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N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle By SHELDON MICKLES smickles@theadvocate.com Advocate sportswriter New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant, left, has 27 1/2 career sacks, the most by a Saints player in his first three years with the team. METAIRIE -- ...

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Old 08-09-2005, 08:30 AM   #1
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N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle


By SHELDON MICKLES
smickles@theadvocate.com
Advocate sportswriter



New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant, left, has 27 1/2 career sacks, the most by a Saints player in his first three years with the team.
METAIRIE -- To understand how highly the New Orleans Saints think of two rising stars on the perimeter of their defense, ends Charles Grant and Will Smith, think about the move they didn't make this spring.
Club officials listened to trade offers for veteran defensive end Darren Howard, whom they had tagged as their franchise player for the second straight year, which means they were willing to part with an established player to go with two youngsters who have combined for 26 fewer starts (42) than Howard has made (68) in five years in the league.

When they didn't get what they wanted for Howard, they simply held on to him and will go into the 2005 season with one of the top three-man rotations at the position in the NFL. Last season, they racked up 29 of the Saints' 37 team sacks with Howard and Grant getting 11 and 10 1/2 respectively.

They could be even more disruptive this season. The Saints plan to move Grant and Smith, both former first-round draft choices, around to make it more difficult for opposing teams to account for them.

Defensive coordinator Rick Venturi and defensive line coach John Pease employed that tactic with Howard last season, but Grant and Smith are also expected to add the role now that they have another year under their belts.


"The first thing is they're good football players," Pease said of Grant and Smith. "They're good football players and they're smart, which almost gives you another dimension that you can do more with."

Hence, the decision to use them to try and cause havoc for offensive linemen and quarterbacks by doing more than just being stationed at left and right end, respectively.

"If you move them around, hopefully, it's going to be hard for people to identify," Pease said. "A lot of times guys get used to playing one side and don't want to do it. But like Darren, Charles and Will can handle it, so we're going to move them all around."

That makes speed-rushers like Howard, Grant and Smith even more dangerous.

Howard has 41 career sacks in five seasons and Grant has 27 1/2 , the most by a Saints player in his first three years with the team.

"We used some schemes like that last year, and once we started flip-flopping guys, the other team wasn't able to get used to the rush," Grant said. "Those linemen are used to watching how this guy or that guy likes to rush, but it's harder to do when we're all over the place."

Grant said that was a key strategy in the team's four-game winning streak to close out the 2004 season. A defense that was pounded in the first 12 games, turned things around dramatically -- just about cutting the number of points and yards they allowed per game in half.

Smith started only four games as a rookie, but his speed helped him turn some heads -- especially late in the season. In the final six games, he had 4 1/2 of his 7 1/2 sacks and also forced four fumbles.

So moving around suits the former Ohio State All-American just fine.

"It's a lot of fun because you're not going up against the same (offensive lineman) the whole game," said Smith, a 6-foot-3, 282-pounder. "When you get a lot of different looks, different slants on different guys, and that just makes the game a lot more fun to me."

Pease said the Saints didn't want to put Smith in that role last year because he was too young. But toward the end of the season, he started to pick things up and they knew he'd be able to handle things a lot better with an entire offseason to work on things.

"It's a big difference this year," Smith said Monday. "Last year, I was just new to everything. This year, things just seem a lot more routine. You know all the guys around you and you know where the coaches want you to line up. I know a lot more, it's a big difference from last year."

Grant and Smith also enjoy playing in a "fast dime" alignment that utilizes four defensive ends at the same time -- usually those two with Howard and reserve Tony Bryant.

"The last four games of the season, we used that a lot," said Grant, a former University of Georgia standout who used his speed and quickness to collect a career-best 113 tackles last season. "That was something that was pretty spectacular for us because we'd have four quick guys on the field."

And that, he said, can only make the entire defense better.

"Will and Darren are great defensive ends," he said. "You can never count those guys out because they're always going to give you a great rush. Those are the kind of guys you want with you on the field at all times."


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Old 08-09-2005, 11:14 AM   #2
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RE: N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

ahhh this is what I was saying should happen all off-season.
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Old 08-09-2005, 11:33 AM   #3
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RE: N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

Goodness gracious I love our DEs, especially the younger guys. It is going to be so much fun to watch these guys play.
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Old 08-09-2005, 03:02 PM   #4
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RE: N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

Grant had 113 tackles? He's a defensive end, not a middle linebacker. I looked it up and espn stats have him listed as having 80, which is pretty impressive for a defensive end.
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Old 08-09-2005, 03:03 PM   #5
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RE: N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

Grant had 113 tackles? He's a defensive end, not a middle linebacker. I looked it up and espn stats have him listed as having 80, which is pretty impressive for a defensive end.
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Old 08-09-2005, 07:51 PM   #6
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RE: N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

I think the 113 is total tackles....the 80 is "solo" tackles.
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Old 08-09-2005, 08:09 PM   #7
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RE: N.O. defensive ends preparing to shuffle

No, he had 67 solo and 13 assisted tackles, totaling 80.
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