METAIRIE — Seven months and one NFL lockout later, Marshawn Lynch’s shock-and-awe 67-yard touchdown run for the Seattle Seahawks lives on in the collective minds and souls of the New Orleans Saints.
And well it should.
Arguably, few players in NFL history have charged through a defensive unit with such defiance and bravado as Lynch did late in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks’ 41-36 upset wildcard win at Qwest Field.
Nine potential tacklers had a chance to bring down Lynch on the Jan. 8, and all nine failed, some more than once.
That improbable run-for-the-ages, perhaps, is one reason veteran free-agent defensive tackles Shaun Rogers (6-foot-4, 350 pounds) and Aubrayo Franklin (6-1, 317) now grace the Saints’ training camp roster in preparation for the coming season, and defensive tackle Remi Ayodelle has taken his game elsewhere (Minnesota).
Yes, a new “double-wide’’ has taken up residence in the middle of the Saints’ 4-3 defense. “Big’’ (Franklin) and “Bigger’’ (Rogers) are massive men whose primary job is to push the pocket, clog the trenches and prevent Lynch-like runs from gaining momentum.
Throw in savvy veteran defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (6-1, 307), and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a half-a-ton of beef to rotate in and out of the Saints lineup.
“With any good front,’’ Williams said, “you never see the tackles playing 60 snaps. With Rogers, I see a guy who can play nose tackle and the ‘3’ (technique). Sedrick Ellis is a guy who can play the ‘3’ and nose tackle. Aubrayo is a guy that plays nose tackle.
“I see those guys handling a ton of work inside. Those are plenty of snaps. Many would argue that you need a fourth (defensive tackle), and we have some guys out there that we are looking at right now. I think they all understand that, and their flexibility with it is paramount.’’
Though five months separate their arrivals in New Orleans, Rogers, 32, and Franklin, 30, seem to share one common goal, and that is to win a Super Bowl ring.
Each has left a bottom-tier team (Rogers in Cleveland and Franklin in San Francisco) to join forces with a bona fide Super Bowl XLVI contender. Neither is signed beyond this season, both agreeing to one-year deals that seem to fit the here-and-now mind-set of both the players and the team.
Rogers’ contract totals $4 million and features a $2.5 million base salary, of which $1 million is guaranteed, a $500,000 signing bonus, numerous roster bonuses worth $370,000, and a $630,000 weight bonus that calls for him to keep his playing weight at a maximum of 350 pounds throughout the season.
Though listed on the Saints roster at 350, he tipped the scales around 375 at the time of his signing Feb. 28 and has battled weight problems throughout his 10-year career with the Detroit Lions (a second-round pick, 2001-07) and Browns (2008-10).
Rogers played a reserve role in the Browns’ 30-17 upset of the Saints in Game 7 last season.
“I’m just excited to be a part of a franchise with that kind of (Super Bowl) tradition, that kind of history, and those kinds of guys,’’ Rogers said. “Hopefully, I will be able to bring something to the table and contribute to a situation like that again.’’
Franklin, too, played against the Saints last season, contributing three tackles in a losing cause. The Saints won 25-22 on a 37-yard deflected field goal by Saints kicker Garrett Hartley as time expired. Franklin was the anchor for a 49ers defense last season that allowed the fewest yards per carry (3.46) in the NFC.
In 2010, Franklin (Baltimore 2003-06, San Francisco 2007-10) earned a $7 million base salary as the 49ers’ franchise player and reportedly was close to re-signing with the team last Monday. But Saints officials were able to sign him with the promise of a front-loaded, one-year deal.
“When coach (Sean) Payton called (and said) that I could get a spot in the rotation here with Sedrick and Shaun, I felt like these guys have proven that they can win a Super Bowl, and I want to help contribute and see if we can win another one,’’ Franklin said.
“With the one-year deal, why not come to New Orleans? It’s the best deal for me; it’s closer to home (Johnson City, Tenn.) and we have a great coaching staff and organization here. Drew Brees is a great quarterback with a great offense, and the defense is good. It’s a blessing in disguise.’’
He said it
“Jonathan Vilma was our coach. He was Joe Vitt and he was Gregg Williams. (Vilma) helped us and he taught us. He was an excellent coach.’’ — Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas on Vilma’s tutorial influence during the six weeks of players-only workouts at Tulane University from May 1 through June 16.