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5 question marks for New Orleans Saints' defense entering training camp

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; By now we all know how much New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton missed the relationships with his friends and colleagues more than anything during his exile from the NFL last season. We know because since late January, Payton has ...

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Old 07-23-2013, 03:07 PM   #1
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By now we all know how much New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton missed the relationships with his friends and colleagues more than anything during his exile from the NFL last season. We know because since late January, Payton has been asked incessantly what's the best part of returning to the Saints.
The major question that won't turn stale during training camp is how the Saints plan on rebounding from a historically poor 2012 when the defense surrendered the most yards in a single season in NFL history and ranked 31st in points allowed. Enter boisterous defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with a new 3-4 scheme.
The Saints' defensive personnel has been immersed in the learning process since the beginning of the offseason program and the team will have all of training camp, starting Friday, to try to figure out where the pieces to the puzzle fit. There are far more questions than answers at this point, however.

1. How quickly will the players catch on to the new scheme?

Cornerback Jabari Greer made an amusing comparison right around this time last season when asked to describe the difference between Gregg Williams' defense and Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. Greer said Williams' defense was more like Spaghetti O's, while Spagnuolo's defense was more like Tommy's Cuisine in the Warehouse District. One meal was simple, easy to make. The other meal took time and far more ingredients.
We all know the scheme in which the players excelled.
Earlier this offseason Greer said he felt the players would pick up Ryan's scheme faster than they picked up Spagnuolo's philosophy. That's the hope for Payton, Ryan and the rest of the Saints' organization. It's unlikely the Saints will have mastered Ryan's philosophy come Week 1 vs. Atlanta as any scheme change takes a while to fully implement. But the faster the players pick up things, the faster the defense will change its reputation.

2. How much do Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Roman Harper have left in the tank?

All three accepted paycuts, some more drastic than others, this offseason to remain in New Orleans. All three players have been staples for the Saints' defense for several seasons, but how much the three players have to offer in a new scheme remains to be seen.
Smith and Vilma are taking on new positions. Smith is slated to play as a stand-up outside linebacker, which he hasn't done in his NFL career after playing a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Since the 2009 season in which he had 13 sacks, Smith has averaged six sacks per season, which isn't the mark of a premier pass rusher.
Vilma is slated to be the starter at inside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme. Linebackers coach Joe Vitt admitted last December during the bounty scandal hearing that the reason Vilma, formerly of the Jets, came to the Saints was because he wasn't a 3-4 linebacker.
Harper is more of a traditional strong safety, known more for being a thumper in the running game and blitzer than for his pass coverage skills. And after a down 2012 season, the question going forward will be was Harper's decline scheme or skill related?

3. Will Martez Wilson and Junior Galette be enough at outside linebacker?

Both young, athletic defenders have been biding their time for an opportunity to start or receive significant snaps for the Saints. This season will be their chance.
A starting role probably wouldn't have been in the plans for either player if Victor Butler hadn't sustained a torn ACL during the final week of organized team activities. Now it's highly likely Wilson takes over for Butler, while Galette sees added playing time at either outside linebacker spot.
Both players have displayed flashes of ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks during their tenures in New Orleans. Galette and Wilson combined for eight sacks last season despite only receiving about one-fourth of the defensive snaps. There's no doubt their snap counts will be much higher. How well they can handle possibly being every-down linebackers is another unknown.
The Saints are counting on Keenan Lewis, left, to impact their secondary.Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

4. Can the secondary be shored up?
The Saints made a concerted effort to add to their crop of cornerbacks by signing New Orleans native Keenan Lewis and flirted heavily with former All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha. Lewis should be the starter in Week 1. Who starts at the other cornerback spot and who serves as the primary nickel corner are important decisions for the bigger puzzle.
Greer could possibly be the starter in the base defense considering he's been a solid cover corner for much of his Saints career and because of how much Patrick Robinson struggled in 2012. So if Greer is the starter, can Greer, Lewis or Robinson possibly shift inside to play the nickel slot. Throw in corners Corey White and A.J. Davis and the Saints have legitimate competition throughout camp.

5. What will Kenny Vaccaro's role be his rookie season?

The 2013 first-round pick looked quite comfortable in on the field throughout the offseason workouts, lining up at both safety spots and even at cornerback defending Marques Colston. So there's little doubt already as to how much the Saints like Vaccaro's versatility in the secondary.
Will Vaccaro be the starter in Week 1? Don't spend too much time focusing on that. From the early looks of this offseason, the Saints will find a way to jam Vaccaro on the field.
**************

Larry Holder can be reached at LHolder@nola.com or 504.826.3405.

5 question marks for New Orleans Saints' defense entering training camp | NOLA.com

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Old 07-23-2013, 03:10 PM   #2
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Re: 5 question marks for New Orleans Saints' defense entering training camp

I don't have any concerns because my expectations are very reasonable. Average/decent defense with Sean Payton and Drew Brees running the offense = success.
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:31 PM   #3
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Re: 5 question marks for New Orleans Saints' defense entering training camp

We don't need a top 10 defense, mid 20's and we're play-off bound
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Old 07-23-2013, 09:30 PM   #4
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Re: 5 question marks for New Orleans Saints' defense entering training camp

How about these:
Will they be able to tackle?
Will they be able to cover?
Will they be able to rush the passer?
Can they actually intercept the ball?
Annnddddddd,
Will they actually be able to come up with a stop on fourth and nineteen?
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Old 07-26-2013, 09:23 PM   #5
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Re: 5 question marks for New Orleans Saints' defense entering training camp

I have said all long the "D" needs to get 10-12 spots better & we are golden!!
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