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The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Projecting how much of a difference Rob Ryan will make for a New Orleans Saints defense coming off one of the worst seasons in league history is pretty impossible at this point. Opinions outside of the Saints facility on how ...

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Old 02-16-2013, 12:55 PM   #1
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Projecting how much of a difference Rob Ryan will make for a New Orleans Saints defense coming off one of the worst seasons in league history is pretty impossible at this point. Opinions outside of the Saints facility on how Ryan and his 3-4 defensive scheme will mesh with Coach Sean Payton and the returning players range all over the map.

Then there's the question of which players could thrive in the new defensive scheme and which ones won't fit Ryan's style or framework.

These questions will linger during all phases of the offseason, from free agency to training camp and everywhere in-between. There's no denying there will be a drastic change in scheme and personality from Ryan and Steve Spagnuolo. Just like there was a 180-degree change from Gary Gibbs to Gregg Williams.

Former seven-year NFL defensive back Matt Bowen experienced a total transformation of styles of defense and coaching when he played for the Redskins when the brash, blitz-happy Williams took over as defensive coordinator in 2004. Bowen, now an analyst for NationalFootballPost.com, said sometimes it takes a total culture change to alter the on-field results.




"That's what you've got to do," Bowen said. "Look at it. I know coach Spags has a lot of respect, but his defense didn't produce last year. In this league when that happens, you bring someone in and you flip the script. You have to try something different. Just in the meeting room, I can imagine in that first meeting when Rob Ryan walks into that meeting room this spring, it's going to be rated 'R.'


New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who tackled Atlanta Falcons tailback Michael Turner here for a 1-yard loss despite losing his helmet, figures to be a good fit for Ryan's defense.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
"When he walks in there, he's probably going to call some people out. He's probably going to demand some accountability, demand some respect in the first five minutes of that meeting room. If you're in there as part of the Saints, you'd better sit up straight in that meeting room and bring a notebook because you're going to have to start from scratch. But that can be done. When Gregg came to Washington for his first year, we had a top-five defense. It can be turned around that quickly. I'm not blowing smoke."

Ryan's scheme

Pressure was the first word to exit the mouths of Bowen and former NFL scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah when asked to describe Ryan's 3-4 scheme.

"He's known for his attacking style and his creativity, same with (brother and Jets Coach) Rex (Ryan)," Jeremiah said, who was a scout for Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia before working for NFL Network. "But I think in terms in how they play their guys up front, it's a little more under the Bill Belichick, Romeo Crennel traditional style where you're going to want some of those bigger guys that are going to have to take on blocks. The one that does it uniquely is Wade Phillips. He has kind of a unique style where he'll put a nose tackle on a shade and kind of let him play upfield, kind of like Jay Ratliff. Whereas I think you're going to need to two-gap just a little bit more and take on (blocks) for Rob Ryan. So from that standpoint, size up front is going to be a big factor. You're going to want to have big, strong, sturdy guys up front."

Bowen said as a result of the added bodies flying at the quarterback, the Saints' secondary will be given added responsibility, which could make some Saints fans nervous after last year's rough pass-defense stats.

"I think you see more man pressure," Bowen said. "When you look at a team like Pittsburgh or like Baltimore, historically over the last decade, they do bring some man pressure. But a lot of times they bring some overload zone pressure and a lot of different looks at the line of scrimmage and try to confuse you. Very similar to what Gregg Williams did in New Orleans, but Gregg did it out of a 4-3 front. ...

"In those blitz schemes, they look like they're sending seven, but it turns out they're only sending five and dropping six into coverage to gather a safety net back there. I think with Rob Ryan, it's blitz and tell your DBs, 'Hey, we're going after the quarterback and now it's up to you to make a play.' There's going to be more man situations where DBs are going to play off their man about seven or eight yards, read the release and try to make a play."

Ryan's coaching style, track record

Bowen said he's never played for Ryan, but knows plenty of players who have. And Bowen said he feels like players respond to brash coaches like Ryan.

"Just watch him on games on Sundays," Bowen said. "See him on the sidelines. That guy likes to get into football games. He's into it. I'll be honest, from my perspective, I've played for the mild-mannered coach and I've played for the extreme coach in Gregg. I loved playing for Gregg the most. It got you going. It demanded a lot out of you.

