The New Orleans Saints have made tremendous strides in improving the defense from a season ago. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will get plenty of the credit, rightfully so, but it is the young defensive players that deserve some recognition.
New Orleans allowed a NFL–record 7,042 total yards on defense last season. Obviously, this is unacceptable for a team that is trying to make some noise in the playoffs after missing out on the postseason all together in 2012. The good news is the team has made some big changes in critical areas that will slowly give the defense the edge they need to improve.
The Saints may have only posted four sacks in their first two games. However, it is the consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks that is clearly making a difference. In fact, the defense has held Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman to a combined average of 124 passing yards per game.
“I’d say, especially for young players, they’re really coming (on),” Ryan said, according to NOLA.com. “They work hard every day with (defensive line coach) Bill (Johnson) and he obviously is a great teacher. These guys are smart to listen, and they work hard. They are going to only improve. Each week I think we’ll get improvement out of those guys and we got a lot of fight out of them last week; they got a lot of snaps.
“That was a player’s game (vs. Tampa Bay) all the way. There weren’t a whole lot of checks to it or anything; it was just us lining up and playing. I thought our D-line competed really well. I know we gave up a lot of yards, but some of those yards are on me calling the game just with the way the game was being played, and living with some of those runs.”
The Arizona Cardinals, who the Saints play in Week 3, will try to establish a run. However, it is their passing attack that New Orleans will have to watch out for. The good news is that is exactly what the defensive line is anticipating. Expect a big game in which the team’s sack total could easily double.