|Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire|
|Martez Wilson hasn't played defensive end since high school, but the Saints want to see if he's still got it.|
Even with Jo-Lonn Dunbar headed toward free agency, and Jonathan Vilma showing a drop in on-field performance -- not to mention facing potential league discipline over the team's illegal "bounty" program -- the New Orleans Saints followed through on their plan to move Martez Wilson from linebacker to defensive end this offseason.
Wilson, a 2011 third-round pick, saw limited playing time as a rookie, recording six tackles and a sack in just over 60 regular season defensive snaps before adding 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in a starting role in the Saints' playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Wilson has not played defensive end since high school, but he flashed enough pass-rushing potential during OTAs and minicamp to allow the experiment to continue in training camp, according to Brian Allee-Walsh of sportsNOLA.com. Wilson had nine sacks in his 39-game career at the University of Illinois, but he feels that rushing the passer is his top skill.
"I'm at my best going after the quarterback -- not just from the end spot -- but just going after the quarterback. Period," Wilson said. "They can line me up at end or at linebacker with a hand down or from an upright position outside. But I get to go after the quarterback every play."
With contact limited during the offseason, we won't find out until August if Wilson can physically handle playing defensive end at the NFL level. Wilson is confident he can make the transition and has lofty goals for himself.
"I think I'll grow into the spot," Wilson said. "I'm not even close to where I see myself being. No matter what position I'm playing down the road, I see myself just making plays. Making plays is what keeps you on the field.
"I see myself being a Hall of Famer one day."