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SmashMouth 08-03-2012 09:03 AM

New Orleans Saints spotlight: defensive ends
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As things stand, the New Orleans Saints will start the 2012 season shorthanded at defensive end as Will Smith serves a four-game suspension imposed by the NFL after its investigation of the Saints' pay-for-performance scheme from 2009 to 2011. But shorthanded doesn't mean shortchanged, according to defensive line coach Bill Johnson.
Cornerback Marquis Johnson (49) intercepts a pass intended for tight end Jimmy Graham (80) that was tipped by defensive end Cam Jordan (94) during practice at Saints camp on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.
"First of all, we've got Cam Jordan, second-year guy, who I think is really on pace and making strides," Johnson said of the team's top overall draft pick in 2011. "As far as I'm concerned he's a lot faster and quicker from a mental standpoint than he was at this point last year and he's starting to settle in and feel good about it. Then you've got Will, you've got Turk McBride, Junior Galette, and so you've got a couple of good young guys who are really coming. Junior's getting to the point where he's been here two years and I think he's really getting his feet stuck into the ground and doing some good defensive end things."

The Saints are also giving a lot of camp reps to second-year man Martez Wilson whom the club moved from linebacker.

"I think that's been a good project," Johnson said. "In fact, to me it's not a project anymore. He belongs there and I think he's found a home there and all he can do is keep getting better every day."

Johnson declined to characterize the staff's hopes for Jordan as, "a breakout year."

"Hell, I want a break-out year for all of them," he said. "Do I think he's improving? Yeah, I think he's improving and I think he's right on pace. And I really think that where you're going to see that he's on pace is on third down where he'll be on the field more. About all the time, basically. He's going to become a third-down player and I think that's where you'll get to see some of his skills and I think he's going to be effective."

In his rookie campaign, Jordan, 6 feet 4, 287 pounds, started 15 regular season and one playoff game, finishing with 27 solo tackles and one sack. He also tallied a fumble recovery and defended six passes. Thus far in 2012 camp, Jordan has shown a real ability to bat down passes as he slides out in some of new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's schemes. Jordan has also lined up at defensive tackle in some sets, a thing Johnson said the rookie flirted with last year.

"You know, third down is a professional down in this league," he said. "You can be as talented as you want but if you don't understand the protections, you don't understand the situation, you can't think that fast and make those quick decisions and he got some of those downs. But I think the learning curve you're talking about, we're getting on the right side of it."

Nor will Smith's absence retard Jordan's development by allowing opponents to key on him, according to Johnson.

"We've been able to practice it before, we've been through it, it's not something we haven't had to account for," Johnson said of planning for Smith's suspension, a thing the team dealt with last year when Smith sat out the first two games for a punishment tied to his inadvertently ingesting a banned substance. "So I haven't been here for a training camp where we didn't face that possibility. Unfortunately, we've got that routine practiced."

McBride was very effective filling in for Smith last year and would have been even more productive if not hobbled by an ankle injury that sidelined him for the last half of the regular season and the postseason.

"90 was very effective for us early in the year," Johnson said. "90 has handled that role great and when Will's down he'll step right in there along with Junior and Martez and we'll get that taken care of. We'll see as we play 'em how people approach our personnel."

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Rugby Saint II 08-03-2012 01:31 PM

Who are you most excited about? For me it's Jordan. He is rounding into form.........possibly pro bowl form. He's got a ton of upside.

|Mitch| 08-03-2012 04:16 PM

Most excited to see Wilson embrace his new spot!

CharityMike 08-03-2012 05:11 PM


Originally Posted by |Mitch| (Post 423659)
Most excited to see Wilson embrace his new spot!

100% with you on this!! Balls out all day baby!!!

The Dude 08-03-2012 06:20 PM

Jordan. I want to see a first round pick finally perform like a first round pick is supposed to perform.

ChrisXVI 08-03-2012 06:25 PM

I'm so excited about Martez Wilson's potential! I just have this unexplainable feeling that this kid is going to absolutely excel at DE under Spagnuolo!

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