Don’t Fire Rob Ryan, it’s not (all) his fault!
What's up Who Dats! Today I'd like to spend some time with you discussing the current situation for New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The general consensus in the Canal Street Chronicles comments sections is that Ryan is what's holding this team back. Looking at the bigger picture, it's not just Ryan, there are multiple reasons the defense has been hot and cold. We could reasonably attribute their performance to youth and inexperience, injuries, poor positional development, and bad play-calling. Ryan is actually only responsible for one of those things directly, otherwise, why have so many other coaches on staff. The Dennis Allen element could be given an incomplete right now as his role as a Senior Defensive Assistant is slightly unclear. All things considered, I say to you today: The Saints should not fire Rob Ryan.
The success of a unit on a football team is dependent on healthy, skilled players who fit the system. At the moment, the Saints have one of the three, in my opinion, skilled players. Contrary to what some might say, there are skilled and talented players on the defensive roster. Unfortunately, some are hurt and some don't exactly match the system that is place - which abruptly switched from a 3-4-ish base to a definite 4-3 base to start the season.
Injuries: The walking wounded of New Orleans include potential starters Keenan Lewis, Jairus Byrd, and Dannell Ellerbe. Expected role players on the injured reserve list include some pretty decent talents in Rafael Bush, Vinnie Sunseri, and P.J. Williams. You start to get the point that it's hard to execute a plan when you are missing some of the players that you expected to contribute in some capacity. Injuries are no excuse but will have an impact on how a season goes. Major losses, such as season-enders, have a bigger impact than a few guys moving in and out of the line-up from week to week. This is a struggle the Saints are all too familiar with at this point. Not every team can just plug a guy in and depend on the next man up, some systems need the projected player to be available on game day to be successful. Which brings me to my next point...
Personnel fit: Sometimes the projected guy just doesn't fit the vision laid out for the unit. Akiem Hicks fits this description fully. After the Saints went to a base 4-3, he didn't seem to find a comfortable role anywhere on the defensive line, was he an end of tackle. Hard to imagine a man of his stature to be a 'tweener, but in the current version of the Saints defensive set that's what he was. Cameron Jordan on the other hand proved to be multiple-faceted by moving up and down the line and being productive from each position.
It is widely known that Ryan's scheme depends on versatile players and these players are not yet fully in place. Delvin Breaux and Kenny Vaccaro are versatile; Jairus Byrd and Brandon Browner are not. Hao'uli Kikaha is not a versatile player, but he has a specialty with ability in other areas. Rookie Stephone Anthony seems to be good in each thing he is expected to do and will get better through experience. The main thing causing stops and starts with this unit is getting the right guys into the right roles, that day will come.
Skill without Leaders: I talk with football fans quite a bit and fans from other teams can see the talent on the defense. They are impressed with Jordan, Breaux, Anthony, Kikaha, and even Vaccaro. I tend to agree that these young players will be center-pieces of a unit that will turn it around. Right now they lack the leadership that was in place in 2013 when the team was resurgent. Since Roman Harper, Will Smith, and Malcolm Jenkins did not return, this team was looking for someone to lead them and their skills to the next level. That time will come for this team, but not yet, they have to endure the lumps of losing together.
This young, talented group will develop and grow and become a stout group. And guess what? This can be done with Rob Ryan leading the charge and Dennis Allen waving the Black & Gold flag. Consider those three reasons that it's not just the fault of Ryan that the Saints defense is not performing at a high level yet. Their time will come, just be patient!
As always, Thanks for Reading and Be Cool Who Dats!