The New Orleans Saints Defense Will Be More Athletic And More Dominating!
By Super Scout Max Emfinger
Last season, the New Orleans Saints lost their Head Football Coach Sean Payton and their Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams. The results were not good as they finished with a 7-9 record and their Defense was one of the Worst in NFL History as they gave up 7,042 yards of Total Offense.
After a year without Coach Payton and Coach Williams, the Saints decided that they needed to do something to repair their Defense. The Saints answer was to hire a new Defensive Coordinator. Since the Dallas Cowboys had just just fired one of the best in Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints decided to hire him.
Then with Coach Ryan re-building the Defense, and Offensive Genius Payton, back at the helm as Head Coach, and with Super All-Pro Quarterback Drew Brees coming off his third 5,000 yard season with 5,177-yards and 43 touchdowns and putting up huge numbers again; it would give the Saints another chance to get back to the Super Bowl.
If you are planning on bringing Coach Rob Ryan to the Saints as your new Defensive Coordinator, then there are a few things to remember! A couple things to remember when you start to rebuild a Defense: Are there great players already on the Team? And who are some Key Players in the NFL Draft that might be brought to the Saints for success in the New 3-4 Defense.
In the last four years in the NFL Draft, the Saints have Drafted some incredible athletic players who are capable of playing at least two or three positions; whereas most NFL Players are limited to only one or maybe two positions. This is very important when changing a 4-3 Defense to a 3-4 Defense and the biggest reason to make the change is to get more athletic players on the field at the same time and particularly in the passing situations. It causes a MisMatch on Offensive Blocking Assignments and it puts many more athletic players in the game to rush the passer.
In the 2010 NFL Draft, the Saints #1 Draft Choice was cornerback Patrick Robinson who did a 39-inch Vertical Jump and a 4.14 Shuttle; giving him a 1,990 MEARS RATING and an overall #16 overall MEARS Player Rating in the Draft.
In 2011, Coach Payton was at the LSU Indoor Facilities for LSU Pro-Day and we were talking and I decided to give him my 2011 MEARS Top 150 RATINGS White Binder for the 2011 NFL Draft. I took a photo of Coach Payton and Coach Williams. Both Coach Payton and Coach Williams really wanted their Top three Players and they got them.Wilson (6-4 and 250) was a very athletic linebacker at The University of Illinois who ran an amazing 4.42 Forty; did a 36-inch Vertical Jump; and did an outstanding 4.28 in the Shuttle. Wilson can play any of the Four Linebacker Positions, plus Rush Defensive End and what makes him Special is he can play any on any given play.
At the same 2011 Scouting Combine, Jordan (6-4 and 287) ran a 4.72 Forty; did a 32-inch Vertical Jump; and a 4.37 Shuttle. Both of these players are Athletic Freaks that can play two or three positions and will become two of the starters in the new 3-4 Defense. Jordan can play DT or DE.
Another Free Agent Rush Defensive End is Kenyon Coleman (6-5 and 293) who started 15 games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011. Coleman is a Super Run-Stoper that can really clog things up on the line. Whereas most Defensive End Freaks are pass-rushers, Coleman is a run-stopper. Coleman played at UCLA and was a #5 Draft Choice and #147 Pick Overall Pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Raiders and played in the 3-4 Defense for Coach Ryan and the Dallas Cowboys.
Although the New Orleans Saints Defensive Team did not do well in 2012, Linebacker Curtis Lofton had the best year of his career as he recorded 157 tackles, including 94 solo tackles. Lofton is another Athletic Freak who was a #4 Draft Choice in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. In the 2008 Oklahoma Pro-Day, Lofton (6-0 and 246) improved his Measurables from the NFL Scouting Combine, as he ran a 4.63 Forty; did a 32-inch Vertical Jump; and did a 4.54 Shuttle. Lofton will be one of the Linebacker Cowbells for Rob Ryan and Linebacker Coach Joe Vitt’s New 3-4 Defense.
