this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; By LES EAST Special to The Advocate Published: Oct 6, 2007 METAIRIE — Carolina and New Orleans are supposed to have two of the better sets of pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL. At left end, the Panthers line up ...
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Sacks out of reach for Saints, Panthers
By LES EAST
Special to The Advocate
Published: Oct 6, 2007
METAIRIE — Carolina and New Orleans are supposed to have two of the better sets of pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL.
At left end, the Panthers line up Julius Peppers, a sixth-year pro who was voted to the last three Pro Bowls as a starter and who is the franchise’s all-time leader with 53.5 sacks.
At right end, they line up Mike Rucker, a ninth-year pro who has just one fewer career sacks than Peppers.
The Saints’ left end is sixth-year pro Charles Grant (36 career sacks) and their right end is fourth-year pro Will Smith, who was voted into his first Pro Bowl after getting 10‰ sacks last season.
Going into their game Sunday in the Superdome, Peppers, Rucker, Grant, and Smith have combined for the same number of sacks as coaches John Fox and Sean Payton — zero.
The good news for Peppers and Rucker is they are just one sack behind the team lead of tackles Kris Jenkins and Kindal Moorehead, who have evenly split Carolina’s two sacks in four games.
The good news for Grant and Smith is they’re tied for the team lead because, through three games, New Orleans is the only defense in the NFL without a sack.
“I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” Fox said when asked what he would have thought if he were told at the beginning of the season that this game would roll around without any of those ends having a sack. “To be real honest with you, I’m sure coach Payton wants those guys to have sacks and I want my guys to have sacks.
“At the end of the day, that’s not the only defining statistic for a defensive lineman. When I was in New York, Mike Strahan had his lowest sack total during my tenure there and yet he had his best season and we went to a Super Bowl. It’s not the only job description of a defensive end.”
It’s not, but it’s fairly high in the job description. Those 36 career sacks had something to do with Grant getting a seven-year contract in the offseason, reportedly worth a potential $63 million.
“When you’re down 17 or 30 points, the offense isn’t going to throw the ball,” Grant said. “When they’re ahead, the quarterback isn’t going to take seven-step drops, he’s going to take a three-step drop.
“When we played (Tennessee quarterback) Vince Young (in a 31-14 loss two weeks ago), he had a tight end on one side of the line and a running back on the other side. Both of them were chipping the pass rushers.”
The Saints have gone more than 19 quarters — counting the playoffs — since their last sack of Jeff Garcia with 6:17 remaining in the first quarter of their divisional playoff victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in January.
That sack is their only one in their last six games — counting the 2006 regular-season finale when the Panthers shut them out. That was the only time in the regular season that the Saints, who had 38 sacks, did not record a sack.
Perhaps New Orleans can get that elusive first sack this week because it’s going against arguably the most sackable quarterback in NFL history in David Carr.
Carr has been sacked 253 times since coming to the NFL as the top pick of the 2002 draft by the expansion Houston Texans, averaging 3.2 a game for his 78-game career with the Texans and Panthers.
He has been dropped four times in the last two games since taking over for an injured Jake Delhomme — including three times last week in a 20-7 loss to Tampa Bay.
Carr said it’s easy to be misled by Grant’s and Smith’s lack of sacks, especially since the Saints are 0-3 and have lost by an average margin of three touchdowns.
“If teams run the ball you don’t get a chance,” Carr said. “There’s a whole bunch of different things that go into it. I wish I could talk for them and speak for them, but there are so many things that can go one way or another.
“This is the NFL. Every team is set up to go 8-8. What you do one way or the other with the little things can swing it totally for the good or for the bad and I’ve felt both ways this year and last year. Those things happen. They’re still good players. Don’t forget that.”
So is Peppers, who Payton said the Saints will have to focus on in their defensive game plan.
“He’s rangy; he’s very athletic; he’s a guy that can disrupt your game plan if you’re not careful,” Payton said. “Peppers is someone who is difficult to pass-block. He’s someone who can chase plays down from the back side at the point of attack and he’s pretty sharp. He’s someone that we have to account for, certainly.”
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