From worst to first: Can the Saints defense make that happen?
Media reports coming out of the Saints off-season training activities are that the defense is giving Drew Brees and his high octane offense fits. Brees seems to be putting up Brett Favre interception numbers throwing picks to different members of the secondary each practice.
Being naturally optimistic, I will take this as a sign of defensive improvement and not that the offense has regressed. God knows scrimmages last season must have looked like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Of course it is not just the secondary that is turning heads. Under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his 3-4 scheme, linebackers and defensive ends are coming off the edges like a pack of hyenas closing in on an injured gazelle.
One of the big moves under Ryan has Will Smith switching from defensive end to outside linebacker. So far, this transition seems to have gone smoother than his celebrity namesake connection, the Fresh Prince, going from West Philadelphia to Bel Air (okay, maybe that had a few growing pains lessons, but I would still like to see Smith do the Carlton Dance after he sacks Matt Ryan in the season opener).
Ryan has also been touting how much Who Dat Nation will love defensive end Kenyon Coleman, whom he coached in Dallas. In a recent piece by Jeff Duncan in the Times-Picayune, Ryan even called Coleman the best 3-4 defensive end in football. Coleman may be a 12-year veteran, but I am now expecting him to re-emerge in the Black 'n Gold uniform as the Saints version of Bruce Smith. I don't like to experience exuberance unexpectedly.
To be fair, Ryan has still called the Saints run defense unsound. But with the selection of nose tackle John Jenkins of Georgia in this year's draft, that should not be the case once he gets acclimated. The 359-pound Jenkins should eat up blockers like Ryan does burrito platters, freeing up inside linebackers Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma to make running backs coming up the middle regret they ever tried to cross the line of scrimmage.
It was very disappointing to see outside linebacker Victor Butler had a torn ACL from his collision with Mark Ingram earlier this week. But that just means that second year player Martez Wilson, Butler's competition for that spot, gets his chance.
The early indications of a defensive turnaround are very hopeful, and I'm drinking that pitcher of Kool-Aid. Wait, better make that a Hand Grenade (from Tropical Isle)!