Free agent acquisition Keenan Lewis appears as if he is making himself known within the New Orleans Saints secondary early on. Lewis has been all over New Orleans’ training camp, regularly making plays on defense and defending passes; last year he was second in the league in passes defended with 23. His body of work in training camp thus far shows he is a capable corner, regularly deflecting and interrupting passes. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been singing his praise during training camp as well.
This is good news for a secondary that was horrendously bad last year. In 2012, the Saints allowed 4,681 passing yards, second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lewis will likely be teamed with Jabari Greer who has appeared healthy in training camp thus far. Fourth year man Patrick Robinson is currently on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) with knee issues, so that could open the door for a spot on the final 53 man roster for a younger player like Corey White or a veteran player like Chris Carr.
It’s hard not to hope for dramatic improvements to the Saints’ secondary and defense overall following such a lousy season last year. At the same time, we must be cautious and temper our expectations so as not to be utterly disappointed should things go awry. Yes, the Saints have a fiery new defensive coordinator in Ryan. Yes, New Orleans went and locked up a solid cornerback in free agency. Let us also keep in mind that the defensive side of the ball is implementing an entirely new defensive scheme. Going to a 3-4 from a 4-3 may make sense, but it’s easier said than done. How will players like Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith and Junior Galette make the transition?
I am excited about Ryan and his 3-4 scheme, but let us also remember that his NFL defenses have produced generally only middle-of-the-road numbers. Sure, his defenses have never been terrible, but they’ve never been incredible, either. At least this go-around the offensive side of the ball is experienced and disciplined. Drew Brees and the offense should have no trouble putting points up on the board. Saints fans should be looking for a defense that is competent and able to make crucial plays when they have to. That would be the perfect compliment to an offense that has been productive for years.
If Ryan can produce the average defense that I’m hoping for, then look for New Orleans to make some noise this season. If he can get top a 15 performance from his defense, look for the Saints to make some noise in the playoffs.
So be hopeful Saints fans, nothing could be as worse as last season, but at the same time be cautious. New faces and new names are not an automatic guarantee for success. It’s time for New Orleans’ defense to step up and produce, and we’ll get our first chance to see the defense in action this coming Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs. I eagerly await.