The Rob Ryan Effect: Saints Poised to Field Elite Defense
Since the formation of Drew “Breesus” and the Modern-Day Saints, the team has been known for its offensive capabilities, and rightfully so. Since Sean Payton and Drew Brees have been at the helm of this offense, they have finished first in total offense four times and only once have they not finished in the top five. This was in 2010 when they finished sixth (NFL.com).
This year, however, things are looking quite different.
But first, rewind a few years.
Here’s where things get sticky. Any time you mention Gregg Williams, people get sensitive to the whole “Bounty-Gate” scandal. But putting that aside, he was a heck of a defensive coordinator. He didn’t care about yards. Instead, he focused on points allowed, points scored, and getting the ball back to Drew Brees, seeing as he was the focal point of the team. While that team allowed the eighth most yards, they were a middle of the road scoring defense. On top of that, Williams’ defense scored eight touchdowns, doubling any other team in that category.
This was led by Darren Sharper, who sure, missed out on a key tackle on Greg Jennings (graphic language), but he was brought in to become the anchor of the Saints’ defense that would go on to force the second most takeaways in the league (39) – Nine of which he created himself. This year, a similar move was made to acquire free agent Jairus Byrd. The 27 year old free safety is seemingly in the prime of his career and poised to take this defense to the next level with his ball-hawking skills and playmaking ability. Byrd brings 22 career interceptions and 11 forced fumbles to a Rob Ryan defense that aims to focus on takeaways this year.
Fast forward. Insert Rob Ryan. What did he inherit? Not only a team that allowed a lot of yards…But the team that one year prior, allowed more yards than any other group, ever. On top of that, the Saints’ defense gave up the second most points that year. Ryan’s impact was not only instant, but nothing short of sensational. In his first season with New Orleans, Ryan implemented a new 3-4 defense that allowed the fourth fewest yards and points per game.
The only problem with last year’s defense was its lack of turnovers. This is where Ryan needs to take a page out of Gregg Williams’ silver lining playbook. Between interceptions and fumble recoveries, this unit only handed the ball back to the offense 19 times. Pressure on the quarterback, however, was not the problem.
Ryan increased the team’s sack total from 30 to 49 – Moving them from 25th in the league, to fourth. Revitalized defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette combined for 24.5 (exactly half), of the team’s 49 sacks. The only problem was the lack of playmakers in the secondary to capitalize on the pressure being put on opposing quarterbacks.
But now, when you pair this stout, new-look defense with the additions of one of the league’s best defensive playmakers in Jairus Byrd, the leadership of Champ Bailey and a healthy Kenny Vaccaro, you’re not only looking at a defense that is good enough, but one that could be elite.
I’ll stress this one more time:
Yards/Game – 440.1 (32nd in NFL) ** NFL record
Points/Game – 28.4 (31st in NFL)
Sacks/Game – 30 (25th in NFL)
Yards/Game – 305.7 (4th in NFL)
Points/Game – 19 (4th in NFL)
Sacks/Game – 49 (4th in NFL)
When you consider what Ryan has been able to do for this defense in one short year, including skipping the growing pains of a formation change, you can’t help but get excited. Now with another year under his belt and better talent surrounding him, he puts forth a defense that can not only hold its own, but potentially be the strength of this team.
Rob Ryan has established himself as one of the elite defensive coordinators in the league. When you pair his new defense with Sean Payton's dynamic offense, watch out.
Who Dat Nation could be in for a fun ride.
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