Let’s be frank; the New Orleans Saints had one heck of a season in 2011. This past campaign had its share of “roller coaster” moments, from being upset in St. Louis to dominating the Lions in the Wild Card Round of the postseason. Throughout the year, the squad battled through a plethora of injuries, overcame its share of obstacles and even broke a few records along the way. The offseason acquisitions, ranging from the electric Darren Sproles to the inexperienced Mark Ingram, all seemed to make a mark one way or another in 2011, as the front office deserves a nice pat on the back for their efforts during a lockout-riddled summer.
Heading into 2012, though, many more questions remain to be answered. For example, in 2010, the team desperately needed a balanced rushing attack in order to help QB Drew Brees keep things flowing through the air. So what did the front office do? They took a Heisman winner from Alabama and an explosive third-string back out of San Diego and struck gold. In 2011, the squad had a different problem. The defensive line was nearly non-existent this past year, and the secondary felt its effects. Although the organization drafted DE Cameron Jordan and signed Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers in the offseason, the D-Line still looked as stale as ever, as opposing QBs found themselves to be comfortable and standing upright in the pocket for the majority of each and every contest. This brings a new challenge for the New Orleans’ front office now that the team has been bounced from the playoffs.
So what is one way to try and fix the defensive problems? How about getting a new defensive coordinator?
As was rumored early last week, Jeff Fisher, the new head coach of the St. Louis Rams, would be hunting down Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams to help run his defense. Therefore, New Orleans currently has a vacancy at Williams’ old position, and many are beginning to speculate who will be taking his place. I had previously believed that former Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coach Jack Del Rio may want the position, being that he is a defensive-minded man who has experience and ties to the Saints organization. Another name has recently surfaced, though. That name is Steve Spagnuolo.
According to reports, Spagnuolo has agreed to meet with the Saints to discuss his availability. Around the “Big Easy,” people had been calling for the head of Williams for nearly a year now. Spagnuolo may be the correct person to help change the tone of many of the citizens of New Orleans.
Spagnuolo, who was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams this past season, seems to fit well into the Saints’ current defensive scheme. He was hired to be the head coach of the Rams after a solid tenure as the defensive coordinator of the 2008 World Champions, the New York Giants. His aggressive defensive strategy turned the Giants’ defense into a force to be reckoned with, and he was wanted greatly by several squads following the Super Bowl.
Prior to his time in New York, Spagnuolo was a linebackers and defensive backs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he developed a defensive philosophy under Jim Johnson. He learned to favor differing blitz packages, and he grew a liking for the base 4-3 defensive scheme. With the New Orleans Saints, Spagnuolo’s philosophy should fit nicely into the team’s current setup. With a safety of Roman Harper’s blitzing ability coming from the secondary, Spagnuolo would have a pleasant time drawing up a multitude of blitz ideas to incorporate into the Saints’ defensive game plan. Also, Jordan and Franklin may be able to be used more effectively under a new scheme, as Spagnuolo found success with the likes of Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck while in New York.
It should be interesting to see how the talks play out over the course of the next few days. Regardless, it seems like any defensive scheme will be better than the one millions of fans witnessed Alex Smith drive down the field on this past weekend.
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