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JOESAM2002 07-25-2003 11:16 AM

Howard interview......
Friday, July 25, 2003 11:09 A.M.

Saints build D around Howard
Paul J. Letlow
Posted on July 25, 2003
The New Orleans Saints spent their offseason tearing apart a defense that let them down again and again in 2002.

The Saints, who report to training camp today in Metairie, could employ eight new starters on a unit that ranked 26th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed last year.

"Anytime you have problems on defense, everybody thinks they know the answer," Saints defensive end Darren Howard said. "The only people who can do something about it are the people in the front office."

The one spot that needed no tampering was Howard's. With 48 career starts and 25 sacks through his first three NFL seasons, Howard is now the foundation of these retooled Saints.

A key point, Howard says he's healthy - and ready to return to the form that helped him set a team rookie record with 11 sacks in 2000.

"He should have been Rookie of the Year that year," Saints coach Jim Haslett said "The past two years, he's played well, but his numbers were a little bit off because of injuries. This year he's 100 percent and I think he's going to be the leader of the defense - the guy who gets double-digits in sacks for us."

Howard sounded like a team veteran as he revisited last year's defensive collapse.

"We're not very happy about how we performed against the run last year," Howard said. "It wasn't like it was the same problem every week. Something always seemed to break down. It was a bad year for us."

Consider last year history. The guys in suits made their moves, adding free agents like safety Tebucky Jones, cornerback Ashley Ambrose and first-round pick Johnathan Sullivan. Howard, though, is the key figure in the defensive overhaul. Haslett has vowed to rebuild around the 6-3, 281-pounder and second-year end Charles Grant, along with Sullivan.

"I think it's going to benefit the team more than anything," Howard said. "We have a lot of young guys. The thing youth brings is a lot of energy. The guys are excited, especially the D-line."

With six sacks in his second season and eight last year, Howard hasn't reached double digits since his breakout rookie year. Moreso than husky offensive linemen, injuries have been his primary obstacle. Any conversation with him quickly turns into a medical report.

"I had a whole bunch of stuff," Howard said. "It started off with one shoulder surgery in January of last year - then the second surgery on the same shoulder in April. I made it to minicamp, hurt the shoulder again and was out. The first three weeks of the season, I had a groin and ankle injury in the game against Tampa. I just had surgery on that this year. I also hurt the other shoulder at Pittsburgh."

Howard isn't so much using injuries as an excuse as letting you know what he was dealing with through the course of the campaign. Also remember that he has started all 16 games in each of his first three seasons.

"I didn't really feel good until the sixth or seventh game of the season," he said. "There are a lot of things that injuries hold you back from doing. But there are also things you can do to help your team. I did what I could."

Feeling frisky as his health improved, Howard recorded three sacks in Game 6 against the Washington Redskins.

"That Wednesday of that week, I started feeling good," Howard said. "I took the shoulder brace off and took the hip brace off for the groin. All I wore was extra tape on my ankle. From then on, everything started clicking."

Using Redskins offensive tackle Chris Samuels like a turnstile, Howard dropped former Ruston quarterback Patrick Ramsey three times in a Saints win.

"I don't think he liked me too much," Howard said.

Howard hopes to have more days like that. If the defense can get its act together and the offense keeps churning, the Saints should return to the playoffs.

"The talent we have on offense, we could be what the Rams were a couple of years ago," Howard said. "It's looking real good now. With all the weapons they've got, it's going to challenge us in practice. That's going to make us better for the games."

coastalkid 07-25-2003 11:29 AM

Howard interview......
I like it... I love it... need more of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SaintNik 07-26-2003 05:42 AM

Howard interview......
Howard fell to us as a #2 pick who has played from day one like a #1. Injuries have slowed him some the past two years but he still put up good numbers. If he can avoid the injuries, he should have a great year this year. Charles Grant was picked as a one last year and played as one. Young veteran Kenny Smith who was picked as a #3 is pushing for a starting spot. Jonathan Smith, this years #1 is expected to come in and start from day one. This unit may be built around Darren Howard, but hopefully this entire group along with the backups and rotational players that are young as well, will give us a strong defensive front for years to come. It all starts up front!

BlackandBlue 07-26-2003 09:17 AM

Howard interview......

Jonathan Sullivan, this years #1 is expected to come in and start from day one.
Fixed, as it was driving me up a wall.

[Edited on 26/7/2003 by BlackandBlue]

JOESAM2002 07-26-2003 09:48 AM

Howard interview......
Well damn! No wonder I never got what I wanted for Christmas. SaintNik can\'t get a last name right. You must get lost a lot that night? LOL :P

SaintNik 07-26-2003 05:07 PM

Howard interview......
Thanks for the fix Black and Blue. I\'m a bit foggy at that time of the morning. Surprised I didn\'t call him Howard Stern. I\'ve been on SaintFan for the typos. I stand corrected.

Oh by the way JoeSam, I didn\'t forget about the Ken barbie doll you asked for that year. I ran out as there was a huge demand in the Charlotte, Tampa Bay and Atlanta areas before I got down there to you in New Orleans. You gotta believe in me.

[Edited on 26/7/2003 by SaintNik]

JOESAM2002 07-26-2003 05:15 PM

Howard interview......
Oh damn, did I forget to tell you I moved? I left N.O. in 1952 only to go back in 1981 and leave again in 84. Now I\'m stuck over here in Southwest La. Maybe I could go back and try again? :P

DATMAN 07-26-2003 08:12 PM

Howard interview......

Friday, July 25, 2003 11:09 A.M.

Using Redskins offensive tackle Chris Samuels like a turnstile, Howard dropped former Ruston quarterback Patrick Ramsey three times in a Saints win.

\"I don\'t think he liked me too much,\" Howard said.

LOL! :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

[Edited on 27/7/2003 by DATMAN]

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