Two of my favorite Saints and who were both #1 Draft Choices in the 2004 NFL Draft are Super Star Defensive End Will Smith and Super Star Inside Linebacker Jonathan Vilma. I also remember Rating both of them in High School before they went on to College Stardom and to the NFL as #1 Draft Choices.
The Saints Drafted Smith (6-3 and 267) #1 and #18 Overall after he ran an incredible 4.6 in the Forty and did an equally incredible 38.5 in the Vertical Jump at Ohio State Pro-Day while weighing 267-pounds. Smith is another Super Athletic Player who has been the Saints Sackmaster from his Defensive End position ever since he came to the Saints in 2004. Smith now weighs in the 282-pound range.
With his unbelievable athletic ability, Smith is a potential Super Star at any number of positions, including Strongside Linebacker in the New Saints 3-4 Defense. Smith and his family have also lived in New Orleans ever since 2004 and he wanted to stay in New Orleans and so he took a Six Million Dollar pay cut to stay with the Saints. Smith has been very impressive at OLB in the Saints Spring MiniCamp.
Vilma was actually Drafted Six Spots ahead of Smith, by the Jets, in the 2004 NFL Draft as the #12 Overall Pick. He was another Super Athlete who ran a 4.56 in the Forty; did a really outstanding 37-inch Vertical Jump; and an unbelievable 4.2 Shuttle at the University of Miami Pro-Day. With this great athletic ability, Vilma is an Inside Linebacker but he could also play Outside LineBacker, if needed, in the New 3-4 Defense.
Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins are my two favorite safeties in the NFL and they will be joined by The Saints 2013 #1 Draft Choice and my Hometown Safety Kenny Vaccaro and now there are three Saints Favorites.
Harper is a former University of Alabama Super Star who started 38 of his final 49 games and recorded 302 tackles from his Strong Safety position fot the Crimson Tide. Harper (6-0 and 198) ran a 4.5 in the Forty; did a 36-inch Vertical Jump; and a 4.34 Shuttle at the 2006 Alabama Pro-Day.
Harper was a Saints #2 Draft Choice and a #43 Overall Pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Harper is probably the most aggressive tackler on the Saints and he is the only Safety in Saints History to be selected to the NFL Pro-Bowl twice. Since being Drafted in 2006, Harper has been the Saints Starter for Six years and has started 99 games.
Although the Saints Defense did not do well in 2012, Harper finished second on the team in tackles with 124 tackles, including 91 solo tackles. Harper is also one of the best Blitze Safeties in the NFL and in the New Rob Ryan 3-4 Defense, Harper will be used even more in his Safety Blitze Speciality. Harper is also a very active Businessman in New Orleans with his Hope 41 Foundation.
Malcolm Jenkins was the Saints #1 Draft Choice and #14 Overall Pick in 2008. He was a Consensus All-American and a Unanimous All-Big Ten for Ohio State. Jenkins was also considered to be the best Defensive Back and most Athletic Defensive Back to come out of the Big-Ten since Charles Woodson won the 1997 Heisman Trophy.
Jenkins (6-0 and 204) was a 2009 NFL Scouting Combine Freak as he averaged a 4.45 on his two Forties; did a 33-inch Vertical Jump; did a 4.08 Pro-Shuttle; and a 124 Standing Broad Jump.
With two Potential All-Pro Safeties, why would the Saints want to Draft another Safety as their 2013 #1 Draft Choice? In the New Rob Ryan 3-4 Defense, the Saints will be using a Nickel-Back on most all Passing Situations and Kenny Vaccaro was probably the best free or strong safety in the 2013 NFL Draft. On top of that, Vaccaro might have been the most versatile safety in the Draft, playing man-to-man on most Opponent Slot Receivers, including West Virginia All-American Tavan Austin who was the Rams #1 Pick and #8 Overall Pick.
