“Blueprint”. It’s a word that gets used a lot now when discussing how to build a spectacular offense or in recent years, how to build a stellar defense. It was used extensively throughout this past season when it came to the defense of the Carolina Panthers and also when the Denver Broncos defeated them in Super Bowl 50.
When the Broncos stifled a Panthers offense that seemed to score at will last year, analysts began saying that teams were shown the “blueprint” on how to defeat them.
Maybe, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here or put too much stock in following any certain “blueprint”.
The reason I mention that is because for the New Orleans Saints, that word or concept hasn’t really helped them out when they’ve tried to follow or implement / use one.
For the past three years the Saints have tried to mold themselves into another team with little success, and in some cases — it outright backfired on them.
May 28, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Brandon Browner (39), strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32), free safety Rafael Bush (25) and free safety Jairus Byrd (31) during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Case in point: we all saw what happened when the Saints tried to become the Seattle Seahawks defense of the past few years, but ended up being the “Legion of Whom” instead of the “Legion of Boom”.
It lead to such signings as safety Jarius Byrd and cornerback Brandon Browner, that ended up being more expense with less production, ironically due to a lack of a clear vision for both players.
Not that the Saints front office didn’t know what they wanted to do with them, but neither player has (or was, in Browner’s case) been put into a situation that played to their strengths, but instead exposed exploitable weaknesses.
The Saints forgot one major part of the blueprint for the Seahawks, Panthers, Broncos, or any other dominant defense — which is a front seven that allows players like Byrd the ability to be the ball-hawk that we saw him be with the Buffalo Bills.
Now granted while Browner and his panache for penalties and getting burnt like toast were awe-inspiring, that was due to him being placed in a bad spot because of the absence of Keenan Lewis.
Honestly I’m playing ‘devil’s advocate’ more than I’m really defending Browner, but that’s poor planning depth-wise with the Saints staff both with the draft and free agency.
I’ve heard and seen comments from fans throughout the season that the Saints need to do what Carolina is doing in order to beat them within the NFC South.
But I think I’ve found the elusive secret that has escaped many up until it was shoved right into their face just a few seasons ago so are you ready?
JUST MAKE BETTER CHOICES!!!
Oct 30, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette (93) reacts on the sidelines in the fourth quarter. The Saints defeated the Panthers 28-10 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Crazy concept I know, but hey if you look at teams that make the postseason and win championships that is the mantra to subscribe to whether it’s in the draft, free agency, or umm — let’s just say giving a huge contract to a player you know is a ticking time bomb who wields a belt and starts strapping people on a Florida beach better than Indiana Jones uses a bullwhip.
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The Saints have struggled to build a defense that was like their 2009 squad that snatched 39 takeaways; with a unit of what seemed like either castaways or average players.
But that defense which was orchestrated by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, placed those players where they would have the most advantageous position.
The Saints caught a glimpse of that again with Rob Ryan in 2013; but fast forward to the end of that season and the true unraveling begins where the holes the defense had begin to show once veteran leaders like defensive end Will Smith, free safety Malcom Jenkins, and strong safety Roman Harper had left the roster.
The only plan, formula, or blueprint that the Saints need to follow to improve their defense is simply to let current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen be the maestro of that concert; but knowing the relationship between head coach Sean Payton and himself I don’t think that will be an issue.
Nov 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen talks to middle linebacker Stephone Anthony (50) prior to kickoff of a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
That of course will lead to letting Allen construct his unit the way he feels it will succeed according to his vision — although it’s to the point right now where the cracks in the armor are so numerous, mock drafts are screaming for the Saints to take either a run stuffing defensive tackle or a weakside linebacker for their front seven.
It’s one reason I found myself this year not even getting to hyped or even analyzing mock drafts for the Saints; since their needs are so many on defense that it’s almost impossible, even more so before free agency, to even venture a guess what direction they will go in.
But regardless of what occurs in the coming months of free agency and the draft, the Saints simply need to go back to the drawing board on what it will take to regain the foothold they once had before it slipped.
The time has come for the Saints to stop following everyone else’s “blueprint” for success on defense — and start making one of their own….