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Are the Saints better on defense??

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Hi folks. This is BillyC. I'm back and this time it's legal. After demanding ( actually, I pleaded and begged and made lot's of promises I plan on keeping) I was allowed to come back. I'd also want to thank ...

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Old 05-06-2004, 12:31 AM   #1
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Are the Saints better on defense??

Hi folks. This is BillyC. I'm back and this time it's legal. After demanding ( actually, I pleaded and begged and made lot's of promises I plan on keeping) I was allowed to come back. I'd also want to thank "the powers that be" for allowing me to return.

Anyway, I have a few thoughts and I'd like to get everyone's opinion on.

This is a little long, so bear with me………………ââ‚ ¬Ã‚¦Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â¦

As I usually do during the Saints off-season, I was sitting here wondering if the Saints defense improved from last season. I usually look at the players we lost on defense and the new players that were brought in and basically form my opinion based on that. But, I realized that that's only a small part of the overall picture.

This year I decided to look back at last year and determine what really went wrong with our defense. After all, how can we determine if we have truly improved on defense this year if we don't understand what went wrong last year. At least I think that is the starting point to really understanding where we stand this year.

OK here we go. First of all, what was Venturi's plan heading into last season? We know Venturi said there was a premium being placed on speed for the defensive side of the ball. One of Venturi's first moves was naming the fleet-footed Mel Mitchell (who run's a 4.5/40) to start at one safety position. At the other safety position the speedy Tebucky Jones was brought in to start.

Also brought in to upgrade the speed at WLB was Derrick Rodgers. I can remember thinking last year about how much more speed we were going to have on the defensive side of the ball. All that added speed to go along with the great speed we already had with Darren Howard and Charles Grant. I was real excited when Venturi said all this added speed was going to allow us to really attack opposing offenses.

But, before that defense ever got off the ground, something went terribly wrong. We lost Mel Mitchell in pre-season. Then to make matters worse we lose our best pass rusher in Darren Howard, in the first game no less. All of a sudden things aren't looking too good.

Then just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, we lose Dale Carter for a large part of the season. Now granted, Dale Carter was no spring chicken, but he still possessed good speed. I understand that injuries happen, and that other players have to step up, but that was a lot of speed lost at key positions. What was even more troubling was the players that had to step into those positions were mostly aging veterans that were not nearly as fast.

What effect was this going to have on the attacking style defense that Ventui was planning on running? Did Ventui have to adjust his scheme to fit the players that were stepping in for the injured players?? Boy, did he ever!!

Now what Venturi had was the slow-footed Jay Bellamy starting at safety, who did a fine job replacing the speedy Mel Mitchell, but doesn't have nearly the speed to match-up in pass coverage. Then Ashley Ambrose who has lost a couple steps had to step in for Dale Carter. And what made matters even worse is these guys were going to have to cover the receivers down filed even longer because of losing our best pass rusher in Darren Howard.

This was not a good situation Venturi was facing. He now had to drop Tebucky Jones way back in the secondary as a safety net to cover up for the lack of speed lost when Mel Mitchell and Dale Carter went down.

I think there's little doubt that injuries in the secondary affected what scheme Venturi could use. Then without Darren Howard teams were able to double-team Charles Grant.

But that wasn't the end of Venturi's problems. He also had big problems at defensive tackle. He knew he had a rookie starting at one defensive tackle and I think it's a well-documented fact that rookies usually struggle at that position. At the other tackle position he had Grady Jackson. Grady wasn't in the best shape in the world and really was a non-factor in the second half of most games because he was so worn down. Jim Haslett didn't ship Grady off to Green Bay for no reason. Grady was really hurting the run defense. Granted, Haslett really didn't have anyone any better to replace him with, but Grady was really setting a bad example for Sullivan and probably the entire team.

With runningbacks being able to run right up the gut of our defensive line at will, I suspect Venturi had to bring Bellamy up in run support more than he wanted to.

Injuries really hurt from a talent and speed standpoint, but I think more importantly, it really changed the scheme Venturi wanted to use. What Venturi really had to do to overcome the injuries on defense was to play a “PREVENT DEFENSE�. I think Venturi liked to call it a "BEND BUT DON’T BREAK" defense. What ever it was called, it was far from the attacking defense he wanted to use.

So, have we really improved on defense??

I think just the fact that we have the injured starters back we automatically improved.

I think we will be much improved up the middle at defensive tackle this year. Brian Young is a highly thought of player around the league. Also, if Sully improves like most second year DT, the middle of our run defense should be a strong suit. Also, let’s not forget that John Pease will be working with the D-line this year. If nothing else, it will bring a new approach to things on the D-line. But, I think it will make a difference for the better.

To wrap this up, all the players that were injured will be back this year and with the new additions we have it should be an upgrade in talent and this will allow Venturi to use an attacking style defense. The same attacking style defense Venturi planned on using last year until the injuries derailed that.