Vaccaro played all over the Football Field for The Texas Longhorns Defense in 2012 and demonstrated a tremendous versatility in starting games in the Big-12 at both Free and Strong Safety positions; plus Strongside Linebacker and Middle LBer. When viewing Vaccaro on Film, the one thing that separated him from the rest of the safeties in an unusually strong 2013 Draft Class was his tremendous overall athletic ability. Vacarro (6-0 and 214) also demonstrated great athleticism in the NFL 2013 Scouting Combine as he ran a 4.53 Forty; did a great 38-inch Vertical Jump; a great 4.06 Pro-Shuttle; and a great 121 Standing Broad Jump.
“We felt that if Vaccaro was available, we would be getting an awfully good defensive player to help us rebuild our defense,” said Coach Sean Payton. “Vacarro brings a tremendous physical dimension to his game as you can see on his highlight film.”
Vacarro played a lot of Nickel-Defense for Texas in the Big-12, because a lot of Big-12 teams ran the Spread Offense and he was assigned to cover the tight end and/or slot receiver. This is the perfect position for Vacarro in the Saints 3-4 Defense and he will team with Harper and Jenkins in the Nickel-Back Coverage on passing situations.
OK! So now we have Four Defensive Ends, Four Linebackers, and Three Safeties. And so now we need Two Outside Cornerbacks and at least One Nose Tackle.
Nose Tackle John Jenkins would be the Icing on the Cake at Nose-Guard if he can get in shape and play with the intensity that he is capable of playing. The Saints were ecstatic to be able to Draft Jenkins in the #3 Round and #82 Overall Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Jenkins (6-4 and 332) was my #69 MEARS Selection with a great 1,934 MEARS RATING. At the 2013 Scouting Combine, Jenkins did an amazing 34.5 Vertical Jump; did a 4.94 Pro-Shuttle, and he did 30 Reps of 225-Pounds.
Akiem Hicks (6-5 and 318) was a #3 Draft Choice and #89 Overall Choice in The 2012 NFL Draft for the Saints. Hicks was also a Super Combine Freak as he recorded a great 1,916 MEARS RATING as he ran a 4.95 in the Forty; did an outstanding 32 Vertical Jump; did a great 4.86 Pro-Shuttle; and a 119 Standing Broad Jump. Hicks started his College Career at LSU, but finished at Regina, Canada. Hicks is another Super Athlete who will be given a chance to start for the Saints at either the Inside Nose-Guard position or Defensive End.
Two other great players that the Saints got out of the 2013 NFL Draft and are outstanding Athletic Defensive Ends are Rufus Johnson and Eric Martin. Johnson (6-5 and 272) is from Tarleton State and he was my #96 Rated MEARS Player with a 1,914 MEARS RATING as he ran a 4.69 Forty; did a 34.5 Vertical Jump; and a great 122 Standing Broad Jump.
Martin (6-1 and 250) signed as a Free Agent out of Nebraska and he had an 1,870 MEARS Rating as he recorded a 4.53 in the Forty; had a a 32 Vertical Jump; and an incredible 3.97 Pro-Shuttle. Martin demonstrated his unbelievable quickness and agility as he recorded one of the fastest Pro-Shuttles of the Year.
I have been very impressed with the Saints Players this Spring. Most of them came from winning college programs and they are great competitors who do not like to lose. Their 4-3 Defense in 2012 was thrown together at the last moment, because of the situation that they were in and it just did not work out for them.
This made the Saints Defensive Players that much more receptive and hungry to the change to the New 3-4 Defense with their New Defensive Coordinator and they really worked hard to learn everything that they could in a short period of time that they spent in the Organized Team Activity (OTA) and then their MiniCamp. The Saints Players actually found out that Coach Rob Ryan, their New Defensive Coordinator was a lot like their Old Defensive Coordinator Coach Gregg Williams and they had a lot of fun learning all of the New things that they think will help them get back to the Super Bowl.
To be Honest. There are not too many Defenses in the NFL that have the overall Athletic Talent that is on the Saints. There are some very Talented Defenses in the NFL, but as far as pure Athleticism, the Saints have one of the most talented teams. With their New 3-4 Defense, coupled with their Athleticism on Defense and Drew Brees on Offense; the Saints can and should get back to the Super Bowl.
And Remember! This is the New Orleans Saints!