The punishment served by the New Orleans Saints for their involvement with the bounty-gate scandal obviously took a major toll on productivity this season. The once regularly playoff-bound team finished with a mediocre 7-9 record and featured the worst ranked defense in the NFL.
Of course to their credit, they had to survive an entire season under a thin microscope alongside a coaching staff that was very unstable. This team required leadership, but it seemed that this quality was only found on the offensive side of the ball.
As mentioned before, the Saints’ defense was terrible. They managed to beat out the 1981 Baltimore Colts to give up more yards than any other team in NFL history. In numbers, they allowed close to 400 yards every single game last year.
Of course with head coach Sean Payton back to call the shots, the team will not only be better, but also have a different attitude altogether.
We are already seeing signs of this transition.
In this year’s draft, the Saints selected three defensive players with their five picks. In the first round, they made a wise decision to improve the lagging secondary by picking Kenny Vaccaro.
Vaccaro is a versatile player that can play nearly any position in the secondary. Because of his quickness and agility, he provides the Saints with an eminent threat against teams that tend to use shotgun-option offenses.
During his four years at Texas, Vaccaro recorded a total of 226 tackles with five interceptions and two sacks.
Besides Vaccaro, the Saints also scooped up defensive tackle John Jenkins out of Georgia.
Jenkins has proven to be explosive off the ball with a tremendous amount of strength. With his enormous size, he is an immediate gap plugger and has the ability to disrupt inside runs consistently.
At this year’s combine, Jenkins measured in at 6-foot-4, 346 pounds, recorded 30 reps on the bench press, and ran a steady 5.16 in the forty.
Lastly, the Saints selected a needed pass rusher in a player nobody’s ever heard of. Out of Division II Tarleton State, Rufus Johnson was the Lone Star Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year where he had 50 tackles, including 17.5 for loss and 10 sacks. Although certainly not a household name, Johnson is confident that he can prove himself as a legitimate NFL pass-rusher.
“I am an aggressive player and a wonderful pass-rusher,” Johnson said. “My pass-rushing skills are top notch.”
The Saints have a busy schedule ahead of them, and after such a disappointing season last year, this summer will be pivotal if they have any chance of being successful.