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Saints believe defense will jell by start of season

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.timesdaily.com/apps/pbcs..../APS/308250947 Saints believe defense will jell by start of season By MARY FOSTER AP Sports Writer It's supposed to be faster, stronger, better all around. But three games into the preseason, the New Orleans Saints defense has struggled in one ...

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Old 08-25-2003, 10:24 PM   #1
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Saints believe defense will jell by start of season

http://www.timesdaily.com/apps/pbcs..../APS/308250947



Saints believe defense will jell by start of season

By MARY FOSTER
AP Sports Writer




It's supposed to be faster, stronger, better all around.

But three games into the preseason, the New Orleans Saints defense has struggled in one area - pass defense.

In three exhibition games, New Orleans allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 70 percent of their passes and toss four touchdowns while coming up with just one interception.

In a 27-12 loss to San Francisco Saturday night, 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia completed six of seven passes for 52 yards.

There are problems, coach Jim Haslett said, but he's not worried. He prefers to dwell on what his team is doing well - stopping the run. It's something the Saints did not do well last season. And it's a key to winning in the NFL, Haslett said.

"If you can't stop the run, then you've got problems," Haslett said. "Either you're not physical, you're not big enough up front, or something's wrong. If you can't stop the pass, then you can do something to fix it. There're schemes to fix it, ways to make it simpler to fix it, or more complex where you blitz. I don't think we're to that point yet."

New Orleans was without defensive ends Darren Howard and Charles Grant against the 49ers. Howard and Grant, the top pass rushers on the team, were held out because of injuries. Both are expected to miss the final preseason game Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins, but be ready for the season opener Sept. 7, against the Seattle Seahawks.

The preseason is not the way to judge the Saints defense, both the players and coaches said. For these games, the Saints don't put together a game plan for opponents, don't study them on film, and aren't about to reveal what they're capable of before the games count against their record.

"We're still vanilla," cornerback Ashley Ambrose said. "We're still holding stuff back. We don't want to show everything in the preseason. We're going to be fine. This is what the preseason is for."

The Saints have not only revamped their defensive scheme, they have added a lot of new players, including seven new starters.

"They're going to progress," defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said. "It's a question of how fast. It's been an immense challenge in the summertime putting all these new guys together."

With as many new players as he has, Venturi would like to have 10 preseason games this year. He will have to settle for the two he got to see his first string defense play more than a few snaps in.

Against the Dolphins Thursday night, the team will probably have starters make only token appearances. They don't want to risk injuries and want to make sure the players are fresh for the opener.

"One thing this team is not doing is that there are very few big plays given up," Venturi said. "The things that are pretty solid right now is that we're playing pretty good run defense, and we're not giving up a lot of big plays. so everything else is what you have to address."


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Old 08-26-2003, 12:33 AM   #2
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Saints believe defense will jell by start of season

Is this the same information source that stated the late season losing trend of 2001 , would not happen in 2002 ???
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Old 08-26-2003, 12:35 AM   #3
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Saints believe defense will jell by start of season

Do we get the same checks in the mail guarantee in 2003 ???
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Old 08-26-2003, 12:50 AM   #4
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Saints believe defense will jell by start of season

Monday, August 25

NFL 2003: With Vick out, the Bucs are back in
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Associated Press
Michael Vick is hyped as the next John Elway or more. He was supposed to carry the Atlanta Falcons past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South this season and, perhaps, on to the Super Bowl.

Then Vick did what comes naturally, scrambling in a meaningless exhibition game against Baltimore.

``Nothing was open and I had to do something to make a play,\'\' he said. ``It wasn\'t looking good at the time and I just tried to get something going.\'\'

Instead, he got something stopped: the Falcons\' momentum. He was hit from behind and went down with a broken leg that will keep him out for the first four regular-season games and perhaps more.

Not a good thing in a division that had three teams with winning records and a fourth, Carolina, which made a major push upward last season.

Vick\'s injury solidifies Tampa Bay\'s position as the favorite to win the division again. The most significant loss from last year\'s team is free safety Dexter Jackson, the Super Bowl MVP, who went to Arizona as a free agent.

But Jackson wasn\'t one of the stars of a dynamic defense and his replacement, former nickel back Dwight Smith, could have been the MVP himself with two interception returns for touchdowns in the Super Bowl.

The heart of the team remains that defense, although the three mainstays _ defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks and strong safety John Lynch _ have a few miles on them.

