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Saints 2008 defensive preview

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Posted 07-26-2008 at 09:54 PM by Bobaganoosh

Now that we have already given the offense a position by position breakdown, lets try the same thing for the defense. But before I get started, I think most of us would agree that we have to have realistic expectations for this defense. We obviously need them to be better than last year, but they dont have to be an elite defense for this team to win a lot of games this, and thats a good thing because even under the best circumstances, this will not be an elite defense. Now with that being said, lets go to the breakdown.

The defensive line has been the "strength" of the defense for the past few seasons. Part of that is because of the high drafts picks we have invested into the line, and part of that is because the back seven has been horrible the past 5 years or so talent wise. But now, i expect this defensive line to once again be the strength on a better defense and there are many reasons why i believe this to be true. First, the additions that were made in the offseason. Sedrick Ellis is potentially the force in the middle we havent had in quite some time. Bobby McCray gives us a legit pass rushing threat off the bench. Demarrio Pressley may even make the team and contribute here and there along the way. But i believe the most important addition we have made has been the addition of Ed Orgeron. The hire has been raved about nationally moreso than locally, with the exception of Bobby Hebert, and he brings something this defense needs. He is an excellent teacher on the defensive line, he is fiery, and you can bet his unit will show up ready to play from down to down, game to game. I also believe this will be the year Charles Grant lives up to his ability (and contract) and becomes a top shelf defensive end. Will Smith should post numbers similar to or better than what he did in 2006 when he went to the Pro Bowl. Hollis Thomas appears slimmer and he looks like he is out to prove that he still belongs. No one is going to work harder than Brian Young and if he can steer clear of the injury bug, this part of the defense can reach elite status. The unit goes about 7 deep and Pressley, Antwan Lake, and Kendrick Clancy will be fighting for the last one or two spots in the rotation. Mark it down, i will go out and say this unit will at least double its sack total from a year ago and will hands down be the strength of the defense.

Up until 3 days ago, the one offseason acquisition everyone was excited about was #51. He is one the most athletic MLB's in the game and what makes him special is that no one is going to put in more time watching tape than Vilma. He may be the smartest LB in the league and I cant wait to see him play in the black and gold. Bringing him in may be the biggest move this club has made on defense in the past 20 years. He will be flanked by the steady fan favorite Scott Fujita who, while he isnt the fastest guy on the field, is always in position and consistently makes plays. And since the Dan Morgan experiment didnt work out, Scott Shanle will be the starter at WLB for the Saints in 2008. I am not as down on Shanle as most of you here, but i will say he needs to be better than he was last year and i expect him to. Fujita and Shanle should both be much better this year if only because the will be playing next to Vilma and behind Ellis. They should have to fight through less trash on their way to the ball due to the strength of the middle of our defense. Mark Simoneau is still around and he will be the primary backup to all 3 LB's this year and i can live with that. Troy Evans and Marvin Mitchell should still be employed here come September but the name everyone seems to be anxious about is Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Dunbar was a very productive college LB, but he may not have the athleticism to be an NFL LB but he is becoming a fast fan favorite. His development will be interesting to watch in the preseason. The Saints do not boast much depth at LB, but the acquisition of Vilma and giving the Saints that athletic leader in the middle of the defense not only makes this unit better than last year, but may take this defense to an entirely different level.

Now, that leads us to the secondary. I dont think anyone in the world is excited about this group. I will say that their job will also be made easier by improved play from the front seven, and lets hope that holds true. Mike McKenzie is the unquestioned leader of the secondary and his return to health may be the biggest question when predicting this team's success for the season. He has to be in the lineup for week 1, and while he doesnt have to be what he was last season, he has to be close to it. Randall Gay fits in here with what we have in the secondary which is a bunch of average to below average NFL cornerbacks. I like Randall Gay, I like the signing, but he is in no way a savior for this defense. That being said, I hope he is the one lining up next to McKenzie on opening day. Tracy Porter, our second round pick, is hard for me to get a read on. At first my thoughts were if he is as fast as what was reported and his strength is covering the smaller, faster WR's, then i like him. There isnt a bevy of tall, physical WR's in the NFC South so that shouldnt be a problem. He is the one guy who could be the starter or the 5th CB this year. Cornerbacks are hard to judge in training camp and we will have to wait till the bullets start flying in 2 weeks to see where he stands. Usama Young is a favorite of mine, but i dont think he is going to make that leap we were all hoping for. This looks another year of him being the 4th or 5th CB on the roster and seeing very little time on the field. I hope i am wrong about that but i get the feeling that he is still a ways away from being ready, but his physical abilities cannot be questioned. Jason David!!! I will admit I was the guy 3 months ago saying i thought he would be better this year, mainly by default because he couldnt be any worse, but in reality, I am not even sure he is an NFL cornerback. That is my description of him and lets leave it at that. I dont think much of Aaron Glenn at this point in his career and i will be surprised if he makes the team. The Safeties arent much better and this is a make or break year for all three of them. Bullocks is really on thin ice, and this is a contract year for him so if he doesnt produce this year, his days in the NFL may be close to over. KK is average at best. He does seem to find the ball occasionally but he isnt overly fast for a safety and he is limited athletically. That being said, he will start some games for us this year and he will be on the field more than he was last year. Roman Harper is the one safety we have that can turn into a very good NFL player. He is very smart, has good speed, and he is a tough in the box guy. He is still relatively young when it comes to games played so he is capable of taking a big step forward and i am looking forward to seeing it this year.

So there you have it, one man's view on the Saints defense. I expect the Saints to be a top 12-16 defense this year. I expect them to be pretty stout versus the run, i expect them to make more big plays and most importantly, i expect them to give up significantly less big plays. Either way, the offense is going to score points so if we get this unit to be slighlty above average, this is a Super Bowl contending team.
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  1. Old Comment
    hagan714's Avatar
    the only thing i am really excited about is YOUTH finally being added. We all will cheer and geer them through out the year as they grow into the NFL. So stock up the fridge, we will toast'em and drink to forget'em. It is a start.
    Posted 07-27-2008 at 06:20 AM by hagan714 hagan714 is offline

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