Why the New Orleans Saints will make the playoffs: No. 5, Improved defense
By John Hendrix
Training camp is nearly two weeks away, and it’s hard to not jump out of your chair with excitement. The New Orleans Saints season is right around the corner, as last Sunday marked nine weeks until the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The black and gold look to avenge last year’s 7-9 season, and arguably have the tools to do so in 2015.
Last season proved that defense is the way to finding the promised land of postseason and Super Bowl glory. Unfortunately, the New Orleans Saints were knocked off a mountain they were sitting on high and mightily on from the 2013 year. The league’s worst ranked defense in 2012 turned things around in 2013 by finishing fourth, but then finished out second to last in 2014. The roller coaster doesn’t work to your favor when you’re trying to get into the postseason.
There aren’t many other reasons you can add to the list as to why the Saints defense finished so poorly last season. It was just bad. The team couldn’t get off the field on third downs, injuries plagued the squad, and there was a distinct lack of leadership and maturity. It was just the worst form of chaos.
This year looks to change the tune and right the ship. The Saints did lose Curtis Lofton, Tyrunn Walker, Patrick Robinson, and Corey White during the offseason, but gained a great deal in return. The philosophy and commitment to a better defense started with free agency, as the Saints addressed a glaring need for a true cover cornerback by landing Brandon Browner. It didn’t stop there. The Saints would trade for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, sign slot corner Kyle Wilson, and bring in veteran Anthony Spencer.
May 28, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Stephone Anthony (50) during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
After a flurry of free agency pickups, the New Orleans Saints set themselves up for the future by using six of their nine draft picks on defense, including two exceptional linebackers: Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha. The team also boosted their depth chart by adding cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Damian Swann, outside linebacker Davis Tull, and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison.
After some injuries to the interior defensive line, the Saints brought in veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams. After observing him in minicamp, it’s hard to say that he’s anything but in good shape right now. Obviously, perception could change once pads and full contact are permitted.
Even with Junior Galette likely to be out the picture in some form or fashion, the Saints have answers. It will be devastating to potentially be without Galette’s services, but it’s hard to say when the last time the Saints had this much depth on their roster.
The time is now for Rob Ryan’s defense. General manager Mickey Loomis has done nothing but devote support to improving the defense, and it’s evident that the addition of Dennis Allen as a senior defensive assistant brings the team much-needed discipline and leadership. It’s not like the New Orleans Saints have to have the league’s top ranked defense, or anything that remotely resembles a top 10 unit. It would be nice, but what we’re ultimately looking for to change is the amount of turnovers to increase and sack production. The 2009 Saints defense weren’t anything special statistically, but they generated 39 turnovers. That led to a short field for Drew Brees, and that spells success.
If Ryan’s squad can gel and truly adopt a more simplistic approach in 2015, then it’s easy to see that the defense will be a large reason the New Orleans Saints will find themselves in the postseason come January.
- No. 10, Revenge motivates all
- No. 9, Different attitude from the top down
- No. 8, Veteran leadership echoes Sean Payton’s message
- No. 7, The draft class compliments the roster
- No. 6, Unpredictability of offensive attack