"And when you play in a scheme that uses a lot of pressure, that brings a lot of responsibility, especially for the secondary. It brings a lot of checks and balances at the line of scrimmage that you have to go through on every snap depending on what the offense shows you. ... I think a lot of pro guys like that. They like that challenge.

"They'll say, 'Hey, this coach is giving us a lot of responsibility and he's going to put me in a position to make plays.' When you send pressure and you're a defensive back, that means a lot of times you're going to be targeted and there's opportunities for guys to make plays, go to Hawaii (for the Pro Bowl), and make a lot of money."

Bravado is one thing, but the NFL is obviously a results-oriented business. Payton reminded Spagnuolo of the realities of football all too well with Payton relieving Spagnuolo of his duties after one season. So while Ryan may possess a sizable personality, his bark has been bigger than his bite most seasons.

Ryan has only led his defense to one top-10 ranking in total defense in his nine seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator. Oakland finished third in total defense in 2006, but 18th in points allowed as Oakland finished with a 2-14 record that season. Ryan did win two Super Bowls as the Patriots linebackers coach in 2001 and 2003, but has never made the postseason as a defensive coordinator. In the nine seasons Rob Ryan has served as defensive coordinator, he has a combined record of 46-98.

Bowen said he's aware of Ryan's mediocre defensive statistics and the coinciding team records that went along with them. But Bowen said sometimes statistics don't reveal the whole spectrum.

"You look at the numbers and you say, 'What's so special about the guy?' Part of coaching defense in the NFL is attitude," Bowen said. "You have to manage egos. These are professional guys. Some of these guys are going to make more money than Rob Ryan. So you've got to coach these guys and you've got to make these guys believe and buy into your system. And that's what he's good at. I talked about sitting up straight and bringing a notebook. You tell that to fans and they don't care, but that stuff matters.

"You better want to come to work in the NFL. You better want to come to work. You better want to be challenged, especially during training camp down there. Come on, man. It's got to be 700 degrees down there. No one wants to do that. No one likes training camp. No one. If they tell you they like training camp, they're lying. But, if you're excited to go and this coach is going to challenge you, then I know I better bring my 'A' game or this coach isn't going to play me.

"You don't want anyone to feel comfortable. You never want pro athletes to feel comfortable, like they've made it or like they've arrived. You need a defensive coordinator that pushes them all the time. If you think that Rob Ryan can do that, and obviously Coach Payton does, then you look at previous stats and you throw them out the window. This is the right guy for my team."

Who fits, and who doesn't

Bowen and Jeremiah rattled off several names as to who they think can make the jump from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Both started with defensive end Cam Jordan as someone who will thrive most in the Ryan defense.

"Jordan, coming out (of college), that's the defense he played in," Jeremiah said. "He played that five technique, and he was very good at it. He can take on (blocks), he can stack blocks and hold up very strong there. I think probably for him, he would be the one player that I would look at and think he would be the most comfortable with this move. ... I think it's a perfect move for him. It fits his skill-set perfectly. I don't think that he's a real dynamic, athletic, up-field guy. I think his best thing is his length and strength and he's very instinctive."

Bowen added: "I'm going back to his college tape. I think he can be a 3-4 outside linebacker. I think he can be a 3-4 defensive end. The guy is a football player."


Saints defensive end Martez Wilson puts a huge hit on Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb in Week 4 in Green Bay. Many expect Wilson to excel in Rob Ryan's new defense in 2013.
Andrew Boyd, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Defensive end Martez Wilson came to mind for Bowen and Jeremiah nearly right away, as well.

"He's going to be good in this defense," Bowen said. "He's going to be good. He's an athlete. You can stand him up in this defense, you can rush him off the edge."

Jeremiah said Wilson should benefit from having a cleaner runway rather than being an undersized defensive end going nose to nose with a tackle.

"You watch LSU's Barkevious Mingo," Jeremiah said. "He's lined up an inch away from the guy blocking him. He's not strong enough to get off the guy. But if you get drafted by a 3-4 team, you back him up, you stand him up and now he's got a runway to use his athleticism that will benefit him more. I think that's the same thing with Wilson."

Jeremiah mentioned defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and linebacker Curtis Lofton as two players who may also fit in. He said he'd be interested to see how Ryan could use defensive ends Will Smith and Junior Galette with Smith being a 3-4 lineman, granted he takes less money, and Galette being an outside linebacker.

