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QBREES9 07-25-2010 09:02 PM

New Orleans Saints defense is hoping to build on last year's performance
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Four years into this new New Orleans Saints world order, certain empirical truths can be applied annually to the black-and-gold universe.

• Drew Brees will throw around 30 touchdown passes.

• He is rarely going to get sacked or turn the ball over.

• The offense is going to gain about 400 yards per game and lead the league. The special teams will feature a strong kicking game, an erratic, sometimes spectacular return game and shaky coverage units.
These things are certain, as inevitable as death and taxes.
The defense, though, remains something of a mystery. The track record is too short. More data is required.

They were spectacular last season, ranking second in the NFL in takeaways and leading the league with seven return touchdowns. But their No. 25 overall ranking is a bit disconcerting.

When the defense didnıt produce turnovers, the Saints proved vulnerable. In the three-game losing skid to end the season, they had a takeaway/giveaway ratio of 2:7. In narrow wins at Atlanta and St. Louis, they produced only one turnover in each game and had to fight for their lives to come out on top. Indeed, in those games, they looked a lot like the 2007-2008 editions of the Saints.

The big question this season: Can the Saints continue their thieving ways? Can they count on anything remotely close to the 39 takeaways they had on the way to the Super Bow? Or was 2009 just a one-year anomaly?
It's a legitimate question. Because of the way they play, the Saints' ability to create turnovers is perhaps the most important factor in their success, other than keeping Brees healthy.

"We've got to continue the takeaway trend this year," defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. ³We have to understand the urgency and importance of taking the ball away. Itıs the single most important statistic when you have an offense that is capable of scoring points like ours."
There is reason for optimism.

Williams' defense is designed to create confusion and wreak havoc. Itıs part of the plan. With Williams, takeaways are a naturally occurring condition. They happen when you create the right defensive environment, like Louisiana summers produce humidity and tropical storms.

In Williamsı first season, the Saintsı defense adopted an aggressive mind-set from the first whistle of offseason practice. It carried over to the fall. They tied for third in the preseason with 10 takeaways, finished second in the regular season with 39 and led everyone in the postseason with eight.
Sean Payton hired Williams because he knew his defenses had a track record for takeaways. But there also is ample reason to doubt they can keep it up. From 2000 to 2008, 48 teams had 35 or more turnovers in a season. Of those, only eight managed to do it in back-to-back campaigns.
A drop off appears inevitable.

What's more, the Saintsı top thief, Darren Sharper, had offseason knee surgery and has not practiced since the Super Bowl. There will be legitimate questions to answer in camp about the 34-year-old All-Proıs speed and range.

If you recall, Sharper dropped weight before last season and reported to camp in tremendous shape. His tremendous physical condition was a big factor in his monster season. His health is of paramount importance.
Former first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins is waiting in the wings and flashed play-making skills last season, but itıs unlikely and unfair to think he could turn into the turnover-producing machine Sharper was last season.
Yet thatıs what it could come down to for the Saints to repeat as Super Bowl champs. No statistic is more directly correlated to success.
In the past decade, 21 teams have had as many takeaways in a season as the Saintsı 39. Of them, 20 had winning seasons that year. Their average number of wins is 10.8. Eighteen of them won at least 10 games.
In fact, every one of the past 20 Super Bowl contestants has had at least 25 takeaways during the regular season. That included 13 teams with 30 or more.

Yet few aspects of football are as whimsical. No team reflects the arbitrariness of takeaways more than the Baltimore Ravens.
In 2005 they forced only 26 takeaways and finished 6-10. The next season their takeaways increased to 40 and they soared to 11-5. A year later, the takeaways plummeted to 23 and they went 5-11. In 2008, they rebounded to 11-5, thanks in part to their 34 takeaways.

The Ravens, of course, did not have Drew Brees.
Breesus, as always, is the Saintsı saving grace.
Thatıs something no one can take away from them.

MatthewT 07-25-2010 11:46 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints defense is hoping to build on last year's performance
It would be foolish, however not out of the question, to think the Saints will have that kind of takeaway performance in 2010. However with that being said, I think the Saints defense is getting very close to being overall dominate. Obviously they are not there yet, but they are getting close. The secondary is now built, just have to keep guys on the field and not on the injury list. LB and DL is still a work in progress, but the main pieces are there. If injuries don't totally cripple the team, the Saints should easily move into a top 8 defense in 2010.

pumpkindriver 07-26-2010 07:16 AM

Re: New Orleans Saints defense is hoping to build on last year's performance
We may not get quite as many TO's as last year but with they style of defense we play, I see us continuing to get plenty of them. And one key thing about our 25th ranking is injuries. We really had a drop off in production when so many of our players were out. I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but it seemed to me that our defense played a lot better as the game wore on.The 1st qtr, we seemed to be just feeling out our opponents and then began clamping down in the 2nd qtr and then in the
2nd half basically shutting them down.

crawgator 07-26-2010 04:13 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints defense is hoping to build on last year's performance
I do think the Saints Defense can be better than last years. We are Stronger in the Secondary, I feel we are better in the Defensive line. The biggest weakness we have lies in the linebacking corp.. We may not get the turnovers like we did last year, But I feel we will stop other teams better than we did last year... GEAUX SAINTS

OldMaid 07-26-2010 04:27 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints defense is hoping to build on last year's performance
I have confidence in the team , the defense and Williams. I am sure he will change some thing to switch it up, plays and palyers , so that the other teams won't rely on seeing the same things.
There is always room for improvment even if you are current SB winners.

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