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Defending the Dome: New Orleans Saints defense improving weekly

Dennis Allen’s defense has steadily improved, and here’s some numbers that prove it.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Linebacker Craig Robertson is playing lights out
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

What’s up Who Dats! Comin’ atcha today with a little Thanksgiving Eve offering. Heading into the 2016 season, the New Orleans Saints defense was considered the worst of the three units on the team. Since about Week 6, the defense has used a patchwork secondary, ailing linebacker group, and barely healthy defensive line to be, dare I say, good. Let’s take a closer look at what has this unit looking better each week.

A good place to start in determining a possible source of success is run defense. From Week 1 through Week 10, the Saints defense has allowed 1,021 rushing yards for an average of 102.1 yards per game (ypg). In 2015 over the same period of 10 games, the Saints allowed 1,312 rushing yards at an average of 131.2 yards/game. That’s nearly 3 first downs per game extra that teams achieved. Their season total ended up being 2,071 rushing yards and 129.44 yards/game.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

If the defense holds true to it’s current season pace, the team would finish with 1,633 rushing yards allowed, which is a full 438 yards less than 2015’s group surrendered. Another interesting stat is that in 10 games last season, the defense held rushers under 100 yards only twice, but has done so five times this year. Continuing the improvement theme, opponents topped 120 yards on the ground eight times last season. This season, it’s happened only twice - once in Week 1 (167 yards - Raiders) and again in Week 3 (217 yards - Falcons). If there is one major flaw, this current group has given up more rushing touchdowns in 10 games than last year’s squad gave up all season. Those statistics aside, the 2016 defense is doing far better against the run!

Now, let’s look at the pass defense - prepare for impact. Total pass yards allowed in 2015 through 10 games? 2,931 averaging 293.1 per game. Thus far in 2016, there has been 2,807 total at 280.7 yards/game for a year-to-year difference of just under 13 yards. 2015 ended with 4,544 passing yards allowed and 2016 is on pace to end with 4,491 passing yards allowed. The difference is less than 100 yards total if averages hold up through the duration of 2016.

As much as I’d love for the reason of improvement to be pass coverage, unfortunately it is not. The Saints secondary is still a problem area, but the eye-ball test will lead you to believe that the group is better. It is possible for both to be true, and here is how. The defense gives up a lot of passing yards between the 20s, but tighten up nicely in the red zone. There were 45 total passing touchdowns allowed in 2015, nearly 3 per game. In 2016, there have been 14 passing touchdowns for an average of 1.4 per game. If averages hold up, the team will cut last season’s total in half at about 22 passing touchdowns allowed.

Final stat group - total yards allowed and total TDs. 2015’s unit allowed a horrible total of 6,615 yards allowed, averaging 413.4 per game. This year’s team is on pace to finish with 6,128 yards allowed for an average of 382.8, about 30 yards per game less - three first downs per week. 57 TDs were allowed in 2015, and the 2016 version is on pace to allow only 43 TDs total. 258 points off TDs versus 342 points is an improvement I will gladly take!

This may not be the year the Saints take over the NFC South again, but signs are pointing to an outstanding 2017. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy this new AND improved defense and look forward to the future.

Don’t forget to check out my Tee’s Corner Podcast.

As always, thanks for reading and Be Cool Who Dats!