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saint5221 12-18-2003 07:43 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...3494682660.xml


Saints' 'D' gets passing grade

N.O. secondary shows marked improvement
Thursday December 18, 2003
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer


The memory of the Saints' 55-21 blowout loss to Indianapolis at the Superdome in the fourth game of the season still makes Tebucky Jones wince.

"We were lost in that game," Jones said of the Saints' overwhelmed pass defense, which was pounded by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning for six touchdown passes and 318 yards in the nationally televised blowout.

Since that nightmarish evening, the Saints have allowed eight touchdown passes and 180 points, an average of 18 points per game. During that span, they have steadily improved from No. 21 to No. 8 in the league in passing defense.

In the first four games, the Saints allowed 10 touchdown passes, including two each by Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and Tennessee's Steve McNair. Since then, they have held eight of 10 opponents to one touchdown pass or fewer. They have not surrendered a touchdown pass to a receiver since Keenan McCardell grabbed a 30-yard score in a 17-14 win at Tampa Bay on Nov. 2.

"It's cohesion, it's guys playing together in the coverage, it's defensive backs meshing with the linebackers," coordinator Rick Venturi said. "We're doing a better job of covering routes, of covering people, which then buys the pass rush a little time."

The improvement is not accidental. Venturi and Coach Jim Haslett overhauled the defensive strategy and personnel in the offseason after the unit was raided for more big plays than any defense in the league a year ago.

The Saints allowed a league-high 12 pass plays of 40 yards or more and 51 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2002. Only Detroit (56) allowed more 20-yard receptions.

In an effort to prevent similar onslaughts, the Saints traded for Jones, a speedy free safety, and decided to use more zone coverage to allow the defensive backs better vision on the ball.

The results have been impressive. The Saints have allowed only two pass plays of 40 or more yards this season. Chicago, with one, is the only team to allow fewer. The Saints also rank ninth in 20-plus-yard pass plays, allowing 31 in 228 receptions.

"I think we're finally beginning to play the matchup (defense) as well as the zone," Venturi said. "There was a period of time where I felt like we had to go into a game with one or the other because of our inexperience together in the system. As the season has gone on we have been able to do both -- match versus Tampa and zone versus the Giants.

"That what (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick does. The Patriots defend the team. We may play Tampa different than we play Atlanta. We may play the Jaguars different than we play Jacksonville."

Venturi credits the play of safeties Jones and Jay Bellamy for much of the improvement. Bellamy has enjoyed the best season of his three-year Saints career. For all the criticism Jones has received for shoddy tackling and a failure to create big plays and turnovers, he has played well as a deep center fielder, preventing many of the big plays that haunted the unit a year ago.

"If you don't give up big plays, you stand less chance of losing," Jones said. "Basically we're saying, just beat us with the run. The biggest thing is don't let them beat us over the top. If they are going to beat us, let it be all short stuff, stop them and make them kick a field goal. We've been doing a pretty good job of that lately."

Early in the season, the influx of six new starters and a spree of injuries stunted the unit's progress and disrupted the defensive cohesiveness.

The injuries have subsided in recent weeks. Since linebacker Sedrick Hodge and defensive end Darren Howard returned to the lineup Nov. 16, only Willie Whitehead and Dale Carter have missed games because of injuries. In that five-game span, eight defenders have started every game.

"It's been a momentous task to put all the new guys together," Venturi said. "I'm pleased with the type of guy we have right now. We have the type of guy that comes to work every day. We've grown because they keep working at it. The more cohesion you get, the more you play together makes a huge difference in this league."

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.



saint5221 12-18-2003 07:59 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
I don\'t like this article using stats to try to show the passing defense as improving. A lare part of the passing defenses good numbers is the rushing defenses poor numbers. Opposeing teams threw the ball on the Saints fewer times(421 passing attempt) than only 5 other times. While they rushed the ball against the Saints more times than only eight other teams. Teams will not pass if they are having so much success on the ground. Its is comendable to point out the long passing gains are drying up. It also would be valid to point out while the team has some of the fewest passes in the league thrown aginst it, it ranks 17th in giving up TD \'s in the air. I didn\'t do the math for all the teams but just looking at it the Saints have one of the higher TD to pass attempt ratios. Also the team ranks in the bottom half of the league in giving up runs of 20yds of more.
I do believe the defense has improved as a whole from the start of the year but still believe this is a unit that needs work and added personel in the off season to compete at a playoff level.


[Edited on 12/18/2003 by saint5221]

BillyC 12-18-2003 08:06 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Quote:

I don\'t like this article using stats to try to show the passing defense as improving.
I\'ve heard other fans make this same statement. Well, what would you like to use to show the pass defense has improved? Rushing stats? Sacks? Points allowed?

The Saints defense has held opponents to 20 points or less 9-times. If teams are so successful at runnig the ball down our throats, they sure the hell aren\'t getting it in the end zone. Maybe they should try to pass more and actually score some points. I watch the games just like the rest of you. I think teams really want to score more on us. I just don\'t think they can. I certainly don\'t believe they are trying to keep the games close.

Our run defense was as bad or worse last year and our pass defense was ranked at the bottom. Now our run defense is still bad and our pass defense is ranked near the top of the league, but y\'all want to not look at rankings? OK!!

[Edited on 18/12/2003 by BillyC]

saint5221 12-18-2003 08:21 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Billy, my point was stats out of context or just the passing stats as posted by this article and by you as well fail to tell the story they claim to. A defense is a intergrated whole not just a passing and a rushing unit, as such all the numbers need to be looked at not just one set.


