continue to develop him,” Allen said. “We’re going to continue to work with him and continue to help him improve.”

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