When the Washington Redskins kick-off the 2012 NFL season against the New Orleans Saints, they won’t have to worry about Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith. Both players were set to be important pieces to new defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. Typically, losing your defensive captain and sack specialist would impact a defense, however, that will not be the case with New Orleans.
Steve Spagnuolo constructs and operates his defense from the inside out. 2nd year defensive end, Cameron Jordan is a guy that could really break out in Spag’s scheme. Cam has the versatility to play 3-technique – pass rush tackle, and he can also play the 7, lined up as a defensive end. Cam has pass rushing ability, and his skill-set could elevate with Spagnuolo. Though Junior Galette will likely fill-in for Smith, playing opposite of Cam, I totally expect Spagnuolo to utilize Cam Jordan’s versatility. With Sedrick Ellis providing interior rush, Sagnuolo will not be forced to alter his scheme much – if at all. He will still primarily rush with his 4 man front.
Spagnuolo’s defensive philosophy tends to benefit inside linebackers, who in this scheme are free to roam. Jonathan Vilma is the heart of New Orleans defense. Though his leadership ability will be hard to replace, his production will not. With the additions of Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, the Saints provided themselves with insurance for Vilma.
Lofton is a tackling machine and David Hawthorne is a guy that can move around, creating havoc in the backfield. The combination of Lofton and Hawthorne makes for quite the tandem. Both can alternate manning the middle of New Orleans’ defense, but there will also be occasions where Lofton and Hawthorne are on the field together. The Saints knew that Vilma was going to be punished significantly, which prompted them to sign two of the best linebackers available in free agency. In doing so, the Saints actually improved their defense.
The Washington Redskins will plan accordingly. With rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, and the possibility of at least 1 new – young starting offensive lineman, this will not be an easy outing for Washington’s offense. These suspensions will only make the Saints defense tougher.
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