[Edited on 12/18/2003 by saint5221]

BillyC 12-18-2003 08:35 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Quote:

Billy my point was stats out of context as posted by this article and by you as well fail to tell the story they claim to. A defense is a intergrated whole not just a passing and a rushing unit, as such all the numbers need to be looked at not just one set.

[Edited on 12/18/2003 by saint5221]
All I know is that our run defense was worse last year and our secondary got smoked in just about every game. This year our run defense still sucks, BUT the secondary isn\'t giving up plays. You pointed out that the secondary\'s \"stats\" are good because of teams being able to run on us. Well, they ran on us more last year. Why weren\'t the secondary\'s \"stats\' good last year? Could it be that our secondary really is as good as the \"stats\"? If teams were actually scoring by running the ball down our throats and not having to PASS the ball, then I would be inclined to agree with you. But, I don\'t buy that. Maybe the departure of Sammy Knight had a big impact in not giving up the big plays. Especially when you consider Miami\'s pass defense went from 8th in the NFL last year to 22nd this year and they are the ones giving up the big pass plays this year. The only one different in their secondary is Sammy Knight.

Miami 16 520 32.5 294 56.5 3102 193.9 20 21 47 327 Rank#8 -- 2002
Miami 14 473 33.8 282 59.6 3040 217.1 11 21 34 172 Rank# 22-- 2003

[Edited on 18/12/2003 by BillyC]

[Edited on 18/12/2003 by BillyC]

Danno 12-18-2003 08:35 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Quote:

Billy, my point was stats out of context or just the passing stats as posted by this article and by you as well fail to tell the story they claim to. A defense is a intergrated whole not just a passing and a rushing unit, as such all the numbers need to be looked at not just one set.


[Edited on 12/18/2003 by saint5221]
But I think as a whole, this unit is quite a bit better than last year in every phase, including pass defense. You don\'t need stats to see that on the field.
The thing I like most is that is appears to be getting better (may I say Jellin\') every week.

The overhaul is about complete. Add a shutdown CB and a stud LB and I think we can move into that elite category most of us as long time Saints fans used to take for granted.
A veteran DT to plug the middle wouldn\'t hurt either.

saint5221 12-18-2003 08:51 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Quote:

I do believe the defense has improved as a whole from the start of the year but still believe this is a unit that needs work and added personel in the off season to compete at a playoff level.
I guess I could have added this to my origanal quote: I also thought the defense was better than last years at this point, but that was also my point Danno.



Quote:

Could it be that our secondary really is as good as the \"stats\"?
Billy, do you really think we have the 8th best passing defense in the league? I do not. I am not talking about better than last year. I never said anything about compairing to last year, that is your issue and aganda. I am merely trying to show that factors in one phase of the game can affect the stats in another and those factors are being ignored.


[Edited on 12/18/2003 by saint5221]

BillyC 12-18-2003 08:59 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Quote:

Billy, do you really think we have the 8th best passing defense in the league? I do not. I am not talking about better than last year. I never said anything about compairing to last year, that is your issue and aganda. I am merely trying to show other factors that go into a teams stats in one phase of the game that can account for those stats is being ignored.
I don\'t know where our secondary SHOULD be ranked. I am simply trying to say that you CANNOT say that because our run defense is soft that our secondary should be ranked lower. As I said, our run defense was worse last year and our secondary was ranked low as well. If we use your arguement FAIRLY, then our secondary should have been ranked high last year. I\'m sure there are all kind of factors to why our secondary is ranked 8th, one of which they have played well. And that\'s the one I give most of the credit to, not our poor run defense. It just seems to me that arguement isn\'t a good one, or it would have applied last year.



[Edited on 18/12/2003 by BillyC]

saint5221 12-18-2003 09:13 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Quote:

I am simply trying to say that you CANNOT say that because our run defense is soft that our secondary should be ranked lower.
Billy surely you can see the logic of fewer passing attempts should equal fewer passing yards. More rushing attempts should equal more rushing yards. Teams are having success running the ball even you agree with that and they are rushing the ball against us more than only but a few teams in the league. Teams are passing the ball less on us than just about any other team in the league. It would make pretty good sense that we should be giving up fewer yard in the air then as well. I think it is pretty fair to suppose the high number of rushing attempts aginst us has something to do with the low number of passing attempts and thus the high ranking in passing yards.

BillyC 12-18-2003 09:36 AM

Saints' 'D' gets passing grade
 
Quote:

Billy surely you can see the logic of fewer passing attempts should equal fewer passing yards
Yes, I can clearly understand that. I can also understand this :


Quote:

The Saints allowed a league-high 12 pass plays of 40 yards or more and 51 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2002. Only Detroit (56) allowed more 20-yard receptions.

In an effort to prevent similar onslaughts, the Saints traded for Jones, a speedy free safety, and decided to use more zone coverage to allow the defensive backs better vision on the ball.
I think you are giving WAY to much credit to the to the number of pass attempts against our pass defense. Last year teams passed the ball 7 more times per game and averaged 343 yards per game passing. This year they are throwing the ball 7-less times and averaging 228 yards per game. In other words, we have improved 115 yards per game in the passing game, which is why we are ranked 8th. Now, you are trying to tell me that because a team throws 7 less times per game that is the big reason we have given up 115 less yards in the passing game? I don\'t buy that.

Team/att-game/yards-game
New Orleans 30.1 228 -- 2003
New Orleans 37.1 343 --2002


What I do buy is that our secondary is much improved and not giving up this:

Quote:

The Saints allowed a league-high 12 pass plays of 40 yards or more and 51 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2002.





[Edited on 18/12/2003 by BillyC]


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