With Green Bay Packers looming New Orleans Saints defense must improve

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Mickey Loomis, Gregg Williams, Sean Payton (Source: derickhingle.photoshelter.com)

The New Orleans Saints brought in a new defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams prior to the start of the 2009 season. His task was simple — to transform the Saints bottom dwelling defense into a contender — but the jury is still out on if he has accomplished that feat.

Yes, he improved the unit in 2009, helping them secure the teams first ever Superbowl title.

Yes, he improved the unit even more in 2010 and propelled the defense to an impressive top ten ranking against the pass, but it was that pass defense that would later fail against the Seahawks.

Saints fans remember that game, it’s the one where an aging and injury prone quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck channeled his inner Tom Brady and threw four touchdowns to lead the Seahawks to a shocking victory.

The Saints went home losers, while the “7-9″ Seahawks advanced further into the playoffs then the defending Superbowl champs.

But that game was a fluke, right? Well maybe not as the Saints defense hasn’t done much better thus far in 2011.

They are ranked 30th against the pass after surrendering an average of 268 passing yards per game, and there are stats that are worse.

How about surrendering 42 pass plays of 20 or more yards, or 13 pass plays of 40 or more yards, and allowing nearly a 60% success rate when opposing teams attempt to pass for a first down (159 relinquished).

How about giving up nearly 22 completions a game to opposing quarterbacks, or an average opposition quarterback rating of just under 100, and lastly nearly 13 yards per completion on the 293 passes completed against them.

You get the point — they are not very good — and we haven’t even talked about the terrible tackling. Head up and eyes up Tracy Porter.

Admittedly the Saints have gone into a prevent style defense late in games over the last few weeks simply because they have been up by such large margins.

That has skewed the stats some, but not much.

A recent example of the secondary’s ineptitude came against the Titans last Sunday.

New Orleans was up by twelve points with close to seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and all they had to was not get beat deep.

They got beat deep.

Rookie quarterback Jake Locker did his best Matt Hasselbeck impression when Hasselbeck did his best Tom Brady impression and nearly brought Tennessee back from defeat.

Locker hit receiver Nate Washington for a 40 yard touchdown pass that took only 1:03 off the clock.

A three and out later by the Saints, and Locker connected on passes of 18 and 36 yards to get the Titans into scoring range once more.

This time the Saints defense would hold on fourth down, returning to the ball to the Saints offense, who in turn returned the ball to the Titans in less than a minute.

Locker then hit passes of 25, 10, and once again 40 yards in less than a minute.

Tennessee’s offense was now on the five yard line with seven seconds remaining in site of a potentially game winning touchdown.

Two plays later Locker was sacked by linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar for a three yard loss as time expired.

As ugly as it was the Saints defense held, but the entire NFL saw how bad New Orleans secondary could potentially play.

That raises a serious question, why are they so bad?

The perception is that the Saints have one of the better and the deepest secondary’s in the league considering the talent they have amassed.

Looking at the starters briefly there is Malcolm Jenkins at free safety, a first round pick.

Then there is corner Porter, a high second round pick, and Patrick Robinson, who was the teams first round pick only a year ago.

Strong safety Roman Harper was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft — he’s as good as there is a safety in the NFL — but he is not perfect by a long shot.

Ironically the Saints best player in the secondary is corner Jabari Greer, who leads the team with 17 pass deflections and is rated as a top five corner in the league.

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