Still, none seems to have slowed and defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, who missed the postseason and Super Bowl with a foot injury, just signed a rich new contract. He will team with Sapp as perhaps the best inside tandem in the league.

As usual with Tampa, offense is more problematic. The offensive line and running game are so-so and there\'s no real deep threat at wide receiver.

Brad Johnson is a capable quarterback as long as he stays healthy, which he hasn\'t in most seasons. The backups are Jim Miller, Shaun King and rookie Chris Simms, who has looked sharp in exhibitions under the tutelage of coach Jon Gruden and is probably the QB of the future.

The top three receivers all are 6-foot-plus: Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius, who shined in the postseason. Thomas Jones was obtained from Arizona as insurance at running back behind Michael Pittman, who has legal problems that put his status in doubt. Mike Alstott remains the power back and a force near the goal line.

But since Pittsburgh ended its run of four titles in six years after the 1979 season, only three teams have won repeat championships: San Francisco (1988-89), Dallas (\'92-93) and Denver (\'97-98). Their quarterbacks were Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and Elway, all a lot better than Johnson.

Still, the Bucs believe.

``I think it\'s going to be the hardest thing we ever try to do in our lives,\'\' Sapp says. ``But I think this team is up for the challenge.\'\'

Atlanta might be the biggest challenge if Vick is his old self when he returns. Philadelphia\'s Donovan McNabb had a similar injury last year, and his relative lack of mobility hurt in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Doug Johnson will be at quarterback and he\'s not bad _ he was 19-of-25 for 257 yards in a road victory against the Giants, a playoff team, in his only start last season, although New York played that game without both starting cornerbacks.

``Doug\'s a very fiery guy,\'\' says middle linebacker Keith Brooking, the Falcons\' best defensive player. ``He\'s told me, \'I like it when the D-lineman hits me as I\'m throwing the ball. I like to pick myself up in front of him. That feels good to me.\' Hey, not many quarterbacks are going to say that.\'\'

Even with Vick, there are questions about the Falcons, who last year were 9-6-1 and handed Green Bay its first-ever postseason defeat at Lambeau Field before losing in Philadelphia. The defensive line is light and can be run on, and soon-to-be 34-year-old cornerback Ray Buchanan is slipping.

Coach Dan Reeves is still trying to figure out how to play running backs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett at the same time. Dunn is a speed back and Duckett a power guy. The retirement of fullback Bob Christian may make it easier, but only if Duckett can play the position.

New Orleans has fallen apart in the last two seasons. The Saints lost their last four games of 2001. Last year, they dropped their last three to finish 9-7, missing the playoffs.

The offense is fine with QB Aaron Brooks, RB McAllister and WRs Joe Horn and Donte\' Stallworth. But McAllister has been injury prone and there\'s no one behind him.

The defense still has problems. There are seven new starters from a variety of systems, including the first-round draft choice, Johnathan Sullivan, at DT, where growing pains are common.

John Fox took over as Carolina\'s coach last season and improved the team from 1-15 to 7-9. Befitting Fox\'s background, the defense was second in yards allowed as rookie Julius Peppers had 12 sacks in 12 games before being suspended because he tested positive for an illegal supplement.

Peppers and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, a Pro Bowler in his second year, should lead a defensive that will be excellent again.

But the offense still needs help.

Rodney Peete remains the starting quarterback because, at 37, he hasn\'t done anything to lose the job. Jake Delhomme, a backup in New Orleans, still hasn\'t grasped the offense, and Chris Weinke, a third-year-man at 31, remains an outsider.

That makes the major addition heavy-duty running Stephen Davis, let go in a salary cap move by Washington. The Panthers also added Ricky Proehl, the quintessential possession receiver.

___=

PREDICTION: 1. Tampa Bay (12-4); 2. Atlanta (9-7); 3. Carolina (8-8); 4. New Orleans (7-9).


\"Americans play to win at all times. I wouldn\'t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed.\" - George S. Patton
On another note, I\'ll take a bite of that crow 08. - Saintfan
Brooks is a moron!! - Halo
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Old 08-26-2003, 08:46 PM   #5
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Saints believe defense will jell by start of season

1. Tampa Bay (12-4); 2. Atlanta (9-7); 3. Carolina (8-8); 4. New Orleans (7-9).

Honestly, I doubt this will happen, but I wouldn\'t be the least bit surprised if it did. I said that we may finish last in the division months ago.
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