Text Us: 870870
Studio: (504)260.1870
Toll Free: (866)889.0870
A   A   A
 Follow 
Share

Posted: Thursday, 09 January 2014 9:19PM

Under Ryan, Saints defense has overcome injuries



METAIRIE, La. (AP) When Rob Ryan took over what was statistically among the worst defenses in NFL history, the Saints' first-year coordinator promised a flexible scheme which he could adjust to suit the strengths of whichever players he had.

Injuries to a half-dozen prominent defensive players have forced Ryan to adjust constantly. Yet he managed to field a fourth-ranked unit that helped the Saints make the playoffs, and then slowed down Philadelphia's second-ranked offense in the wild card round last weekend.

"It's tough because you've got great players" now on injured reserve, Ryan said after Thursday's practice. "But our roster is full of a lot of talented guys and I think that's what makes this place exceptional."

Before the season even began, the Saints lost both projected starters at outside linebacker - Victor Butler and Will Smith - to season-ending knee injuries. In Week 2, another knee injury ended the season of one of their top three cornerbacks, Patrick Robinson. Later in the regular season, season-ending injuries took starting cornerback Jabari Greer and starting strong safety Kenny Vaccaro out of action.

In the playoff victory at Philadelphia last weekend, outside linebacker Parys Haralson, who started eight games and played regularly in the rest, tore a pectoral muscle, ending his season.

"We've lost some tremendous football players," Ryan said. "But we've got some really high-quality guys behind them that are just waiting for an opportunity to play, and they're getting that opportunity and they're doing well."

Well enough, anyway, to set up a return visit to Seattle on Saturday afternoon in the divisional round of the playoffs. In the last meeting, the Saints' defense played arguably its worst game of the season, struggling to contain quarterback Russell Wilson and giving up 429 total yards in a 34-7 loss.

"We really didn't play our style of game at all," Ryan said. "That's really the only game that I just don't think we were ourselves at all. Whatever it was, we made mental mistakes, we made fundamental mistakes, some technique things.

"We pride ourselves on playing the game the right way. I don't think we really did that," Ryan continued. "Obviously, the execution of their quarterback was something to be seen. Hopefully he doesn't have that type of game against us again or we're in big trouble."

Fortunately for the Saints, it appears their top cornerback, Keenan Lewis, will play after leaving last week's game to be tested for concussion symptoms. Lewis, who had a career-high four interceptions this season, has been practicing and promised earlier this week that he'd be ready to play.

Head coach Sean Payton has declined to discuss Lewis' condition, but praised Ryan's ability to manage constant lineup changes.

"It's been very important for us," Payton said. "That's a lot of attrition. ... That's the nature of our league and I think our players and coaches have handled that real well.

"Developing those players that are working with maybe predominantly special teams and yet they're getting (work with the defense) in practice, that's very important," Payton added. "The most important thing we try to do as coaches is say, `Who are our best 11 for this situation - third down, red zone?' And then let's try to put them in the best position possible."

Ryan was able to do that last week in Philadelphia, even after Haralson went down just before halftime. The Eagles had the No. 1 rushing offense in the league during the regular season, led by LeSean McCoy and averaging 160.4 yards per game. New Orleans was ranked 19th against the run, but held Philadelphia to 80 yards on the ground.

"Sometimes the numbers do lie," outside linebacker Junior Galette said. "We knew that was the No. 1 running offense and we felt like we had to shut that down."

Safety Malcolm Jenkins said Ryan's approach reminds him of what he's always heard about one of Ryan's former bosses, New England head coach Bill Belichick.

"You know how everybody talks about Belichick's defenses - they're going to take what you do best and make you play left-handed? That's what we try to do," Jenkins said. "We've stopped the run, do a great job of keeping the ball in front of us in the secondary and our front line has been getting pressure - and that helps out tremendously."

Notes: RB Pierre Thomas returned to practice in a limited basis Thursday after missing last week's game. ... DE Akiem Hicks (ankle) also was limited. ... No players were held out of practice entirely. LT Terron Armstead (knee), Lewis (head/neck) and RG Jahri Evans (ankle) participated fully. Evans had been limited a day earlier.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

A   A   A
 Follow 
Share
Deke's Blog
Deke: Bobby & Hokie note offense's fast start, but D closes hard
The Saints worked through what felt like a cool autumn day at practice this morning at the Advocare Faclility. And even if you know absoultely nothing about football, by listening to Coach Ryan and Coach Vitt you would conclude that the Saints defense...
Read More
Deke: After 2013 turnaround, Saints D looking for more
He's been a part of winning a Super Bowl team before when he was coach linebacker with the New England Patriots, and now after his complete overhaul of the NFL's worst defense ever in 2012, Rob Ryan is looking for more. "We are trying to do something...
Read More
Deke: Great Saints player nicknames explained
A nickname is defined as a descriptive name added to or replacing the actual name of a person, place or thing - a familiar or shortened form of a proper name. In covering training camp the last 12 years, I've come to learn that if you're...
Read More
Deke: Bobby & Hokie think Saints O is off to great start
Anyone who knows football has heard a coach or a player yell "we are live and in color." That means that the players are in full pads, and real contact is about to happen. On a cool overcast morning at the Advocare Facility, the Saints donned full...
Read More
Deke: Saints' Cam Jordan moving toward elite status
Even when the Saints defense became the worst ever in 2012, he was the lone bright spot. As he enters his fourth season in the NFL, Saints DE Cam Jordan is making the move to elite status among NFL defenders. "If every year you're not aiming for the...
Read More
Hokie's Blog
Bobby's Blog
Kristian's Blog
Kristian: Saints get physical, offense has the edge
9 on 7: The Saints offensive line set the tone early in practice with a physical "inside running game" drill. Defensive coaches Joe Vitt and Rob Ryan expressed their displeasure through a number of choice words that not suitable for print or the air,...
Read More
Kristian: Pads were popping at Saints practice
Thud: The Saints finally had the pads on for today's practice at the Greenbrier. No more shorts and a game of touch. Helmets were cracking, and the pads were popping in 9-on-7 running game drills today. The O-Line got the better of the D-line in this...
Read More
Kristian: Saints' Rob Ryan - "We got our butts kicked today"
Offensive day: The Saints' first team offense carved up Rob Ryan's defense seemingly at will in the team portions of practice today, prompting Ryan to make the declaration "We got our butts kicked today out there, and we didn't like it. That offense...
Read More
Kristian: Brees reports feeling "like I'm 25 years old"
We all know Drew Brees isn't in his twenties anymore. Heck when he came to New Orleans in 2006 he 27 years old, so at age 35, Brees is still doing everything he can to prepare and play at a high level. Brees doesn't feel close to his current age:...
Read More
Kristian: Graham says "I am a hungry player"
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham went through what just about every high profile NFL player goes through at some point in their career - a tough negotiation session with the organization. This offseason Graham didn't reach an agreement on a long term...
Read More
Training Camp

Team News
Saints Schedule
Team Leaders
Division Standings
NFC Standings
ADVERTISEMENT

1 Thing

Contact Us

Contests

WWL iPhone App

 
Powered By InterTech Media, LLC™