I never got around to writing any further analysis of the Saints Friday night game against the Bengals but I did watch it on my TiVo about three times. Had I written something, it would have been about how much better I think this defense has become; a slight contrast from my initial observations.
There were a lot of great things I saw during the game to get excited about. For example, Who Dat Nation seems to be taking lightly the two turnovers in the first quarter of the game. For the last two years the Saints have focused heavily on creating more turnovers to no avail. This season they came right out of the gate with two in the first quarter. That was a statement and you can't expect more from them so quickly.
Yet many fans expressed disappointment over the still lacking pass defense, not undeservedly, but that has already been dealt with swiftly this week with the loss of Jason David and the rise of Malcolm Jenkins over Randall Gay. I think these last moves are the final necessary improvements and I'm expecting even bigger things this Saturday night against Houston.
And there is no doubt in my mind that this defense is only going to get better. Nevermind the fact that Williams has acknowledged he's keeping the good stuff tucked in his back pocket until the regular season, only showing a limited number of fronts. Vilma's fumble recovery against the Bengals is a shining example that this defense is capable of learning quickly. Williams has been preaching a "scoop and score" mentality since day one so it's no surprise that Vilma quickly picked up the ball in stride and ran downfield with his ready teammates. Bobby McCray explains...
You saw how fast it happened, when everybody reacted and started heading down the field after we got the ball. That's what we've been practicing the whole time. We practice what we preach. When it happened, it was just like the back of our hands, basically. It was just looking at it, then grab it and go. It was real easy.
It's refreshing to hear quotes like this and they're evidence of Williams' influence. What we're witnessing is the actual on-field execution of sound fundamentals and good coaching. That good coaching could very well take this defense to the top. I know these are wildly premature speculations after only one pre-season game but there is a light at the end of this tunnel and I think the days of this defense being the perennial scapegoat are now over.
Since everyone believes the offense is just fine and it's been merely the defense holding the Saints back for years then I'm implying they're going to have a great season, right? Not so fast. Remember who we're dealing with here. I haven't been cautiously optimistic for nothin'. Something is bound to cause this otherwise promising season to crash and burn, it's only a question as to what that will be. Personally, my biggest worry is now whether the Saints will be able to run the ball effectively but what do you think? Maybe you find the kicking game worrisome or think injuries are piling up at an alarming rate. Perhaps you disagree with me completely and still think the defense will be the problem.
What will make Saints fans want to throw their remotes through their televisions on Sunday afternoons this winter?