At safety, Bowen is all-in on Malcolm Jenkins, despite Jenkins' struggles last season.

"I'm a big fan of Malcolm Jenkins," Bowen said. "I know there's a lot of up and down opinion on Malcolm. I like him a lot. I think he's physical and has good range. I think he has above-average cover skills. I think he'll be good in this defense because you need a leader back there. You need a safety to lean on. You need an angel in the middle of the field. He can be that guy."

Bowen thinks the Ryan defense is a better fit for Roman Harper if he's back with the team saying, "(Harper) thrived in defenses that required him to blitz off the edge and let him know that the pressure is coming and that he only has to cover for so long."

Jeremiah doesn't share the same thoughts on Harper; he said the Saints may want to target an upgrade at safety in April's draft.

"I think the game plan is going to be that you won't have to cover for very long," Jeremiah said. "They're going to be really aggressive. Personnel-wise, I really think they need to infuse some talent there, especially for me at safety. That's why (Texas safety Kenny) Vaccaro, if you have a chance to bump out Roman Harper for Vaccaro, and you've got a ginormous upgrade in an athlete."

At cornerback, Bowen questioned the cover skills of Patrick Robinson in the Saints' new defense and isn't 100 percent sold Robinson can be left alone in coverage in this pressure defense.

"The reason I bring (Robinson) up is because look what Dallas did last year," Bowen said. "Dallas knew they were going to have Rob Ryan. So what do they do? They spend a bunch of money on Brandon Carr and they trade up in the draft to get (Morris) Claiborne. You need corners. You've got to have corners. Got to. If you're going to blitz, you've got to have corners."

Then there's the Jonathan Vilma factor.

Payton said in a Sirius XM NFL Radio interview on Mardi Gras day that Vilma has a role in the Saints defense as the weakside inside linebacker. Jeremiah and Bowen aren't convinced.

"I don't think Jonathan Vilma fits in that defense, so you take him out," Jeremiah said.

Bowen added: "Does he have the speed to play the outside at his age and does he have the size to play inside? That's what you have to ask."

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Old 02-16-2013, 01:10 PM   #2
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

I noticed the article didn't mention Ellis or Shanle or even Bunk....
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Old 02-16-2013, 01:19 PM   #3
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

A culture change? You mean like switching from a 4 - 3 to a 3 - 4 and having 4 all pro linebackers on the field at the same time? Just imagine!! If memory serves me correctly we've already experienced that "culture change" although it has been a while.
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Old 02-16-2013, 01:33 PM   #4
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

Let the culture change.
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Old 02-16-2013, 02:01 PM   #5
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

This article had me until it started talking about, "where an I Jenkins" I want him replaced at FS bad!! Trade, cut or bench, I don't care, just get that #14-1st round bust out of here, that would be a start to a culture change. And please don't say he could be a man corner, that's why he was moved to FS, being to slow!!
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Old 02-16-2013, 02:03 PM   #6
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

Of course there is a culture change. Anytime you change any coach you have these changes. I am happy we are going back to a pressure based defense.
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Old 02-16-2013, 02:12 PM   #7
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

Originally Posted by halloween 65 View Post
This article had me until it started talking about, "where an I Jenkins" I want him replaced at FS bad!! Trade, cut or bench, I don't care, just get that #14-1st round bust out of here, that would be a start to a culture change. And please don't say he could be a man corner, that's why he was moved to FS, being to slow!!
I don't get it.
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Old 02-16-2013, 07:05 PM   #8
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

culture change - oh crap i could be looking for another job this year or next. better get off my butt and play

I like the change myself
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Old 02-16-2013, 10:46 PM   #9
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

Such insights wasted on football. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is more worthy of this man's grasp of the obvious. Maybe in the Senate.
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Old 02-17-2013, 07:59 AM   #10
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Re: The Saints could face a culture change with their new defense

Originally Posted by vpheughan View Post
A culture change? You mean like switching from a 4 - 3 to a 3 - 4 and having 4 all pro linebackers on the field at the same time? Just imagine!! If memory serves me correctly we've already experienced that "culture change" although it has been a while.
vpheughan: I was thinking the same thing when I started reading this. The mention of the change Willaims brought led me to believe Ryan will do the same. If so, this could be a good year for the Saints. I can't wait to see who makes the cut. I am still curious about the other coaching positions though.
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