This afternoon, New Orleans Saints fans got their first look at what the regular season defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan might end up looking like. I have to say, I think this can give Saints fans a legitimate reason to be optimistic.
In their 23-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Ryan’s new defensive scheme saw New Orleans sack Matt Ryan three times and put a hit on him another six times. Ryan was also intercepted in the end zone by Roman Harper off of a deflection by the Saints’ rookie safety, Kenny Vaccaro. Harper also picked up a Julio Jones fumble earlier in the game.
Leading up to this game, I had concerns that a team with a potent offense such as Atlanta would be able to get big chunks of yardage not only with their talented receivers and veteran tight end, but in the ground game as well.
New Orleans’ defense was able to hold Atlanta to only 88 rushing yards. Newly-acquired Steven Jackson accounted for 77 of those yards, and 50 of his yards came on one run. Falcons quarterback Ryan rushed 12 yards on one carry and Atlanta’s other running back, Jacquizz Rodgers, was held to -2 yards.
This is encouraging considering the Saints’ defensive unit allowed over 2,300 rushing yards last season.
I’m also really excited to see how the linebacker group will come together as the season progresses. Recent acquisition Parys Haralson recorded one hit on on Ryan and a sack as well. Likewise, Junior Galette recorded a sack for himself after missing much of the preseason with a minor injury.
This looked like a great start for a defense that gave up a record-setting 7,042 yards just a season ago. The Saints played with energy and intensity on defense, and you could see it in the players on the field and in Ryan on the sideline.
New Orleans might have something interesting here, folks. Keep an eye on them.