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Tee's Corner: Adjustment City

In the NFL, if you can't adjust, you lose! It's just that simple. Contrary to what many believe, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has made a variety of adjustments this season. His adjustments have produced surprisingly stout defensive performances at times. Let's discuss his trip to Adjustment City!

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Wassup Who Dats? It's been a long time guys, but I'm back in action! In this edition of Tee's Corner, we'll be discussing some basic defensive Xs and Os, specifically the need for a defensive coordinator to adjust his scheme to his talent and his opponents. Naturally, a Head Coach is responsible for the overall direction of a team, but a coordinator will often put his own stamp on his specific unit. This will generally work within the basic flow of the HC. In my opinion, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has done a good job of this. From my perspective, he's also made adjustments when players have been injured and also when HC Sean Payton has let him know that changes needed to be made. This is not a film study, so no fancy pictures, just some observations that even a casual fan can pick up on.

Coaches at every level of organized football have to invest time in a game plan for their opponent. At the Pop Warner and NFL levels, coaches have a gift and a curse of facing an opponent twice and sometimes three times in a season. Offensively, this can be a curse because the opponent gets to see the scheme and how the personnel is used, then get to face the scheme again, armed with plenty of film - against THEIR scheme. This is the gift of facing division opponents twice, knowledge and the ability to adjust. You may say, "well the offense gets the same film!" That is true, but offenses tend to make less adjustments in season than defenses because the nature of offense is to force the action. Watch a team try to change its offensive identity mid-season, it's ugly! Defense is about reaction and instinct, so it's easier to adjust a scheme without completely disrupting the unit's chemistry.

After a shaky start to the 2014 season, it appeared that Ryan had made the necessary adjustments to get the Saints on track defensively. Then the Saints lost again and many began to question the defense - AGAIN! During the short-lived resurgence, something happened, the high rated pass rush actually started getting home. This was the result of an adjustment to the coverage, mainly the way the cornerbacks were handling the wide receivers. In the first several weeks of the season, the CBs used quite a bit of bail technique, which left receivers wide open and allowed quarterbacks to get rid of the ball before the pass rush could get home. The adjustment that followed was to put the CBs in press-man instead of zone, which forced QBs to hold the ball longer and then came the sacks. Another great benefit was the return of the interception to Saints football!

Another slight adjustment was the movement along the defensive line. Considering the alignments used in 2013, Cameron Jordan lined up at left defensive end and Junior Galette lined up at right outside linebacker/right defensive end. This was used almost exclusively throughout the entire 2013 season and the first several weeks of this season. During the last few games though, Jordan and Galette have switched sides frequently. An adjustment of this variety is usually done to exploit a weakness along the offensive line or to create a mis-match. Also, we must remember that playing defense is about the reaction, so this could be an on-the-fly response by Ryan on a situational basis. Erratic QBs often draw this response as random acts of variety can throw off their rhythm and result in poor reads and interceptions. Starting to notice a pattern here?

When DC Ryan decided to simplify his scheme to match his players abilities, the results were very promising. As with many things in life, things aren't always perfect, injuries have derailed much of the progress of the defense. There are some positives that are being revealed this season:

1. When the defense is on, they are dangerous and opportunistic. (Hello Packers)

2. The adversity this relatively young unit is facing will pay off going forward.

3. This defense can create turnovers and create problems for opposing QBs.

Only time will tell how good this unit can be, but the foundation is laid and every game is making these young guys better. It is also my belief that if Ryan is given enough time, he will produce another top 10 defensive unit in New Orleans. But along the way, he'll need to turn the Crescent City into Adjustment City!

I'm baaaaaack ~ Be Cool Who Dats!!!