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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; New Orleans Saints fans are starving for good defense - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News - NOLA.com Let me be the first to welcome new New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to New Orleans, where the search for ...

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Old 01-23-2012, 06:23 AM   #1
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Saints starving for a good defense

New Orleans Saints fans are starving for good defense - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News - NOLA.com
Let me be the first to welcome new New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to New Orleans, where the search for great defensive football now enters its second decade. Spagnuolo will be the fifth defensive coordinator to coach in New Orleans in the past 12 seasons. Each of his four predecessors -- Ron Zook, Rick Venturi, Gary Gibbs and Gregg Williams -- took over the Saints' defense with great fanfare, and each left town pilloried.

The last defensive coordinator to leave New Orleans on good terms might have been Monte Kiffin in 1995. Or Steve Sidwell before him.

The position hasn't exactly been a launching pad for head coaching gigs. But if Spagnuolo can work his magic in New Orleans, he'll almost surely receive a second seat in the big chair after a failed three-year run as head coach in St. Louis.

The good news for Saints fans is Spagnuolo appears up for the job. He certainly won't be intimidated. The man cut his teeth coaching in the chain-link octagons of Philadelphia and New York.

It remains to be seen what Spagnuolo's plan will be in New Orleans. We probably won't hear from the new defensive chief until next week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. His track record suggests a tweaking of the Saints' defense rather than an overhaul will be in order.

Indeed, in many ways, Spagnuolo is a shorter, thinner, less vitriolic version of Williams. Schematically and philosophically, his defenses are quite similar. Rooted in the 4-3 alignment, they feature a lot of press-man coverage by the cornerbacks and attack the quarterback aggressively from all positions and alignments, including the secondary. Sound familiar?

Spagnuolo made his mark during a two-year run as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. Two games stand out in his tenure. In Week 4 of the 2007 season, his Giants defense tied an NFL record with 12 sacks in a 16-3 seal-clubbing of the Philadelphia Eagles. He capped the season by stymieing the high-powered New England Patriots' offense with a brilliant game plan in Super Bowl XLII. Spagnuolo's defense sacked Tom Brady five times and held the Patriots to 45 rushing yards in the Giants' stunning 17-14 win.

The question for Spagnuolo, Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis is do they have the defensive personnel necessary to compete for a Super Bowl title? The Saints finished near the bottom of the league in nearly every major statistical category this season. Sacking and/or intercepting the quarterback once again proved elusive, despite an offseason overhaul in which the Saints added 12 new defenders to the mix.

"I have said this before: I don't believe it is the system," Spagnuolo said back in 2007, shortly after taking the Giants gig. "In this league, I really do believe it is all about the players and it is how hard they play -- if they play smart, if they play intelligent, and if they play fast. ... It's not schemes, it's not coaches, it's not trickery and being creative. It is football players playing."

And therein lies the challenge. For the umpteenth time, the Saints enter the offseason seeking a defensive difference-maker. Guys who can make plays, instinctively pick off passes or wreak havoc on opposing teams' pass protection schemes are rare around these parts.

In the Pacific Northwest, they search for Bigfoot. In New Orleans, they try to find defensive playmakers.

There's no sure-wire way to find them in the NFL.

The most common way is to select them high in the draft. The Ravens built their defense by shrewdly picking Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata in the first round.

The 49ers found defensive stalwarts Justin Smith, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner in free agency. Smith and Rogers were selected to the Pro Bowl this season.

And the Giants have drafted players such as Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Corey Webster and Linval Joseph in the second and third rounds and developed them.

There is talent on the Saints' roster. The lineup that started the 49ers playoff game included five first-round draft picks and two second-rounders. Two more first-rounders were part of the regular rotation.

It's up to Spagnuolo to get something out of these guys. His transformative powers are proven.

In the two years before Spagnuolo arrived in New York, Justin Tuck had one sack in 20 games as a seldom-used defensive end. In two seasons with Spags, he had 22 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown.

Maybe Spags can cajole double-digit sack seasons out of Junior Galette or Martez Wilson the way he did Tuck and Umenyiora. Or perhaps he'll turn Patrick Robinson or Johnny Patrick into another Corey Webster, whose six interceptions this season equaled that of the Saints' entire starting secondary.

In referencing player procurement, Bill Parcells once famously said, "They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."

Truer words never were spoken. Unfortunately, the reality of the NFL system limits your grocery list. The Saints' offseason priority list starts with four offensive players: Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Carl Nicks and Robert Meachem. The leftover cap room will likely go to re-signing key defenders such as Tracy Porter, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Aubrayo Franklin. The Saints rarely spend big money on big-name free agents, so don't expect them to throw a ton of cash at a high-profile defender.

Spagnuolo might get a chance to shop for a few groceries this offseason, but the core of his unit will come from the group already on hand. The Saints have used four of their past five first-round draft picks on defenders. Those top picks -- Sedrick Ellis, Malcolm Jenkins, Patrick Robinson and Cam Jordan -- along with safety Roman Harper, Galette and Wilson, will form the meat of Spags' lineup.

New Orleans chefs have a celebrated history of improvisational skills. They're famous for taking stale bread and making bread pudding or recycling leftover shreds of roast beef into a debris po-boy.

It'll be interesting to see what Chef Spags cooks up for the defense next season. Can he take the leftover stock, thicken the roux, add his spice and produce a great gumbo? He's done it before. Now can he do it again? One thing's for sure, Saints fans are starving for good defense. They're huddled in the soup line ready to eat.
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Old 01-23-2012, 08:07 AM   #2
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Nice read, thanx for posting.
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Old 01-23-2012, 08:54 AM   #3
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Very good read! Count me in that soup line.
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:05 AM   #4
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Good read. I hope he is finally our man
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:49 AM   #5
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Gregg Williams left us in good shape with players, actually great shape. Spags should be able to get our D in sound shape this year, I feel we are 2-3 players away, and that is achievable in free agency and the draft. We have a ton of youth on our squad and should reap benefits for years to come in the system Spags run. I want 2 DT's, and a big thumper lb. this can shore up the front 7 easily with the right players. The secondary is in good shape. If we can get a few extra picks with some trade of ageing players, I'm all for that, you know the one's that make a king's ransom and produce like a jester, those guys need to go. Spags will bring in a few of his own players to install his system and I would not be surprised if some of our players I think would stay don't. I'm looking forward to this years D . I think a solid D goes a long way, I could care less about flash or records, I want a D that is dependable week in and week out, one that can keep our O in a game if needed, maybe 1 that could win one for us once a year would be nice.
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