New Orleans Saints switch to 3-4 defense a huge task

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Jan 23, 2013; Mobile AL, USA; New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis with head coach Sean Payton and assistant head coach Joe Vitt scouting the Senior Bowl north squad practice a day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (not pictured) reinstated New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton after his season long suspension. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints fans were delighted after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell re-instated head coach Sean Payton more then two weeks earlier than expected.

By now everyone now knows the story — Payton was banned from the team for a full year — after the league alleged he failed to stop former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams “pay-for-performance” system.

It was a year in which Sean Payton was forced to watch the team he built struggle to a 7-9 record from afar. But now he is back, and he has been doing his homework.

Payton’s first order of business was to meet with the defensive staff and determine a course of action suitable after the unit’s dismal performance in 2012.

Under the guidance of first year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Saints defense was historically bad, setting a new NFL record for the most yards allowed in a single season with 7,042.

The once coveted Spagnuolo failed in his duties to improve the Saints defense post Gregg Williams, and without much ado he was dismissed, along with secondary coach Ken Flajole yesterday.

Flajole had also only been with the team for one season after following Spagnuolo over from the St. Louis Rams.

Spahnuolo’ s dismissal certainly had allot to do with the defense’s performance last season, and perhaps his demeanor with players, but also because of Payton’s desired switch to a 3-4 defense.

It was a startling revelation on Payton’s behalf as he has stubbornly stuck to the 4-3 defense since taking over as the Saints head coach prior to the start of the 2006 season.

Further complicating matters is that the Saints have drafted and specifically signed free agents to fit in the 4-3 defense.

Switching schemes means more than finding a new defensive coordinator versed in the 3-4, it likely means an entire personnel change on the defensive side of the football.

In the simplest of terms the difference between a 4-3 and 3-4 is the amount of defensive linemen and linebackers that are on the field.