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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; END-LESS POSSIBILITIES Saints defensive ends Grant, Howard and Smith create a formidable combination for quarterbacks, and N.O. is confident it will give the team an edge in passing situations this season Friday, August 12, 2005 By Jeff Duncan Staff writer ...

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Old 08-12-2005, 07:25 AM   #1
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Saints defensive ends Grant, Howard and Smith create a formidable combination for quarterbacks, and N.O. is confident it will give the team an edge in passing situations this season
Friday, August 12, 2005
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer
They don't have a catchy nickname yet and not one of them has played in the Pro Bowl, but the Saints' trio of defensive ends is convinced they're on the verge of turning the NFL on its collective ear hole.

Although Charles Grant, Darren Howard and Will Smith lack the individual accolades and recognition of more celebrated sack masters Simeon Rice, Dwight Freeney, Jevon Kearse, Julius Peppers and Michael Strahan, they don't lack confidence in themselves or their potential.

The trio combined for 29 sacks last season. Howard led the Saints with 11 sacks in only 12 starts. Grant was right behind at 10.5, his second consecutive season with double-digit sacks. And Smith, despite playing a part-time role, had 7.5 sacks, the most by a rookie since Howard's 11 in 2000.

The Colts' threesome of Freeney (16), Robert Mathis (10.5) and Raheem Brock (6.5) is the only combination of ends to drop the quarterback more often. Yet the Saints remain an underrated group by league standards.

"We don't worry about that," said Howard, whose 41 sacks rank ninth on the club's career list. "

Wayne Gandy doesn't need to be convinced. As the Saints' starting left tackle, he battles the wave of rushers daily in practice.

"I tell Darren and Will all the time, the combination . . . you all wear me out," Gandy said. "As far as the three of them together, I think they're the most impressive group in the league. A team might have two that are comparable, but no one has three guys that can move around, in and out on the line and rush the passer at any position."

Indeed, when opposing tackles line up in passing situations against the Saints this season, they are in for surprise. The defensive lineman positioned opposite them is likely to change from series to series, sometimes from snap to snap.

One of the catalysts for the Saints' four-game winning streak at the end of last season was a four-end alignment of Howard, Grant, Smith and Tony Bryant employed by coordinator Rick Venturi in passing situations. The package, labeled "Fast Dime," is designed to get the team's four best pass rushers on the field and create mismatches against weak protectors along the offensive front.

Each of the foursome will line up at a different spot -- inside or outside, left side or right side -- at any given time.

The Saints are confident this end game will give them an edge in passing situations this season.

"Good offensive linemen spend the week watching film of the defensive lineman they plan to go against that week," Saints defensive line coach John Pease said. "Now they might go against Charlie Grant on one play, then Darren the next and Will Smith the next. Instead of coming off the ball, now they're kind of sitting back. You're trying to create some indecision and make them work against different looks."

It works because the ends have widely different body types and rush styles. Howard is slippery and has a variety of moves. Smith is explosive and fast. Grant is more powerful and has long arms. Bryant is a tower of power at 6-6.

"I'm thinking I'm going against Darren Howard, and I'm sitting here waiting for this elusive move, and then I'm like, 'Uh, oh, it's (No.) 91 (Smith).' Now I've got to sit down because here it comes," Gandy said.

"Even last year when they went against some of the top guys in the league like Willie Roaf, they gave them trouble. You're used to going against a top guy, and then there's a drop off when you get the next guy. But here you don't want Will Smith running out on the field either."

Last season in passing situations, Howard played primarily inside at the traditional tackle position, where he made about half of his 11 sacks. But this season, the ends agreed to rotate. It's created more work for each player because they now have to master each position on the front, but it should make each player more productive and reduce the wear, especially on Howard.

"All of us have different techniques and different ways of rushing the passer," Howard said. "I'm capable of getting sacks pretty much anywhere along the defensive line. As long as they've got all four of us on the field at the same time, something is going to happen."

The ends also are athletic enough to drop into pass coverage. During practice last week, Howard, Grant and Smith would alternately bluff a rush, then drop into a zone coverage, sometimes 10 to 15 yards downfield.

"We want to try to confuse them as much as possible," Smith said. "The more the offensive line is confused, the more mistakes they make, the more it works to our advantage."

Pease said the game plan will dictate which players play where. If an opponent has a big right tackle that struggles against speed rushers, then Howard or Smith will play mostly at left end. If the left tackle is an athletic, finesse blocker, then Grant will get the matchup most of the time.

The "Fast Dime" package will be employed primarily on third downs and certain passing situations, usually third-and-five or longer.

"Our guys are so adaptable," Pease said. "And they're smart. They've got to know all the positions. They've got to be smart to handle all the blitzes."

Grant said the line should combine for at least 50 sacks this season. He said the threesome of ends can definitely rival the total of 38 compiled by La'Roi Glover (17), Joe Johnson (12) and Howard (11) in 2000, when the Saints led the NFL and set a club record with 66 sacks.

"If we get less than 30, I'll be disappointed," Grant said. "All of us on the line, everybody should get at least six (sacks) or better, with the talent we've got."

. . . . . . .

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.

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Old 08-12-2005, 09:41 AM   #2
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I love this group. Man. I'm ready to return to the league-leading sack days of 2000 and 2001.
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Old 08-12-2005, 11:57 AM   #3
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"Dome Patrol 2"
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Old 08-12-2005, 12:04 PM   #4
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I want the saints to set a new single season sack record for a team!!! And buying into that slogan once again I beleive it is possible even realistic. That fast Dime package, is way cool, and the fact that they all know all the line positions wich allows them all to pick their own match ups could be devastating to opposing Qb's, along with the Vastly improved secondary, with Smith mckenzie and brown, possibly with bollocks, and with Fred thomas enjoying one of his best camps in years and promising to return to form..
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Old 08-12-2005, 01:19 PM   #5
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Don't you mean Dome Patrol Deuce, Euph?
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