When Rickey Jackson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, it brought to mind the great New Orleans Saints linebacking corps, known as “The Dome Patrol,” of the late 80s and early 90s. Take a look back at the greatest linebackers in New Orleans Saints history.
5. Mark Fields (1995-2000)
There is no doubt who the top four linebackers in New Orleans Saints history are. The debate rests on the order of two to four and who is number five. When the great linebackers of the Jim Mora era began to retire, the Saints drafted Mark Fields in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft. While no single player could replace that squad, Fields was one of the best defenders in New Orleans during the six years he played as a Saint. In fact, he played in the Pro Bowl in 2000. Unfortunately, Mark Fields’ career was cut short by Hodgkin’s disease.
4. Vaughan Johnson (1986-1993)
In the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft, New Orleans selected Vaughan Johnson. Although he played in the USFL for two years, he joined the Saints in 1986. Standing at 6’3″ 235 pounds, Johnson was a devastating hitter. Playing one of the inside linebacker positions in the 3-4 defense, Johnson was feared by NFL running backs who were unfortunate enough to penetrate the Saints defensive line. Vaughan Johnson made numerous All-Pro teams, played in four Pro Bowls from 1989-1992 and is a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame.
3. Pat Swilling (1986-1992)
Although Rickey Jackson was effective as an outside linebacker early in his career, he was limited by double teams. But in the 1986 NFL Draft, the Saints picked Pat Swilling in the third round. Now if teams doubled Rickey Jackson, their QBs would have to deal with the fast and athletic Swilling. Although criticized for not being as effective against the run, there is no disputing how great Swilling was as a pass rusher. In 1991, Swilling set a club record with 17 sacks and he is comfortably in third place with 76.5 career sacks as a Saint. Pat Swilling was twice named first team AP All-Pro, made the Pro Bowl each year from 1989-1992 and is a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame.
2. Sam Mills (1986-1994)
Early in his career, Sam Mills was unable to sign with an NFL team due to his 5’9″ 229 pound frame. So he played three years in the USFL for head coach Jim Mora. When Mills joined Mora in New Orleans in 1986, “The Dome Patrol” was complete. Given the nickname “The Field Mouse” due to his size, Mills was actually the field general for the New Orleans defense. Mills was a first team AP All-Pro, played in four Pro Bowls and is a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Sam Mills died of intestinal cancer at the age of 45.
1. Rickey Jackson (1981-1993)
On the 2/8/2010 edition of ESPN’s “First and Ten,” in reference to Rickey Jackson making the Hall of Fame, Skip Bayless said, “Rickey Jackson wasn’t even the best linebacker on his own New Orleans Saints team.” (Click here and play the second video to the 34th minute to hear the comment.) That remark is ridiculous. Rickey Jackson is the best “retired” player in New Orleans history. He is the Saints career leader in games played (195), sacks (115), forced fumbles (38) and fumble recoveries (27). Also, Jackson played in six Pro Bowls and is in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Click here to see the NFL’s tribute video produced for Rickey Jackson’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Statistical data found at pro football reference
Skip Bayless, 2/8/2010 edition of “First and Ten,” ESPN
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