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Harper key to Saints’ defense

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Former University of Alabama standout Roman Harper is no stranger to adversity, but then again neither are the New Orleans Saints. Both, it seems, are on a major upswing. Harper and the Saints are undefeated heading into week nine and ...

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Old 11-15-2009, 11:22 PM   #1
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Harper key to Saints’ defense

Former University of Alabama standout Roman Harper is no stranger to adversity, but then again neither are the New Orleans Saints.

Both, it seems, are on a major upswing. Harper and the Saints are undefeated heading into week nine and have sole control of the NFC South Division.

But it wasn’t always so. The strong safety was drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft with the 43rd overall pick by the Saints and played immediately as a rookie. He notched 32 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in five games before suffering a devasting knee injury versus division rival Carolina Panthers.

Harper got to work on getting himself ready to play again.

“It was a grueling offseason. I didn’t go anywhere. I had to stay here and work out and rehab and watch our team go 10-6 that first year,” Harper said. “Now, for us to come back three years later and have the same type of success early, we just got to keep it going and understand what we have to get done.

“We are not going to let up and we are not going to get ahead of ourselves.”

The Saints are one of only two unbeaten teams left in the NFL. The other is the Indianapolis Colts, who are no strangers to the limelight. The Saints, on the other hand, are one of five teams that have never, in franchise history, made a trip to the Super Bowl.

Harper knows how much football lies down the stretch.

“We have to stay focused and stay humble and understand what we still have to get done,” he said. “We got a lot, but it’s a long season ahead of us. We still have a lot of goals and objectives to shoot for this year.”

One reason for the Saints’ success is the acquisition of new defensive coordinator Greg Williams, hired in the offseason after wowing Sean Payton during the interview process. Payton reportedly even went as far as to offer $250,000 of his own salary to make the proposal work.

After being hired, Williams went to work immediately overhauling the defense.

“Greg has definitely brought a different style and sense of urgency to the defense,” Harper said. “We are playing a lot faster and more physical. I think the main thing is that we had talent on the defensive side of the ball, but now we are just flying around a lot more.

“He expects a lot out of us and he puts a lot on our shoulders. He allows us to play freely and a little loose. As long as we play within the boundaries, he is going to let it go.”

As further credit to William’s tutelage, the Saints defense is averaging almost one touchdown per game this season, after not scoring in two of Payton’s first three years (2006 and 2008).

Williams said one reason for that success is Harper.

“He is very tough,” Williams said. “He’s very explosive. He’s got (a) fearlessness about him of playing around all the noise. He’s not afraid to be in the run front in any way at all. He’s a good blitzer, and what I think he’s shown a lot of people is that he’s a lot better playing the ball than people gave him credit for.

“We had to do some things to get his confidence changed a little bit. We had to change a few of his techniques of how he was going about playing the ball when it was in the air. I think he’s been real receptive of everything we’ve taught him to do. The big thing is he can’t be afraid to make a mistake. He plays one hundred percent all the time and you have to like players like that.”

This season Harper has already accounted for 57 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles on a defense that has forced at least two turnovers in each of its eight games and leads the NFL with 24 forced turnovers and seven defensive touchdowns.

Heading into the second half of the season, Harper is cautiously optimistic about the Saints’ chances of making their first appearance in the Super Bowl.

“I am not trying to get ahead of ourselves, but I like where our teams is at right now, mentally,” he said. “We are a very close-knit group; one thing you can see is that we all care about one another. I care about how Tracy Porter plays and how Jonathan Vilma plays. I care about how Will Smith plays. Same thing on the other side — Reggie Bush cares about how Marques Colston plays and Marques Colston cares about how Roman Harper plays.

“We know week-in and week-out our defense is going to play hard and play fast and the offense is going to make plays whether it is in the first or the third or the fourth (quarter).”

The Saints take on the St. Louis Rams at noon today.

Harper key to Saints’ defense | TuscaloosaNews.com | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL



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Old 11-17-2009, 04:42 PM   #2
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Re: Harper key to Saints’ defense

I liked that Harper is cautiously optimistic about making their first appearance in the SB. He's playing great in GW's system and has come a long way this off season and early part of the year. Let's just hope no one on our team wants to guarantee a SB win.
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