1. Tackling: Really there was nothing of note that the Saints did right in this department. The defensive line, linebackers, and secondary consistently tackled poorly. It became a real problem for the defense as the game went on as they would just bounce off defenders, or miss completely.
To tackle is to physically interfere with the forward progress of a player in possession of the ball, such that his forward progress ceases and is not resumed, or such that he is caused to touch some part of his body to the ground other than his feet or hands, or such that he is forced to go out of bounds. In any such case, the ball becomes dead, the down is over, and play ceases until the beginning of the next play. — Wikipedia
Certainly sounds easy but it’s something the Saints defense could not get done. This week defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is likely to get his defense back to basics with tackling drill after tackling drill.
2. Defensive line play: Re-building the defensive line was an area of focus for the Saints this off-season. They drafted defensive end Cameron Jordan in the first round, signed run stuffing defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin in free agency, and brought in a bevy of other talented players to help with the pass rush.
None of that seemed to help against Houston as the Texans were able to average over six yards a carry enroute to posting over 200 total rushing yards. Gap integrity was non-existent, and they could not hold up at the point of attack.
In simple terms a 4-3 defensive lineman, whether defensive end or tackle, must rush the passer but also recognize the run adequatetly enough to fill in the gaps and take away the running backs primary and secondary reads.
If they can do this while penetrating the backfield then even better, the rest is left up to the linebackers to “clean’ up if the back gets through a hole, while the corners “seal” the edge and prevent a big gain.
In most cases Houston’s offensive line blew up the Saints defensive line, knocking them off the line of scrimmage and out of running lanes.
Several times the line was completely collapsed on the right side opening up huge holes to run through, as was the case when Foster scored his touchdown from 28 yards out.
3. Pass Protection: The Saints cohesive offensive line has been broken up — Olin Kruetz is the new center, and long time right tackle Jon Stinchcomb was released — and now the team is attempting to get everyone on the same page while trying to solidify the right tackle spot between Zach Strief or Charles Brown.
Right from the start it was evident that quarterback Drew Brees was not getting enough time to setup and throw. Passes were hurried resulting in numerous errant throws and eventually a strip sack in the red zone. The Texans revamped defense looked good, collapsing the Saints o-line nearly at will.
The same thing happened to backup Chase Daniel who fumbled and was forced into a bad throw resulting in an interception. Something has to be done before the seasons starts, or it’s going to be a long year for Drew Brees.
4. Pass Defense: Last year the Saints had one of the best secondaries in the league, ranking fifth in total pass defense in 2010. It will likely be the same this season as all the starters have returned, and they also infused some young talent as backups at both corner and safety.
But against the Texans the secondary looked bad, real bad. In fact after two quarters Schaub’s passer rating was 107.00, nearly perfect.
New Orleans entered the game with backup and special teams player Paul Oliver starting at free safety in place of Malcolm Jenkins. They were also without top corner Tracy Porter, as well as top backups Fabian Washington and Leigh Torrence.
Regardless the entire unit, including starters Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson, were beat all night. They couldn’t stop them in man coverage, the couldn’t step them in zone coverage, they just couldn’t stop Houston’s receiving core
The Saints of course used a very basic defensive scheme, due to the fact they face the Texans in week three of the regular season. New Orleans didn’t want to give up too much of their game plan, so we will chock this one up to a fluke occurrence given scheme and loss of talent.