NEW ORLEANS — Malcolm Jenkins was voted a defensive captain for the New Orleans Saints this season and, as such, is a de facto spokesman for the unit.
So, it’s not hard to believe that he’s speaking for the entire defense when he says they’re not so much paying attention to the historically poor numbers they’re putting up this season.
“We don’t pay attention to the numbers too much,” Jenkins said. “It’s just we have to do what we have to do to help our team win the game. Stats may not be as good as we’d like it to be, but if we win the game, that’s all that matters.”
In other words, Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) could run roughshod over Jenkins and his teammates tonight at 7:30 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But as long as the Saints (2-5) get out with a point more than Philly, the defense won’t really care.
“We got off to such a bad start that the stats are always going to look bad at this point,” Jenkins said. “So why worry about them? All you’ve got to do is contribute your part to the equation and just help get a win.”
How little do Saints defenders care for the numbers?
The marker board detailing unit rankings and team stats has been erased in the defensive meeting room.
If they were still, though, mouths would likely be agape, jaw stretched open by the sheer magnitude of what the Saints are doing on defense.
Heading into Week 9 of the NFL season, the Saints were on pace to set a league record for yards given up in a season by nearly 800. According to the Associated Press, the Saints are already the first team since at least 1950 to give up more than 400 yards in seven straight games.
And, if things continue on the track they’re currently on, the Saints will give up 494 points, beating the previous low, set in the 1-15 1980 season, by seven points.
Several players were on edge, rolling their eyes this week when questioned about the defense and the issues surrounding it.
All said the defensive scheme isn’t the issue; it’s the execution that has to change.
“I feel like going into every game that we have a chance as a defense to stop our opponent to win,” linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “I would just say growing as a defensive unit and taking steps forward and playing disciplined for four quarters every single play, not just three plays here and three plays there for the entire game. That’s the step we need to take.”
That echoed what coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has been saying the past few weeks.
“I don’t know what we’re going to change,” Spagnuolo said. “We’re not going to wave a magic wand and change everything. We just get better at what we’re doing.”
If there was a magic wand, it would need to be a big one. The Saints rank last in the NFL in total defense, 31st against the run and 30th against the pass.
They’re last in the NFL in yards per play, first downs given up per game and net yards per pass play. And they’re 30th in yards allowed per rush.
If there’s going to be a fix, Jenkins says, it has to start with defending the run. The next step would be to stop giving up big plays – New Orleans gives up an average of 6 plays of 20-plus yards per game right now.
“I don’t think any of us like where we are now,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think any of us are walking around or sleeping well these days. That’s just part of it. That’s because we’ve got a bunch of guys that want to get better. It’s definitely heavy on us.”