by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted May 25 2012 10:57AM
The biggest thing that has been lacking with the Saints the past few seasons is a legitimate pass rush. Just looking back to last year, not getting enough pressure on quarterbacks cost New Orleans a shot at another Super Bowl ring when they couldn't get to the 49ers Alex Smith in the NFC Divisional game.
While it's easy to look at the play of the cornerbacks for the Saints being ranked 30th in pass defense last season, it's actually just more proof the defensive front four wasn't generating enough pressure. The team finished with just 33 sacks, which was in the bottom half of the league, and Roman Harper lead the way with 7.5. A defensive back with the most sacks on a team?!? That just isn't right.
Will this year's squad be more productive under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo? Coach Spags learned under Philadelphia Eagles great defensive mind Jim Johnson, and said he shares the same approach as his mentor... win up front. That means the D-line.
While Spags was with the New York Giants he often used a smaller defensive line, with three or even four defensive ends to further pressure the quarterback. That philosophy really worked in 2007 when the G-Men lead the NFL in sacks. The Giants would end up halting New England's bid at a perfect season in the Super Bowl that year sacking Patriots QB Tom Brady 5 times in the big game.
Besides philosophy, obviously personnel had a lot to do with Spagnuolo's success too. So let's take a look at the Saints defensive end position heading into 2012.
*Will Smith - Big Will is entering his 9th season in New Orleans and despite missing the first two games last year, led everyone on the D-line with 6.5 sacks. He reworked his contract this offseason to help give the Saints some cap room and has easily been the team's best defensive lineman over the last 5 years.
Unless a miracle happens with his appeal though, Smith will be forced to miss the first four games of this season this year over the bounty scandal.
*Cameron Jordan - Jordan was the Saints top pick last year and showed his potential to be a solid run stopper, but he managed just one sack in his rookie campaign. While shutting down the rushing game is extremely important - let's be honest - sacks are sexy.
I'm really interested to see what Coach Spagnuolo can do with this kid since folks are claiming he is not a pass rusher, which I believe to be false. He didn't have big numbers in college due to being double teamed, plus he was moved inside at times during his 2 years at Cal. I feel a 7 sack season is not out of the question for Jordan in 2012.
*Junior Galette - He is really the complete opposite of Cameron Jordan. Galette is undersized, but uses his speed to get to the quarterback - as he showed last season, in a limited roll mind you - tallying 4.5 sacks.
The negative part of Galette's game right now is that he does not do very well against the run. He has difficulty shedding blockers and making tackles. As a smaller defensive end, it is also tough for Galette to keep containment and push the runners back inside.
His role could increase this season though, especially with Will Smith out for four games.
*Martez Wilson - the linebacker actually saw plenty of time during Thursday's organized team activities at defensive end. Wilson had success late last season rushing the passer.
"It is something we are going to look at here", Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitts said. "As you follow Spags' defense, we have a lot of zone pressures now. It is going to call for a defensive end to drop into coverage. Martez has a pretty good foundation from being here a year ago with coverage and coverage aspects. We have been very encouraged the first week with what he has done. He will be a right end. He does a pretty good job with pattern recognition and we will take a look at that. This is the time to experiment and see what people can do. So far, it has been pretty good."
*Greg Romeus - I am really intrigued to see what this kid can bring to the team. Romeus was the Saints 7th round pick last season. He wasn't selected that late because of talent though. His stock slipped so much because of a torn ligament in his knee that landed him on injured reserve, costing him his entire rookie season.
Before the injury, many gave him a 1st to 2nd round draft grade because he is long, lean, tall, fast and explosive. Some even went as far as to compare him to Jevon Kearse in terms of stature, build, and potential.
We'll have to see if his body can hold up, but Romeus is someone that could end up being a blockbuster steal for the Saints.
There are also two undrafted rookies, Tyrunn Walker and Braylon Broughton currently in camp. Walker played for Tulsa and looks to have a great burst and high motor, while Broughton is out of TCU and is a very raw talent that could be a potential practice squad project.
Thanks for the good player evaluations. Very exceited about the potential of the 2012 Saints defense, especially Romeus and Martez. Throw in the additions of Bunkley, Ayres, Lofton & Hawthorne along with a new scheme ala Spagnuola, and there's some reason to be optimistic.
Saints Pep Rally
As a fan base, and for those fans that are local, we need to act soon. A statement has to be made directly to Mr. Benson. New Orleans and its fans put on the biggest post Super Bowl celebration that the NFL has ever seen. The Super Bowl party continued during the entire off season. It is time to show Mr. Benson that same kind of spirit, once again. At this point, talk is cheap. Action is now required. I am asking on many forums, for the local Saints fans to prepare for a Saints Pep Rally. About 50,000 fans should send the message. On a given Friday, at 6 pm central time, right as the NFL network is about to air NFL’s Total Access, and before the July 16 deadline to sign Drew to a long term contract has come and gone, the 50,000 strong Saints Pep Rally should take place at the Saints training facility. The theme will be simple. PAY DREW BREES! SIGN DREW NOW! Saints fans, we can not put Drew in a position to accept a one year contract, because of the love he has for our city and fan base. We need to back him, now. I want him happy and focused on the upcoming season. I want him to know, that we appreciate what he has done for the region, and simply put, we have his back. To all Saints fans, feel free to post this idea in any forum you desire and begin organizing with your friends to pick a Friday date, soon.
Respect for Whodat Nation and Drew Brees' legacy.
The Saints making Drew play for a bargain is no bargain for Whodat Nation. Of course, Drew will give his all, no matter what the Saints pay him. It is in his nature. Is it fair to under market pay Drew? No, it is wrong to disrespect him to the general public and the NFL to under pay him. As Saints fans, we should want him paid as the elite QB that he is. It is a pride thing for us, and yes, for Drew. It is also, a legacy thing. Until, Drew is paid like an elite, you will continue to get cheap shot sports writers and inferior other QB's making cheap shot remarks at his many records. As Saints fans, we need to show Drew our appreciation. As Saints fans, we must keep up the pressure on Mr. Benson to sign Drew to a long term, fair, contract. We need a pep rally right at the training facility expressing the importance of Drew to this community, region, and to all of Whodat Nation.
Drew needs to be realistic
We all love drew; that said the Saints have meant as much to drew ad he has to us. Payton and drew are a perfect mach together drew can't expect that synergy with every team. He's undersized and hasn't been great in playoff games. He's a winner and he fits in New Orleans but is worth 23 mill a year??? Come on guys the Saints are shooting for 19-20 mill and drew is scoffing at it. I personally believe this deal is pending on drew being real come on 100 mill guarantee should be enough