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JOESAM2002 06-19-2003 07:30 PM

New look defense pleases HASLETT......
This from NOLA.
Coach says unit now 'bigger, faster'

Wednesday June 18, 2003

By Brian Allee-Walsh
Staff writer

For the moment, Saints coach Jim Haslett is calling his revamped defense "bigger and faster," perhaps saving the superlatives for another day.

But there's no denying that boyish smirk.

Scanning the team's depth chart Tuesday, he assessed the personnel changes that have been made on defense since the start of free agency in March.

Gone are defensive tackle Norman Hand, middle linebacker Charlie Clemons and strong safety Sammy Knight, each expendable because of the team's new vision.

Acquired via trade, the draft or free agency were free safety Tebucky Jones, cornerback Ashley Ambrose, weakside linebacker Derrick Rodgers, middle linebacker Orlando Ruff and rookie defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan.

Mix in holdover cornerbacks Fred Thomas and Dale Carter, defensive ends Darren Howard, Charles Grant and Willie Whitehead, defensive tackles Kenny Smith, Grady Jackson and Martin Chase, safety Jay Bellamy, linebackers Sedrick Hodge, James Allen and Darren Smith, and Haslett believes he has the ingredients for a vastly improved defense.

"I'll tell you what I like about what we've done this offseason," Haslett said. "We've gotten bigger and faster on defense. It reminds me of what we did on offense after the 2001 season when we added Donté Stallworth and Jerome Pathon and put Deuce McAllister on the field.

"Our No. 1 plan all along was to improve the defense with younger, faster guys. From top to bottom, from Mr. (Tom) Benson on down, I thought we executed our plan very well."

Whether those moves translate into success on the field in 2003 remains to be seen, but Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi is cautiously optimistic.

"Jim and our guys should be commended for what they've done this offseason," Venturi said. "It's been tough around here, which says a lot when you consider we were 9-7 last season and we're fighting to get better.

"If we win nine games five years ago, we can run naked on Bourbon Street. But now we're grinding it out all winter. Jim was relentless on some of these deals. Everybody was with him, but Jim was relentless. We felt like we had a vision, and now we've got to make it good. We've got to go out and do it."

That means containing the big-play quarterbacks on the Saints 2003 schedule, including Atlanta's Michael Vick twice, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb, Tennessee's Steve McNair, Chicago's Kordell Stewart, Houston's David Carr and Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck.

Haslett said Vick's presence "has changed the whole complexity" of the NFC South.

"You have to have some give and take when you play a quarterback who can run around, because regardless of what you call you end up being in man-to-man if your front seven don't get him," Haslett said. "So let's give up some completions, but let's play with some vision. When that quarterback takes off running, we'll have enough speed now where we can go chase him down."

"We wanted to become more athletic," Venturi said. "We wanted to become faster. We wanted to put a team out there that could close the field. We've got a lot of work to do, but we think we can accomplish all those things with the guys we have now."

One wild-card, because of a weight problem, is Jackson, who has not participated in the team's offseason condition program.

Jackson attended the team's minicamp in May, but has not participated in the series of 14 coaching sessions that culminates today with a two-hour workout at the Superdome.

Kenny Smith, a third-round pick in 2001, is working with the first unit at right defensive tackle in Jackson's absence.

"Everybody in this organization wants Grady Jackson to be a part of this," Venturi said. "He's a very talented guy. We hope that he'll come back committed and can be a factor. But whatever happens there happens. I'm not a soothsayer; I'm not a psychologist.

"He needs to come in committed and take ownership of his performance. If he does, we'll welcome him. If he doesn't, we're prepared to go on. It's really that simple."

[Edited on 20/6/2003 by JOESAM2002]

tweeky 06-20-2003 12:21 PM

New look defense pleases HASLETT......

Sounds alot like the 90\'s era Steelers doesn\'t it? Hmmmm!!!

Mel Mitchell-Voted hardest hitter on team in 2002
Tebucky Jones-225 lbs/4.4sec 40/chest seeking missle
Ruff-Hard hitting 250# run stuffer.
Allen-240# OLB with speed
Hodge-250#OLB with more speed
Grant, Howard, Sullivan-QB Crushers

Man I gotta hit somebody.

[Edited on 20/6/2003 by tweeky]

coastalkid 06-20-2003 01:00 PM

New look defense pleases HASLETT......
Music to my ears. It looks great on lets do something. I noticed tweeky left out gravy jack...what\'s up with that?

pakowitz 06-20-2003 02:12 PM

New look defense pleases HASLETT......
thats b/c the only thing he hits is the floor after tripping over his fat rolls

JOESAM2002 06-20-2003 02:43 PM

New look defense pleases HASLETT......
Oh Pak, such a way with words. LOL.

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