With the arrival of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, many have questioned how strong safety Roman Harper, the blitzing, but only ok-tackling and no-catching player will do in the new schemes the defense is expected to utilize this season (more zone coverage and creating QB pressure from the D-line).
Pat Y. touched on this in a post yesterday from espn.com, so make the jump for the meat of it, and some Harper quotes.
Here's Pat's framing of the question I raised above:
That's fueled by the fact Harper has a reputation for being an effective blitzer (7.5 sacks last season) and not a ball hawk (zero interceptions last season). Spagnuolo is known for having his defense generate its pressure from the front four and letting his defensive backs play zone coverage and come up with interceptions.
Roman says he's cool with the scheme change and can still get some sacks...
"I think it's going to have different aspects to it, but I think we will still be able to blitz a lot," Harper said. "But now we get some zone blitzes and things like that. Now we're making the QB not always know we're going to be in man-to-man on third-and-2 and third-and-3, which we usually would be. Now we can throw some zone in there, different scheme looks, and things like that. We can mix it up a lot more."
Here's how Harper sees the scheme as an improvement:
"Now you get to see some more eyes on the ball," Harper said. "I think we get to react more on the quarterback, and get some better breaks, instead of always putting our back to the quarterback. Now we actually get to see the quarterback and react to him. And now we might make a play. Or a tipped ball or something, someone might see it now, where in a man-to-man, you won't be able to see it.''
So, is he trying to say that this is why he's been unable to hang onto the ball when it hits him in the hands? We'll see, I guess.
I see this as being a hugely important "make or break" year for him as a Saint. He'll either make the adjustment well and find a way to make plays in this new scheme, or he won't, and that will break his career with the Saints, even though he'd be only halfway through the four-year contract he signed last season.
Practices start today, so we may soon start seeing how this transition plays out.
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What's your take on whether Roman Harper will BOOM or BUST this year? Am I right on, or way off, about the significance of this 2012 season for him?