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BillyCarpenter1 07-30-2003 04:54 PM

Defense on Display
Defense on display
By Chris Pika, July 30, 2003; 4:20 pm

The new-look Saints defense that has been on display during the first few days of camp is in response to large changes on how offenses operate, according to Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi.

"The game has changed in two key areas," Venturi said. "The use of multiple receivers is immense. On defense, you either match it or get safeties can than cover them. One thing that hurt us last season was open-formation runs, the kind of runs where we were spread out, not tight-formation runs. The other thing that has really become critical with the talent level at quarterback in the league with Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair is their great feet. Those are transition plays where the defense is spread out and there is a premium on vision and speed to cut off the field."

S Tebucky Jones is one new member of the Saints revamped defense
Michael C. Hebert
To answer the new-look offenses, Venturi said, "We've tweaked the defense to try to add vision from a technical standpoint and we've gone out and acquired speed. Hopefully, that will close the gap. That's a big gap that we have to close. We weren't very good at that a year ago."

On the defensive line, ends Darren Howard, who had 25 sacks in his first two seasons, and Charles Grant will be the anchors. "Two guys have to take giant leaps this year, and that's Howard and Grant," Venturi said. "Both of them have played a lot of football and they are highly talented athletes. Now, they have to become impact players and both have to have breakout years."

"The tackle situation will be interesting as it shakes out," he continued. "There will be five guys battling for those jobs."

There are several battles for linebacker spots setting up as well. "It's a very competitive group," Venturi said. "I think Sedrick Hodge has had an outstanding first week. He's more comfortable than he's ever been. The battle at the weak side linebacker between James Allen and Derrick Rodgers is intense. None of those are clear-cut. Rodgers is talented, but he is in a completely new defensive scheme here and there is a learning curve. I like his ability and his professionalism. There is a lot of action at middle linebacker between Darrin Smith, Orlando Ruff and Cie Grant. I like Orlando. He is a solid guy and he is a tough guy inside. There is a lot of talent at linebacker overall."

In the secondary, several changes were made to battle opposing offenses, starting with the acquisition of Tebucky Jones from New England. "I think Tebucky is scratching the surface as a safety," Venturi said. "He's the type of guy that we expected athletically. He is out from everyone's shadow here. He has a chance to be the man here, so that's his personal challenge."

All of the true evaluations of the defense will be begin with the Black & Gold Scrimmage on Saturday in Lafayette. "At this stage, we like some things that we see, but we have to see it for real Saturday and during the preseason," he said. "Don't ever evaluate your defense until the bullets are live. You can look good in practice. But until you tackle people, you don't know. Getting into preseason games, we'll have a better idea."

"Our challenge as a staff is to take all of these new guys and these competitive situations and get them ready fast," he continued. "There's no question that we will be a good team on defense down the road. But, we don't have time to be 'down-the-road', we have to get it ready now, starting with Seattle."

BIG PLAYS: During the two-minute drill, CB Dale Carter had an interception to stop an offensive drive&WR Donte' Stallworth made a juggling catch and sidestepped a defender to get out of bounds and stop the clock during the two-minute offense.

CAMP CONDITIONS:The temperature at the start of practice (9 am) was 84 degrees, with 76 percent humidity and a heat index of 95 degrees. One hour later, the heat index had risen to 105 degrees.

SAINTS PICK UP WOODBURY OFF WAIVERS: The Saints claimed QB Tory Woodbury, a third-year player, off waivers by the N.Y. Jets. Woodbury, 6-2, 208 pounds out of Winston-Salem State, will wear #18.

Rookie tight end Mario Jackson was waived to make room for Woodbury on the roster, which stands at 88.

TONIGHT ON THE RIVER: Tonight, the Saints will work out from 7:30-9:30 pm at Destrehan High School, the first of four off-site practices during camp. "It will be a full practice and it will be a little bit longer than normal," Coach Jim Haslett said. "We are going to do everything that we normally do and it is going to be at a high tempo. It will give a chance for the fans to see the guys they see on TV all of the time. I think it will be fun for the players and the fans."

A ticket is required for admission. Tickets will be available at the gate and a suggested donation of $5 for Destrehan High athletics is requested. The Saints Experience and other youth activities will be open on the stadium grounds starting at 5 pm.

SINGLE GAME SUITES AVAILABLE: The Saints have a limited number of single game suites available for rental. For information and pricing, please contact Cindy Hart at (504) 731-1706.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:"Camp is camp. It's full-metal jacket from here on out. Once you start the season in this league, it's all about hard work and drive." -- Defensive coordinator Rick Venturi, when asked how camp was going for him.

TomGreen 07-30-2003 06:38 PM

Defense on Display
Great article.

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