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Saints LB Stephone Anthony a first-round thumbs up so far

Stephone Anthony has run with the first team at middle linebacker and shown confidence and playmaking ability. Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

A quick observation of New Orleans Saints first-round pick Stephone Anthony and how he has played through three weeks of training camp:

Anthony’s poise and polish have been almost as impressive as his playmaking ability this summer – which is why the Saints have trusted him to be their starting middle linebacker since the first week of training camp. Veteran teammate Parys Haralson compared Anthony to last year’s first-round pick, receiver Brandin Cooks, which is high praise since this team has been so happy with Cooks both on and off the field from Day 1.

Like Cooks, Anthony’s attitude, work ethic and confidence all give him the air of a veteran. That’s especially important for Anthony, since he’s likely to call out the signals for the defense as the Mike linebacker with the communication device in his helmet (though the Saints experimented with having veteran David Hawthorne wear the device in this past week’s preseason game against New England).

Anthony’s athleticism has repeatedly stood out. Though he didn’t have any “flash” plays during this past Saturday’s game against the Patriots, he did help the defense shut down Tom Brady for three straight three-and-outs. And he made one of the best plays in practice last week against New England, chasing running back Brandon Bolden 20-plus yards down the field for a pass breakup. We’ve also seen a leaping interception, several batted passes and an ability to track runners down from sideline to sideline this summer from the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Anthony.

Anthony hasn’t officially locked down the job heading into Week 1, since it’s still possible the Saints could go with Hawthorne at the Mike position and veteran Dannell Ellerbe at the Will position when Ellerbe gets healthy. But when all three were healthy earlier in camp, the Saints bumped Hawthorne to the second string instead of Anthony.