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Ball Hawking

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; After struggling last year to come up with turnovers, the Saints' defense is flying to the ball Sunday, July 29, 2007 By Jeff Duncan JACKSON, MISS. -- No one has to remind the Saints' defense it ranked 31st in the ...

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Old 07-30-2007, 12:00 AM   #1
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Cool Ball Hawking

After struggling last year to come up with turnovers, the Saints' defense is flying to the ball

Sunday, July 29, 2007 By Jeff Duncan

JACKSON, MISS. -- No one has to remind the Saints' defense it ranked 31st in the league in takeaways last season.

Their coaches are doing it for them.

From the first snap of training camp, the Saints' defensive assistant coaches launched into an all-out verbal assault. On nearly every play, the mantra has been repeated: "Get the ball out! Run to the ball!"

"It's just a mindset," linebacker Brian Simmons said. "It helps us to get in the habit of running to the football and creating turnovers. That's a big area of improvement for us."

Creating turnovers is a point of emphasis for the Saints this season. Actually, that point could use an exclamation.

The Saints' defense was one of the least opportunistic of any team in the league last season. It forced 19 turnovers -- 11 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries -- one of the lowest totals of any team since 2000 and one of the lowest ever for a playoff team. In the past seven seasons, only 12 teams have created fewer takeaways. And that's not far from the NFL low for takeaways in a 16-game season, 12 by Washington last season.

The Saints' low takeaway total resulted in a minus-4 turnover margin. The only thing that made it respectable was the efficiency of the offense, which committed only 23 turnovers.

Few statistics are more relative to NFL success than turnover margin. Since 1995, teams have won more than 80 percent of the games in which they have won the turnover battle.

Only four teams have advanced to the championship game since 2000 with a negative turnover margin: the 2006 Saints (-4), 2003 Panthers (-5), 2001 Rams (-10) and 2000 Vikings (-10).

"Everybody knows if you're in the plus territory in turnover margin each Sunday the percentages of winning goes up dramatically," Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs said. "We were an exception last year."

To that end, Gibbs and the coaching staff have tried to make turnovers a point of emphasis for the defense. Defenders are ordered to pursue the ball carrier and try to strip the ball on every play. They're drilled to scoop every ball that hits the ground -- even incomplete passes -- and return it to the opposite end zone.

"That's new," cornerback Fred Thomas said. "That's something we're working on to cause more turnovers. We're trying to get acclimated to all 11 guys running to the ball. Even if the ball is incomplete, everybody needs to run to the ball. It raises the chance of getting the turnover."

New cornerback Jason David has added an extra step of motivation. He drops and performs 10 pushups each time he drops an interception or fails to make a deflection.

"Those drills are just something to let the defense know that in order to win and be a great defense we are going to have to cause turnovers," said David, who is in his first season with the Saints after starting for the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts last season. "Just working on it each day you can tell how we're getting better, intercepting the ball, turning over the ball and getting down the field and scoring the ball."

The NFL does not keep official statistics for points off turnovers. However, in the past 12 seasons, every Super Bowl champion has placed within the league's top 10 teams in points off turnovers. The Saints scored just 53 points off turnovers last season. By comparison, the Bears led the league with 156 points off turnovers.

The inability of the defense to make big plays last season was offset by the offense's ability to produce long drives. The Saints' offense, which led the league in total yardage last season, is capable of moving the ball but might have been able to improve its 25.8-point scoring average if it had more good opportunities.

"The more times we can give our offense the ball the better the team will be," safety Roman Harper said. "They are very explosive over there. We're just trying to get maybe 10 more turnovers this year, and we think that will help us out a lot."

Saints defenders, however, say that most of their turnovers will need to come on fumble recoveries because the Saints' coverage tendencies make it difficult to get interceptions. They made only five interceptions last year.

"The way we play defense we always have our backs to the ball, and to be honest with you the receiver has the upper hand," Thomas said. "He sees the ball all the way, and we're trying to play through his hands or through his movement. It's hard to make interceptions, but it's not impossible. . . . It's something we're working on."

Still, Saints defenders say they are well aware of how important their improvement is to the team's success. They know they are viewed as the Achilles' heel of a team that led the NFL in total offense a year ago.

"You gotta say that and expect that," Harper said. "Our offense is No. 1 in the league; what else is holding us back. Just looking at the statistics, we were the thing that held us back. We're just trying to improve and do all the little things that we can do to get better."

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Old 07-30-2007, 04:07 PM   #2
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Re: Ball Hawking

I know there is a certain way that they can create turnovers, but I don't know how they will do it. Other than getting pressure on the QB and the person running with the ball.
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Old 07-30-2007, 04:17 PM   #3
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Re: Ball Hawking

Hopefully we'll see some results on the field with this.
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Old 07-30-2007, 05:20 PM   #4
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Re: Ball Hawking

Originally Posted by saintsrule View Post
I know there is a certain way that they can create turnovers, but I don't know how they will do it. Other than getting pressure on the QB and the person running with the ball.
Holding a runner or receiver up while all of our defenders converge on the player and try to strip the ball... Other than that, I don't know either. Just get to the ball!!
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Old 07-31-2007, 01:48 AM   #5
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Re: Ball Hawking

Originally Posted by saintsfan1976 View Post
Holding a runner or receiver up while all of our defenders converge on the player and try to strip the ball... Other than that, I don't know either. Just get to the ball!!
How about they just catch the ball when it's thrown in their direction, because they drop way to many interceptions last year.
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Old 07-31-2007, 06:22 PM   #6
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Re: Ball Hawking

lol true

i cannot wait, our D will be better i feel it
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