Many of the talking heads on tv and other sports sites blabbed all year long about how the Saint's defense was weak and overrated. They also seemed to go on and on about how mediocre and rookie quarterbacks put up big numbers against the Saints. I'm not going to deny that guys like Jason Campbell, Kevin Kolb, or Chris Redman put up better passing yards than they should have. While those plain quarterbacks put up gaudy passing yards, they also threw alot of interceptions. I noticed that the reason these guys had so many passing yards (and INTs) is because we blitzed so often. I'm not getting any more into the numbers game because I think stats mean nothing. Instead I came up with eight reasons why the Saints' defense will be one of the league's best in the 2010 season.
1. Darren Sharper WILL be back:
I have to admit, I got a little nervous when Sharper came out with statements like "I don't think they want me back." or "I have always admired coach Lovie Smith and his defensive system." The time to place the franchise tag on Sharper came and went. His tag value was in the $6 million range, which is a bit steep for one season. I believe the Saints are going to try and sign Sharper to a 2 or 3 year deal. A report came out a day or two ago saying how Sharper was in Chicago meeting with Lovie Smith and the front office. I don't think this is much cause for worry. Chicago runs a Cover 2 defense, which doesn't allow the free saftey to drop back in coverage and roam the middle of the field. Another team that runs the same defensive scheme is Minnesota, where Sharper played previously. In the 2008 season he racked up 57 solo tackles and only 1 interception. I don't think he will want to go back to that kind of system where he has to play almost like a strong saftey, especially when we've seen how bad his open field tackling can be. So, in short, Sharper will want to return to Gregg Williams' defense where he can do what he does best, get interceptions.
2. Something will be done with Charles Grant:
What that something is, I have no idea. I don't know what happened to Grant, but after the 2004 season, his stats have gone down steadily. It looks like to me that he just doesn't have the heart for the game anymore. I hate to accuse a man of that, but he doesn't even try to chase down a play. Sure he had 5 1/2 sacks last season, which is okay (backup DT Anthony Hargrove had 5), but he just doesn't play the same. He lets guys get to the outside, which is the number one thing not to do as the run stopping defensive end, and he's too slow to chase down the plays. There was an article in the Times somewhere around September, where Grant said "I know coach Williams is gunna cut my ass if I don't produce." Well Charles, that time may be here. We have Hargrove, who was a pretty good pass rusher on the inside, that could play in Grant's spot. If he's not cut, his contract will have to be restructured because a backup can't be making 8 or 9 million a year. I believe the solution to Grant's slow speed would be to move him inside to tackle between Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis.
3. Our Linebacking Corps:
I can already feel the heat I'm gunna get for saying that our linebackers are really good. I say that because we have depth players that are capable of taking over the starting positions... and they're young. The best of the backups, I would have to say is Jo-Lonn Dunbar. He started 3 games in place of Scott Fujita and did an excellent job. He containted the run well, and made tackles by grabbing the legs (like you're supposed to). Eventually, I believe he can take over at weakside linebacker. While I'm talking about weakside linebackers, yes I am a Shanle hater. He's not the worst player, and far from it. It's just that he doesn't do anything spectacular, he just does what he is supposed to do. I do have to give him props for covering Dallas Clark practically the entire Superbowl and did a good job of it. Now to the middle. Jon Vilma is about as good as it gets at middle linebacker, enough said, next. The only place the Linebackers need help at is at Inside linebacker in the 3-4. Marvin Mitchell just doesnt cut it. He's a bad tackler and poor in coverage. I can't wait to see Stanley Arnoux during training camp this summer. Remember him? He was one of the two guys we drafted out of Wake Forest in the 4th round. I'm excited to see what he can bring.
4. Malcolm Jenkins will come into form:
Jenkins wasn't bad... but he wasn't great. I thought his special teams play was excellent, especially at the beginning of the season. His cover abilities aren't bad, but he's slow. If you ever watch him before passing downs, he doesn't press the reciever and drops back way deep, almost to where the free saftey is lined up. I think if he goes to a speed camp (like Meachem), he could increase his speed and not have to do that. Because dropping back like that can hurt a defense in option routes and slants. I also think that if he watches Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter he could learn a great deal.
5. We will draft a monster-sized linebacker:
Not to contradict what I said earlier, but the Saints need another starting linebacker. Shanle and Fujita are both getting old, 31, and their speed has diminished. I haven't watched the combine at all, but just from the stats, a guy like Sean Weatherspoon would be awesome for us. Rolondo McClain would be good too, but there's no shot of us getting him with the 32nd pick. Any guy who could play OLB or DE would be a good option.
6. We have awesome corners:
Remember the days of Jason David, Jason Craft, and Ashley Ambrose getting burnt like toast? Yeah I try to forget too. It happened all of a sudden last preseason, but our corners got good. Tracy Porter wasn't doing too bad his rookie year until he got hurt against Minnesota on a Monday night game. I don't have to tell you how strong he came back. When we first signed Jabari Greer I was a little nervous because I didn't know a thing about him and just saw his height and weight, but boy can he run and jump. I do believe if he didn't have that hernia problem, he would have been in the Pro Bowl easily. I'm glad we signed him to a decent deal instead of overpaying for Ron Bartell of the Rams... That tells you how good Bartell is right there. I couldn't believe throughout the season how underrated our cornerbacks were. They made play after play, and not getting beat very much; and if they did it was rarely for a touchdown. It wasn't just Greer, Porter, Gay, and Jenkins that were awesome. Someone like Leigh Torrence, who, lets face it, is a career backup, played admirably when he was sorely needed. What he was missing in talent, he made up for in heart. During one game, we had 3 corners out of the game and he was in and separated his shoulder trying to make a tackle. I've never separated my shoulder but my guess is that it's very painful, and he came back in the game just a few plays later and sacrificed his body to make a key play in the game; he made a monster hit on the wide reciever with the very same shoulder he dislocated and made the reciever drop the ball.
7. Will Smith is an animal:
I'm not 100% sure what Will Smith does to blow past those tackles, but he gets it done. I was actually angry because he got snubbed for the Pro Bowl. He had more sacks and tackles than Julius Peppers and Trent Cole. I don't have much to say about him because he always gives it his all and finds a way to get to or at least pressure the QB.
8. The Domeland Security will be more effective:
If we keep our defense intact, which I hope we can, they'll just get better. The longer these guys are together, the more they'll learn what everybody does, and they will also learn Gregg Williams' schemes even better.
Those are my eight reasons that I came up with out of shear boredom because there is nothing but college basketball on tv now. Feel free to comment, and I appologize if this article sucks, it's my first one.