New Orleans Saints defense should be more versatile, less predictable under Steve Spagnuolo
To suggest that Steve Spagnuolo will be a better defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints than Gregg Williams is unfair. The attacking style - and perhaps even more important, the confidence - that Williams brought to a middling Saints defense in 2009 was one of the premier reasons why they went on to win a Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is putting his imprint on the Saints' defense.
However, it seems clear already that Spagnuolo's defense will be much less predictable than Williams' was over the last two years. And that's a change that was badly needed.
With Williams' relentless use of the blitz, opponents would counter with maximum protection and quick passes. Although the Saints still got hits on the quarterback, the sacks and turnovers were too few and far between.
Now, the Saints are banking on a different approach that has worked well for Spagnuolo in past stops as he's carved out a reputation as one of the game's top defensive minds.
"It's going to be a huge change. About every scheme thing imaginable is completely flip-flopped," said linebacker Scott Shanle, who said Spagnuolo's approach "takes me back to '06, '07 and '08" when Gary Gibbs was running the Saints' defense.
"I'm not saying we're going to play like that defense," Shanle quickly reassured - which is a good thing since the Saints gave up way too many big plays without making nearly enough of their own in that era. "But that's the kind of scheme that people really can expect to see."
Among the most noteworthy changes Spagnuolo has brought to New Orleans:
Almost-exclusively zone coverage instead of almost-exclusively man coverage. Four defensive linemen on the field at all times instead of switches to 3-4 alignments. Less all-out blitzing, and more confusion by design. Defensive ends dropping back into coverage. Defensive ends playing inside on passing downs.
So far during training camp, we've seen end Cameron Jordan drop back into coverage to bat down a pass from Drew Brees. We've seen cornerback Jabari Greer running forward to step in front of fullback Jed Collins in the flat to intercept Brees. We've seen cornerback Johnny Patrick finding quarterback Chase Daniel's blind spot for an interception on a blitz. We've seen former outside linebacker Martez Wilson lining up at end and tackle, getting at least one sack from the tackle spot.
Spagnuolo isn't shy about blitzing, having learned his craft from former Philadelphia Eagles coordinator Jim Johnson. But he'll pick and choose his spots a little more.
"I wouldn't call it conservative compared to Gregg. I'd call it more calculated in terms of pressure," said Matt Bowen, a former NFL safety who played under Williams and now analyzes the league for The National Football Post and Chicago Tribune, among other media outlets.
Earlier this summer, Saints safety Roman Harper described the differences between Spagnuolo and Williams as "Night and day. Earth and Pluto."
All I want Spags to do is make our D solid as a rock.
" suggest that Steve Spagnuolo will be a better defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints than Gregg Williams is unfair. The attacking style - and perhaps even more important, the confidence - that Williams brought to a middling Saints defense in 2009 was one of the premier reasons why they went on to win a Super Bowl."
And one of the premier reasons why we weren't back there in '10 and '11.
I'll settle for them holding the other team to one less score.
I'm fine with more zone. I'd rather let a team march inside the 20.
Less field to cover, less big plays, and if you want to kick field goals against the Saints go right ahead.
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