Green out to stop run, Saints' playoff drought
Green out to stop run, Saints' playoff drought
By MIKE KIRAL The Ascension Citizen
METAIRIE - Howard Green didn't like the situation the New Orleans Saints were in last December.
The Saints were coming off an ugly 32-21 loss to Carolina at home to drop to 4-8 on the season. Much of the blame fell on a defense that ranked last in the NFL in nearly every category, including against the run. So the former Donaldsonville High and LSU standout and his fellow defensive mates made a vow to turn those stats around.
New Orleans would end the season on a four-game winning streak, just missing out on its first playoff berth since 2000. And this time, it was the defense receiving credit for the turnaround. Over those final four games, the Saints did not allow an opponent to score more than 18 points. Against an Atlanta team that ranked No. 1 in running the ball in the second to last week, the Saints gave up just 93 yards in a 26-13. They followed with a 21-18 win over defending NFC Champion Carolina, giving up just 46 yards on the ground.
"I don't know if it was a mindset or an attitude," Green said. "We just had a nasty attitude about the situation. I hated the situation and I saw everybody on the defense did too. I don't like being last in anything I do. For me and everybody, we are not going to be last."
Stopping the run is one of the key issues facing New Orleans as it prepares for the 2005 season. The Saints opened training camp at their facility in Metairie July 29 and begin preseason play Friday night against Seattle in the Superdome.
"Right now, everything is going real good," Green said after the team's morning practice Wednesday. "I feel good, my body feels good. I'm in pretty good shape right now. I'm just out here laying it out on the line, putting the work in."
Green's situation this camp is clearer than a year ago when he went into camp on the bubble for a roster spot. But Green had a breakout camp and became the starter at defensive tackle. He would finish the season with 27 tackles, 17 solo. Green is projected to be the starter along with Brian Young at tackle on a line considered to be the team's strength on defense.
"Right, I'm a little more certain," Green, in his third year with the Saints after starting his career in Houston, said. "They've instilled in me that I am the starter. Just go out there and perform is all I can do. I started 12 games last year and was kind of in and out, in and out. I know the first thing I'm here for is stopping the run and making our defensive line and our defense better."
To help along those lines, the Saints made changes in the defense in the offseason. Defensive backs Ashley Ambrose and Tebucky Jones were let go and safety Dwight Smith, a playmaker, was brought in from Tampa Bay.
"I've seen him play multiple roles so far," Green said of Smith. "The guy can hit, he can cover, he's a machine really. He's going to be active, I can tell you that. That's good for us. Just playing against him in Tampa, you realize how good of a guy he is once you get him on your team."
New Orleans also tweaked the offense, with Mike Sheppard taking over at coordinator after Mike McCarthy left for San Francisco. Tackle Jermane Mayberry was signed from San Francisco and the team drafted tackle Jammal Brown in the first round. Sheppard has simplified the playbook for quarterback Aaron Brooks and the Saints will look to go back to the power running game behind Deuce McAllister that was so effective over the final four games.
"Our offense is doing good," Green said. "They are running the ball good. They are committed to running the ball. They have that big man back there called Deuce. We are going to work him. Aaron and the receivers are connecting. I'm on defense and we're competing against them every day. I don't want to see them do well but at the same time, when they do make a good play, it feels good to me."
Following the Seattle game, the Saints will travel to two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Aug. 18. That will give Green a chance to meet up again with his cousin Jarvis, with whom he played with at Donaldsonville and LSU. The teams are also scheduled to meet during the regular season in New England Nov. 20.
"It's going to be good for the family to see," Howard Green said. "It's going to be cold. I'm going to be in his world up there but I'm coming to take over."
Green is hoping by that time, the Saints will be in the playoff hunt and the defense will be one of the reasons why.
"We just stepped back for a minute and we looked at the last four games we played last year," Green said of how the defense is approaching the new season. "The things we did then, that's what we are going to do now. We were doing good at that time so I figure if it's not broke, don't fix it.
"We're going to try to pick up where we left off those last four games. We were first to third in every category, stopping the run, points allowed, everything. That's where we need to be."
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