Last year was a disappointment in many areas for the Saints defense, one of which included defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.
A lot was expected of him after an impressive 2010 season in which he racked up 44 tackles and 6 sacks. Instead, 2011 turned out to be a big let down. Ellis finished the year with just 29 tackles and only a half of a sack; definitely not acceptable for a man of his talent and ability.
So was there something going on last season that caused such a dip in Ellis' numbers?
"I think there are a lot of things that go into that," Ellis says. "One of the things is I don't believe that the scheme that we were running last year was exactly fitting to the players that we had, but it's what we needed to do to win games at the time. When you play a team sport, that's how it is. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the good of yourself for the better of your team. We were winning games in the scheme we were playing, so sometimes you keep your mouth shut and you play football. That's part of being on a team. ."
Ellis explained that selfish people should not play football, but he noted he expects things to be better suited for him this year.
"If you want it to be all about you, you can play a single person sport. That's what needed to be done. That's also why I am so happy to be in the scheme that we're in now. I think it is made for defensive linemen to cause havoc and make it easier on the back end guys, and I'm very happy about that. It's very similar to the scheme that I grew up in college. It's kind of like going back home in a way."
Like going back home huh? What does that tell you? It means he's extremely comfortable in new defensive coordinators Steve Spagnulo's scheme, and this could be the year Sed-El finally lives up to being the 7th overall pick in 2008.
Does Ellis feel the defense as a whole is catching on to Coach Spags' scheme quicker than anticipated?
"There's a lot of communication in this defense that we haven't had in prior years," Sed-El said. "It takes a second to get out there and get a hold of it and learn what the guy next to you is doing. Everybody has to work together in this defense. It's not an option. For it to work, everyone has to work together. I am happy about how fast we're picking it up, and I'm also happy about how the guys are working together. We have a lot of guys that have been together prior to this, but the new guys that have come in are doing a great job also. I'm excited about our progress. You never really know. The preseason is one thing, and real games are another. It will be interesting to get into that first game and see what it's like to go in there with these guys, with the new guys and old guys alike, with this new scheme when it really counts and everything is on the line."
What about the fact that this is a contract year for the defensive tackle? When asked about how important this year is considering this is the final season of his current deal, Ellis has this to say:
"I think that's important to any player who's in the last season of their contract, not only for themselves but for their team to be able to evaluate what exactly it is they want to do with that player. Going forward, this is huge. It will be a pivotal point in my career and a pivotal point in my relationship with the Saints. I love this team. I've been here since the start of it all, and I would love to stay here and be with these guys until I finish. In order to do that, I have to have a pretty good season."
Maybe Coach Spagnuolo will be able to get the production from Ellis that Gregg Williams failed to do during his coaching tenure with the Saints. If what we've seen early on carries over into the regular season, a Pro Bowl berth for Sed-El along with a big pay day would not be out of the question.