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N.O.’s Gibbs big on competition

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; N.O.’s Gibbs big on competition By SHELDON MICKLES Advocate sportswriter Published: Aug 4, 2007 - Page: 1C JACKSON, Miss. — Midway through a hot practice Wednesday morning, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs lit into free safety Josh Bullocks ...

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Old 08-05-2007, 07:43 AM   #1
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N.O.’s Gibbs big on competition

N.O.’s Gibbs big on competition

Advocate sportswriter
Published: Aug 4, 2007 - Page: 1C

JACKSON, Miss. — Midway through a hot practice Wednesday morning, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs lit into free safety Josh Bullocks after a blown assignment resulted in a long scoring pass.
Long after the play had ended, the usually mild-mannered Gibbs was still steaming. Knowing that big plays were a problem at times for his defense last season, he realizes those things must stop in order for the Saints, who ranked 11th in total yards allowed in 2006, to improve this season.
A couple of plays later, Bullocks redeemed himself by hustling over to the sideline to leap high and intercept a pass — finally calming Gibbs, who was LSU’s defensive coordinator in 2001, considerably.
“Who was that guy up there?” Gibbs joked the next day when asked about the incident. “You know, they’re good men and they want to play well. It’s hot, and it’s a test to go out there and play every day.
“When you go against Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, Marques Colston and David Patten, if you’re going against those guys and you’re not on top of your game on every snap you’re going to get beat. And it’s not going to be pretty,” he added. “What we have seen most of the first week of training camp is our guys have competed every snap.”
Competition is the name of the game for the Saints defense this season. One year after going through training camp with a serious lack of competition at linebacker, defensive tackle and the secondary, Gibbs has an abundance of quality players at those spots.
He needs them to compete this summer, especially during seven straight days of two-a-day practices that kicked off this year’s camp.
“We are tested every day, so if we don’t compete every day it can show up in a hurry,” Gibbs said of going against a Saints’ offense that led the NFL a year ago with 6,264 total yards. “The big difference from last year to this year is we’re competing every snap every day.”
With the addition of five veteran newcomers, the competition is fierce.
Top returnees include defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith, a Pro Bowl pick after posting a team-high 10 1/2 sacks; linebackers Scott Fujita, Mark Simoneau and Scott Shanle; cornerback Mike McKenzie; and strong safety Roman Harper, who played in only five games before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.
To that core group, the Saints added defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy, who will give the team a solid rotation inside alongside Brian Young and Hollis Thomas; linebackers Brian Simmons and Dhani Jones; cornerback Jason David; and safety Kevin Kaesviharn.
Gibbs likes what he’s seen of them so far, as well as his holdovers.
“We’ve worked hard and installed a lot over the last five or six days,” he said. “For a lot of the new guys and the younger guys, that stuff is running together. But the effort is there and the commitment is there. I think we’ve made more plays on the ball at this point time then we did a year ago.”
Gibbs said it’s easy to tell that the more experienced veterans like Clancy, Simmons and Jones have become more comfortable with the defense, as well as some players that have been in his system for more than a year.
Saints coach Sean Payton said he’s noticed that as well and thinks the defense is further along than last year at this time — especially when it comes to the linebackers.
“I think there are only three linebackers here that were in last year’s camp, so from that standpoint it’s different,” he said. “But overall, I’d like to think that we’re further along than a year ago — and I think we are. I know we’ve helped ourselves with the acquisition of guys like Jason and Kevin and the two linebackers.”
The biggest things the Saints must do, Gibbs said, are to be better at forcing turnovers and stop the run on a more consistent basis.
Last season, they ranked 31st in the league with only 19 takeaways and were 23rd in giving up 128.9 yards a game. They also ranked 26th in allowing 4.9 yards per carry.
“I think everybody saw the character of these guys because we found ways to win,” Gibbs said. “Sometimes it wasn’t always pretty, but when you start winning like we did last year they develop a confidence. A player that has a lot of confidence is a good player. That’s kind of what happened last year, and that’s what we hope we can build on this year.”


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