Preseason success set unrealistic expectations for Saints defense

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NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 31: Vonn Bell
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 31: Vonn Bell /
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After a preseason full of QB pressures and low-scoring opponents, Saints fans were led to believe the team’s 2017 offseason was the miracle cure to a bad defense. They’re now coming to realize that change doesn’t happen overnight.

Fans for a split second were able to escape reality and dream that the team’s defense could go from worst to first.

There were no more concerns about how all the new faces would gel. Or about the second stringers, role players and cast-offs from other teams maybe not playing to starters’ standards.

There was blind faith in the fact that Dennis Allen – in only his second full year at defensive coordinator – had turned this defense around. And that new positions coaches Ryan Nielsen (DL) and Mike Nolan (LB) had made an immediate and profound impact.

It might have been a bit much to expect a 180° turnaround from last year, but after the preseason, tails were wagging.

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Rookies were making plays, young leaders were emerging, and the defensive linemen were looking like world-beaters.

But looking at it objectively, it was completely unsustainable. This defense has new players at almost every key position; players that have only been with the team for a matter of months.

Beyond Alex Okafor and A.J. Klein starting after only a short adjustment period, the team has rookie starters at safety, linebacker and cornerback.

And their second game of professional football was against the Patriots, who had 10 days to prepare.

The first month of the schedule was always going to be a baptism by fire.

A late opener against the Vikings, a short week against the defending Super Bowl champs. Followed by a road game against the 2016 runner-up Panthers and a London game against the Dolphins.

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The patience this new defense deserves – and needs – has been neglected because of their preseason successes.

So take a deep breath, put the pitchforks away, and don’t expect too much too soon.

I’ll just leave this here.

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