Last season, the Saints had a very good, maybe even great defense. As they didn’t really have any weak spots on that unit. The black and gold finished fourth in points allowed, giving up 335 points total, 19.7 points per game. Their rushing defense was the best in the NFL as they only gave up, 3.7 yards per carry, which was the least amount of yards given up per carry in the league. They also only gave up 12 rushing touchdowns, which ranked sixth in the NFL.
In today’s NFL, stopping the run, may not seem as important as it did, in the “3 yards in a cloud of dust” era but stopping the run does help your defense in a major way. The Saints were able to make teams one dimensional and still be good against the pass.
A team can’t be good against the pass without good cornerbacks and safeties, which the Saints had in abundance last season. Opposing teams only completed 62.3% of their passes against this defense, which was sixth best in the league. Dennis Allen’s defense also only allowed 20 passing touchdowns, which was third best in the NFL.
Another reason the Saints were good against the pass was the pressure they were able to put the opposing quarterbacks under. New Orleans was able to sack the quarterback on 7.2% of passing plays, which was ranked eighth best. The Miami Dolphins ranked seventh at 7.3% but blitzed at a much higher rate. The Dolphins blitzed on 39% of their defensive plays last season, which was second most in the NFL. While the Saints only blitzed 22% of the time, meaning New Orleans’ front four was able to generate pressure without much help. Allowing the defensive coordinator to mix up the coverage with seven to eight available defenders on the back end.
When you have a defense that is great against the run while also being good against the pass without having to blitz to create pressure, you get a defense that is awesome in the red zone. The Saints were the number one red zone defense in the league last season, only allowing touchdowns on 43.5% of possessions where the opponents had the ball inside the Saints 20-yard line.
How are the Saints supposed to repeat or even improve upon last year’s defensive performance? As the popular saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Saints’ now head coach Dennis Allen, was the defensive coordinator for the past seven seasons. Allen should continue to run his same defensive schemes that have led to that unit’s success over the past few years.
This year’s defense will look a bit different as free safety, Marcus Williams, left in free agency to sign with the Baltimore Ravens and strong safety, Malcolm Jenkins, retired. How does a team lose both starting safeties and continue to thrive?
By replacing them with Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu.
Tyrann Mathieu is still a great ball hawk
Tyrann Mathieu has played less than a quarter in 2021.
He already leads the NFL in interceptions 🍯 🦡 pic.twitter.com/rZazmbGlVW
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 20, 2021
Marcus Maye may be the best defensive player, most NFL fans are not familiar with
New York Jets 2020 Highlights vs Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson rolls left and tosses a rainbow down the left sideline to DK Metcalf but Marcus Maye makes a spectacular leaping interception. #newyorkjets #ganggreen
Play Drives Football – https://t.co/supmOO1wlW pic.twitter.com/kQr1dqJq1t
— Drives Football (@DrivesFootball) July 28, 2021
It is very hard to replace safeties, the caliber of Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins but Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye are more than qualified for the job. Those two also have the luxury of playing with some amazing cornerbacks, including, one of the best in the league, Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore was number three in the NFL in passes defended with 19 in 2021.
Marshon Lattimore is a top 5 corner, in the NFL
Marshon Lattimore put the clamps on Mike Evans 🔒
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 18, 2021
CJ Gardner-Johnson is also a great cornerback to go along with Marshon Lattimore. Garder-Johnson may be known for his antics and getting under the skin of receivers but its not just his words, its his play that really gets in the head of his opponents.
Tom Brady knows about CJ Gardner-Johnson
CJ Gardner-Johnson adds to Tom Brady's woes with a late pick 😱pic.twitter.com/hgcJB0TduV
— Saints Nation (@SaintsNationCP) December 20, 2021
Paulson Adebo had a very promising rookie year, that saw flashes of brilliance. He will only be better this season.
Teams will have no one to pick on, with Paulson Adebo opposite of Marshon Lattimore
Paulson Adebo One Handed Interception! pic.twitter.com/GHja2tcIkM
— The GOAT House (@GoatHouseNFL) January 9, 2022
Demario Davis is still one of the best linebackers in the game, had over 100 tackles and 7 passes defended last season, which was tied for 5th most, among linebackers. That great secondary along with Davis, really sets up this defense up for success and that’s before mentioning the deep defensive line, led by, probowler, Cameron Jordan.
Davis makes life hell for tight ends and running backs in the passing game
Happy Saturday, Saints fans. Here’s your weekly reminder that Demario Davis is one of the best LBs in football. pic.twitter.com/bKxhQX54IV
— Chris Rosvoglou (@RosvoglouReport) May 16, 2020
Jordan has 12.5 sacks last season and was a huge part in the pressure the Saints’ front four created. Marcus Davenport had nine sacks in just 11 games last season. If he is able to come back for week one and stay healthy, this defensive line will be very good, once again.
Cameron Jordan has an unlimited amount of pass rush moves
Top Saints players at halftime:
✅ Cameron Jordan: 2 sacks
✅ Taysom Hill: 9-16 for 122 yards. 2 rushes for 15 yards
✅ Marquez Callaway: 4 catches for 88 yards
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) December 20, 2021
So, how good can this defense be in 2022? The New Orleans Saints will have the best defense in the NFL.
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