Making Friends with the Enemy: New Orleans Saints
MFWE is back this week as we talk with Corey Wilson. Corey, who has been an avid Saints fan for life, has unleashed a great wealth of knowledge about the inner workings of the Saints for us in preparation for Saturday. This is great work by a new friend and if you don’t read it you’re insane. If you have any other questions for Corey, email him at CoreyWilson1981@gmail.com.
1.Rob Ryan turned what was one of the worst defenses ever into a top-tier unit in a year. What’s been the biggest change for the D?
There were many things that factored into having the worst Defense in NFL history last year. Spagnuolo was hired to replace the high intensity, blitz happy, Greg Williams, a scheme that our personnel really fit into. We also had no real #1 CB, rectified by FA Lewis from the Steelers. The absence of Sean Payton for the entire year was also a large distraction as well. Players just were not responding to the changes well.
Now how did Ryan take that bunch and turn them into a top 10 Defense in the NFL? First, he used Cam Jordan the way he was supposed to be used. Cam played 3-4 when he was in College at CAL, which is why he was such a prolific pass rusher to begin with. Next, Rob restructured the secondary and used our #1 draft pick, Vaccaro, to his full potential. Allowing Vaccaro to cover TEs and to come on Safety Blitzes is what he did well at Texas, and Rob let the young man do what he was comfortable doing. Rob also comes with a certain level of intensity as a DC. You see him on the sidelines and he is fired up, cheering on his Defense. He shows emotion when they don’t perform well. Rob Ryan has taken to the city of New Orleans well, and I think that show in his passion for the team/defense.
2. The Saints use a heavy back rotation on their offense with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Mark Ingram. How defined are their roles?
PT Cruiser is the work horse RB in the Saints offense. He is your between the tackles up field power running back. He is also a great out of the back field pass catching RB and great in the screen game. PT is also a great blocking back, one of his most underrated abilities. PT can do it all, and is a huge part of the Saints run game success as of late.
Sproles is the quick, 1 cut and gone, get him the ball in space, does Reggie Bush better than Reggie Bush type of RB. Sproles is a match up nightmare for defenses. Many of the Saints’ offense schemes contain line ups with both Sproles and Graham to get the match up that Payton wants. Putting a LB on Sproles pretty much spells disaster for a defense. Sproles is a GREAT screen RB, though I think many teams have started to figure out when he is on the field to watch for screens, which is why you see more with PT and Ingram as of late.
Mark Ingram. He is supposed to be our hard-nosed, bang you up back. While he has shown glimpses of that in a few games, (Dallas, @ Panthers) this was supposed to be the year that he was truly healthy and we were going to see greatness. Having 3 really good running backs I think has hurt him a bit, not being able to gain momentum during some games, but I think if he got a more steady workload, he could turn out to be quite serviceable.
3. One of the big stories has been that the Saints struggle on the road. Do you believe it to be a legitimate concern heading into Philadelphia?
If you talk to any Saints fan, one that has been around for a while, and you bring up how the Saints play on the Road vs. how they play at home, you will see a certain look on their face. You just never know which Saints team will show up that week on the road. You can go into semantics like how cold the weather is, or if the road game is inside or out, but the fact remains, it doesn’t matter. We just do not play to our full potential on the road wherever it is. Now, lately on the news about this game they talked about changing the Gatorade color, getting new workout clothes, playing music during practice, and getting Popeye’s chicken on the plane to Philly. Do I think this will help? Hell no, but whatever they were doing before wasn’t working either.
Three things are very concerning when the Saints play on the road.
- Our O-line somehow gets replaced by a JV High school team
- Brees tends to lock on to Receivers a lot more, causing bad decisions.
- TURN OVERS. Our defense hasn’t really played bad on the road but when the offense is turning the ball over, you are asking a lot.
If we limit the time these things happen, we will have a really good chance to win this game.
4. How much does the loss of first round pick Kenny Vaccaro hurt the Saints secondary?
Losing Vaccaro is concerning. Our Secondary has already had a few losses, and Vaccaro was playing well. We will really need Jenkins, Harper and Bush to step up and play well. Philly has a lot of speed at WR and the way our Safeties play with limit the amount of big plays we see through the air.
5. Who’s the best player on the Saints that no one’s heard about?
Jed Collins: very few teams still employ the Full Back position and even though Jed might not get his number called that often, he usually makes the most out of his time on the field and is very reliable.
Honorable Mention: Rafael Bush back up Safety. This guy came to the team in 2012 and took the number 25 knowing that thousands of Saints fans had #25 Reggie Bush Jerseys still lying around.
6. Jimmy Graham has established himself as not only the top tight end in the league, but one of the game’s best receivers. What’s the best way to slow him down?
Jimmy Graham is a hard guy to stop, if it was easy, he wouldn’t be the Saints leading receiver and TD scorer. So far this season, only 3 teams have done so effectively.
- The Patriots: Using your #1 CB on the best TE in the game was a risky move by BB. Aqib Talib played a very physical game with Graham and recorded Zero catches that game, and 1 INT that was a target to Graham. Jimmy also was showing signs of an injury as well.
- The Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks were able to disrupt the timing between Graham and Brees by using a combination of bumping Graham and increasing pressure on Brees. This was very effective as the two of them never really got into a rhythm and you could tell Graham was getting frustrated.
- The St. Louis Rams: Their ability to stop Graham came not from attacking Graham himself, but constant, uninterrupted pass rush attack on Brees. They never let Brees feel comfortable in the pocket and the time was never available for deep plays that entire game. Drew spent most of that game running for his life and making bad throws.
7. The Eagles defense relies heavily on the performance of the front seven. So, how do you view the Saints offensive line? What are their strengths?
Strengths of the Saints O-line? Playing at home. Other than that, the right side is very solid usually with 2 pro-bowl caliber players: Jahri Evans and Zack Strief. Zack has played well but has had lingering injuries this year. Our Center play is fairly solid with De La Puente, and after a rocky start, Ben Grubbs was selected to the Pro-bowl. Left Tackle is a HUGE concern, especially on the road. Terron Armstead is a rookie LT, finding his first start 2 weeks ago @ Carolina. While he was completely man–handled by Greg Hardy in that game, he bounced back with a solid outing vs. the Bucs last Sunday. The Offensive line’s greatest asset is how quick Drew is with getting the ball out of his hands….usually. I hope the O-line gets a lot of attention during the offseason.
8. Who do you think wins on Sunday and what’s the final score?
This really depends on which Saints team decides to show up on Saturday. If we play smart, limit the turn overs and get solid pressure on Foles, I’d say Saints 24-Eagles 21.
If we show up and play like we have been on the road: Eagles 31- Saints 17, and hopefully we don’t let McCoy get a new nick name because of us.
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Posted on January 4, 2014, in Contributors and Guest Articles, Eagles, Posts, Vince Quinn and tagged cameron jordan, dreen sproles, Drew Brees, Eagles, jed collins, Jimmy Graham, kenny vaccaro, mark ingram, pierre thomas, playoffs, rob ryan, Saints. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.