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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...0707289400.xml How long before the Saints' defense shines? Monday August 25, 2003 Peter Finney With one warm-up remaining, the thought may have crossed your mind that, once the regular season commences, the Saints will have a problem scoring touchdowns. And ...

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Old 08-25-2003, 08:12 AM   #1
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Finny's take

http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...0707289400.xml

How long before the Saints' defense shines?



Monday August 25, 2003


Peter Finney

With one warm-up remaining, the thought may have crossed your mind that, once the regular season commences, the Saints will have a problem scoring touchdowns.

And the problem?

Well, based on the evidence thus far, in dress rehearsals against the Eagles, Jets and 49ers, it appears the best chance Jim Haslett's team has making six points arrives whenever the other team kicks off to Michael Lewis.

The problem is, other than winning the coin toss, the only time the enemy will kick off to No. 84 will be after an enemy score. Which is not a pleasant thought.

Maybe your worries were eased somewhat Saturday night once Aaron Brooks rifled a 18-yard strike to Joe Horn at San Francisco. It was the first touchdown by the first-team offense in exhibition play and it came at exactly 9:10 p.m., Central Standard Time, in the second quarter of a game the home team won 27-12.

Horn celebrated the occasion with a "Rock The Boat" move in the end zone, fulfilling a promise, he said, to his three-year-old son.

When Horn made the grab (it came against the 49ers' second unit), some cynics probably were saying, "if the defense can only catch up to the offense, we'll be on our way."

Given the facts, that could be a long time coming.

As inept as Haslett's front-liners on offense have been in three outings, the stat sheet tells you Brooks threw for 27 touchdowns last season, seven of them, incidentally, to Horn. This suggests that, while the offense has been virtually idle the past three weeks, going through the motions like undisciplined kids during a fire drill, there are enough weapons around Brooks to eventually score more than a few field goals.

Defense is another matter entirely.

When Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb bats 1.000 in one series, then sits down for the night, and he's followed by the Jets' Chad Pennington, who comes close to batting 1.000 playing one quarter, you can make a few excuses for the stop-'em guys. After all, McNabb and Pennington took their teams to the playoffs last season.

But when Louisiana Tech's Tim Rattay steps in, as he did Saturday, and eats the Saints alive with an arm not known for its quick release or its velocity, it's cause for concern.

Consider the circumstances. The 49ers are in a state of flux, working under a new head coach. Dennis Erickson replaced Steve Mariucci, deemed ultra-conservative by ownership, and he's got a starting quarterback, Jeff Garcia, fighting a bulging disk in his back.

It wasn't so bad that a rusty Garcia went 7-for-8 in three series, staying around long enough to drive the 49ers to a 7-3 lead. It was more what Rattay did, hooking up with the backups and taking them on marches of 64 and 80 yards against most of Haslett's No. 1 defense. The first drive took six plays; the second took 10, with Rattay going 5-for-6.

It's impossible to put a positive spin on what took place in the second quarter. Should you be scrambling for some upbeat crumbs, you could put a spin on the hit cornerback Dale Carter delivered on the game's opening play, when he sidelined the tight end with what turned out to be a broken collarbone. You could put a spin on linebacker Darrin Smith stuffing a third-down, short-yardage play. And you say missing in action Saturday were two key bookends on the front four -- Charles Grant (calf) and Darren Howard (knee). But that's about all.

Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi, who watched the defense savaged by land and by air last December, has a job on his hands. How long before No. 1 pick Johnathan Sullivan is not a work in progress? How long before Carter proves he's what Haslett says: "best cover corner in the league"? How long before Tebucky Jones lives up to Haslett's "cream of free-agent safeties"?

The real bullets don't start flying for another two weeks -- in Seattle. Meanwhile, the game plan for Thursday's Superdome meeting with the Dolphins comes down to two words: no injuries.

In the case of the Saints, this definitely would apply to Michael Lewis.

. . . . . . .

Peter Finney can be reached at pfinney@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3802.
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