At least that is my take on things. I’d be very interested to hear everyone’s opinion on this subject.

[Edited on 6/5/2004 by GumboBC]
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Old 05-06-2004, 07:08 AM   #2
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Are the Saints better on defense??

I remember an interview with Haz before the season started and they asked him what the keys were to the success of the defense in 2003.
THE FIRST thing he mentioned was that we need exceptional play from our defensive ends. With a rookie in the middle it was absolutely necessary for Grant and Howard to BOTH have exceptional years. Not just from a pass rush perspective but run suppport also.
Second point was getting all the new guys on the same page.

And what happens?
We lose Darren Howard about 1.5 quarters after the opening kick-off.
We then play the next 6 or 7 games with 3 to 5 key starters out with various injuries.
We can\'t bring other players in without cutting soomeone so we\'re forced to play short-handed as well.

Do you know what happens when you have to play 2nd stringers all game with no back-ups to spell them? A QB like Manning lights your asss up, thats what.

If it weren\'t for Bill Belicheck, every sportswriter on the planet would point to injuries being the key reason this team struggled early.

I made the comparison to the Bucs losing Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, and John Lynch. I recieved the all-time stupidest response I\'ve ever heard...

\"You can\'t use that as an excuse, those guys are 10 times better than ours\"

Anyway, glad you\'re back Billy. Now Beeeee-have!

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Old 05-06-2004, 12:14 PM   #3
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Are the Saints better on defense??

So they let you back on huh BC? I put a good word in to Halo for you, by the way. Glad you\'re back, I\'ll try not to pick on you too much.

All in all I have to say that your analysis is pretty fair. Still there are some anomolies and questions that remain.

For starters, didn\'t our defense perform better (minus the Indy game) in the first half than they did in the second half of the season? I seem to remember seeing statistics and articles that said that they actually played better with many of their starters out than they did with them in. Again, this is just coming from memory so I may be imagining it. Anyway, the major problem in the first half of the season was the offense, not the defense, but that\'s an entirely different discussion.

The next question is - is speed enough? No doubt, if you build a defense for speed, and then lose your players that can really burn, it\'ll hurt. BUT, even with speed, are you automatically better?

Tebucky is a good example of a guy who has great speed but who played poorly b/c he can\'t tackle. In fact, since our off-season philosophy for a while now has basically equated to find the best athlete available, isn\'t our team full of physical specimens?

Personally, I\'ve always preferred football players to athletes, if you know what I mean. I also have little faith in Venturi. Finally, there are a ton of players on our team that seem to underachieve year in and year out no matter what.

There\'s no question that our defense has been infused with young talent over the last few years. However, that talent either hasn\'t materialized, or has been added in positions that aren\'t as in need of dire change as others (i.e. CB, MLB, etc.).

Every year, at this time, it\'s real hard to argue that the Saints have not gotten better on paper. Every team in the league is talking about how they added talent. The issue is that the Saints seem to constantly falter when the rubber meets the road.

In essence, I won\'t argue about how this team looks on paper, and I won\'t argue that we are talented. What I will say is that those things haven\'t seemed to matter much in the past when it came to game time.

\"Excuses, excuses, excuses. That’s all anyone ever makes for the New Orleans Saints’ organization.\" - Eric Narcisse

\"Being a Saints fan is almost like being addicted to crack,\"
he said.[i]\"You know you should stop, but you just can\'t.\"
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Old 05-06-2004, 01:21 PM   #4
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Are the Saints better on defense??

I have a question about T-buck\'s tackling, since WhoDat brought it up here. Since Tebucky was so far in the defensive backfield most of the time, wouldn\'t he have to make more open field tackles. Now, we all know those are harder to make than ones closer to the line with more bodies and few angles. My worry is that even if Tebucky is only a moderately skilled tackler, he would look much worse than he is because he is called on to make more difficult tackles in the open field, missing is higher profile (since everyone can see you out there in space), and he is usually the last guy to beat (thus, we\'re more pissed when he misses and backs and receivers are more motivated to beat him). Since I mostly don\'t get to see the games on TV (and certainly not in person), I will take someone\'s word on this.

"... I was beating them with my eyes the whole game..." - Aaron Brooks :cool:
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Old 05-06-2004, 02:34 PM   #5
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Are the Saints better on defense??

It\'s a valid point, but as a safety of all positions, if you can hit a guy, you damn well better drop him. All I know is that compared to Bellamy and Knight, T-buck can\'t tackle for sh!t.
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Old 05-06-2004, 04:03 PM   #6
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Are the Saints better on defense??

I like the Knight and Bellamy comparison. I\'m inclined to agree. I guess, I was just wondering how much was complaining and how much was Tebucky\'s actual inability.
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