The first game to kickoff the 2012 NFL preseason is now only one day away. It will also be the first game the New Orleans Saints will play without head coach Sean Payton in the post-bounty era.
Gregg Williams “bounty” program has been talked about ad nauseum, but the silver lining is it likely helped grease the wheels for his departure.
Williams took over as the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams after leaving the Saints, but he still faces an indefinite suspension from the NFL.
But change was long overdue in New Orleans as Williams defense, singularly focused on the blitz, was a one trick pony that had run it’s course.
The Saints defense was continuously beat because offenses knew what they were going to do, blitz, early and often, in fact nearly 70% of the time.
In the playoffs this year the Saints defense failed to stop a mediocre 49ers offense, moreover let tight end Vernon Davis run wild to the tune of 180 yards on seven catches.
Davis caught two touchdowns, one of which was the game winner, and the Saints were once again bounced from the playoffs thanks to Williams failing scheme.
But out with the old and in with the new, enter former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who the Saints tapped to become the teams new defensive coordinator.
With Spagnuolo comes a fundamental change in how the Saints defense will attack opposing offenses — no more over emphasized risky blitzing — but a more controlled, balanced attacked is being installed.
Before becoming head coach of the St. Louis Rams, Spagnuolo gained legions of followers around the league as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.
He spent two years running the Giants defense, re-constructing the unit into one of the NFL’s best squads, at not only rushing the quarterback, but completely shutting an opposing offense down.
The biggest feather in Spagnuolo’s cap came when he implemented an aggressive defensive strategy against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, which was instrumental in the close victory by the Giants.
By all accounts Saints players are buying into Spagnuolo’s changes, and there are lots of them.
Gone is the constant blitzing, replaced now with multiple fronts that include defensive ends dropping into coverage and linebackers playing man/zone hybrid coverage.
Roman Harper won’t play so close to the line of scrimmage, and free safety Malcolm Jenkins will no longer play nearly exclusively in the “deep center” of the field.
Yes, the defense Saints fans see hit the field tomorrow will be radically different, but I think we can all agree that change is a good thing and long overdue in New Orleans.