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pakowitz 06-26-2003 05:39 PM

Saints Defense: Read Between The Lines
We've heard it all before. Cliches such as "speed kills" and "you can't coach speed" or "the best offense is a good defense" and "defense win championships." In a league of trends and copycats, these catchy phrases have started to dominate the psyche of fans, players, and coaches alike.
If you hear it enough, there must be some truth in it. Right?

So is speed and speed alone what makes championship defenses? Or offenses for that matter? What constitutes "team speed?" Is it as black and white as the average 40 yard dash times of particular teams?

If this were true, we would have Super Bowl predictions down to an exact science.

Enough questions, let's get to some answers. Great defenses are built on more than just speed. A great organization knows how to create the near-perfect balance of speed and savvy, veterans and youngsters — role players and play-makers.

Role Player: player who executes and takes care of assigned responsibilities within the parameters of a given scheme.

Play-Maker: Gifted athlete with the ability and skill to operate outside of the parameters of a given scheme (and therefore make plays as opposed to having plays made for him).

Case in point: in the 2002 offseason, Dan Snyder signed perhaps the highest profile group of linebackers of any team. Jeremiah Trotter, Jessie Armstead, and LaVar Arrington had each played in the Pro Bowl the previous season. Snyder then proceeded to sign Baltimore Raven defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis to tutor this corps of athletes in hopes of recreating the historical Super Bowl defense the Ravens had in 2000.

While the Redskins' defense held their own against the run, their pass defense was horrendous and the linebacker play was not what one would expect from three perennial Pro Bowlers and a coach who had tutored such greats as Ray Lewis and was responsible for the Ravens' defense of 2000. So what went wrong in Washington?

So now we're back where we started. If Marvin Lewis and a collection of All-Pro linebackers couldn't create a Super Bowl defense, who can?

The answer lies in this simple philosophy: too many play-makers, not enough plays to go around. The Saints should not encounter this problem.

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