New Orleans Saints 2017 defense: Will it be enough?

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Jan 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; East Team defensive end Trey Hendrickson (99) and West Team running back Eli McGuire (1) pose for a photo as Hendrickson is the defensive player of the game and McGuire is the offensive player of the game of the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. West Team defeated the East Team 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; East Team defensive end Trey Hendrickson (99) and West Team running back Eli McGuire (1) pose for a photo as Hendrickson is the defensive player of the game and McGuire is the offensive player of the game of the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. West Team defeated the East Team 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jan 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; East Team defensive end Trey Hendrickson (99) and West Team running back Eli McGuire (1) pose for a photo as Hendrickson is the defensive player of the game and McGuire is the offensive player of the game of the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. West Team defeated the East Team 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; East Team defensive end Trey Hendrickson (99) and West Team running back Eli McGuire (1) pose for a photo as Hendrickson is the defensive player of the game and McGuire is the offensive player of the game of the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. West Team defeated the East Team 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Saints were close last year. But, unfortunately, they weren’t close enough.

If there was one main reason the New Orleans Saints didn’t succeed last year, it was the defense. Now they’ve made strides to improve the ability of the unit through the offseason. The Saints acquired various talents not only through free agency but the 2017 NFL Draft.

One could argue that the Saints have improved vastly on defense. But nobody knows until the season starts. And whatever’s been said, the question remains: is what the New Orleans Saints have, right now, enough to get the team over the slump?

Let’s take a look at each position on defense to see what has changed from last season, and what it will take to finally get New Orleans back into the postseason.

The Saints defensive line wasn’t awful last year. But they generally showed one major flaw.

Overview:

Arguably the biggest liability of the defense last season, defensive end allowed New Orleans unfortunately to struggle. Despite generally having a productive defensive line from the chaos caused by Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins, among others, the Saints still struggled to find a defensive end on the opposite side of DE Cameron Jordan.

SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 06: Alex Okafor #57 of the Arizona Cardinals tackles Carlos Hyde #28 of the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL football game at Levi’s Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 06: Alex Okafor #57 of the Arizona Cardinals tackles Carlos Hyde #28 of the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL football game at Levi’s Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Additions:

During free agency the New Orleans Saints made two strong moves in regards to the defensive line. The New Orleans Saints not only retained DL Nick Fairley with a brand new contract but acquired DE Alex Okafor, who was previously with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Saints acquired a total of three new defensive linemen during and after the draft. In the third round in the draft, the Saints selected DE Trey Hendrickson out of the Florida Atlantic Conference. With the team’s 6th round selection, the Saints chose DE Al-Quadin Muhammad out of Miami. The Saints also picked up UDFA DT Devaroe Lawrence out of Auburn.

What Has Changed From Last Season: 

Compared to last season, the Saints might have solidified their glaring need at defensive end with a situational rotation of Alex Okafor, Trey Hendrickson, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Hau’oli Kikaha, and Obum Gwacham. Unfortunately, the Saints last season didn’t really have an answer to who would be on the opposite side of Cameron Jordan. Now the team might possibly, finally, have some success.

What It Will Take To Get New Orleans Into The Playoffs: 

If the New Orleans Saints want to achieve the glory that is the NFL Playoffs, it’s going to have come with contributions from the defense throughout the entire season. This Saints defense has to stay consistent, especially on the defensive line. Whether that means consistent pressure, chaos from the interior, or general pressure and sacks from the outside, something must be done.

Jan 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; East Team defensive end Trey Hendrickson (99). Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; East Team defensive end Trey Hendrickson (99). Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Let’s use two interesting statistics to put this Saints defense last season into perspective. the New Orleans Saints was actually 4th in the NFL in pressures with 106. On the downside, the New Orleans Saints defense only managed to produce 30 sacks last season that unfortunately was 27th in the National Football League. Along with the players the Saints acquired, change for the better could be possible, but it won’t be easy.

If those stats wants to change this season, it’ll take hard work, determination, and, most importantly, consistency. I’m not saying this Saints defense can’t be good enough to help propel New Orleans past the regular season. But it would surely be appreciated if the defense, specifically the defensive end position, wasn’t the liability.

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