When Sean Payton went out and hired Steve Spagnuolo to be the team’s third defensive coordinator since he took over in 2006, there was one common theme in stories written about the newest member of the coaching staff.
Pressure on the quarterback coming from the defensive line, a cornerstone of Spagnuolo’s philosophy and one of the reasons the New York Giants won the Super Bowl for the 2007 season.
So on Sunday, when Aaron Rodgers became the latest quarterback to spend time picking apart the Saints defense with hardly anyone in a New Orleans uniform in his face, the drum beat for answers grew louder.
“We’ve had four man rushes and tried to cover and we’ve had blitzes that have not gotten to them,” Saints interim head coach Aaron Kromer said Monday. “We’ve tried both avenues. We obviously have to try to get better and feel better about the plan as a player and execute it better.”
Rodgers strafed the Saints’ defense for 319 yards and four touchdowns while completing 31 of 41 passes.
And he was able to do it in spite of any changes the Saints threw at him.
Out went Will Smith and in came Martez Wilson. Cameron Jordan pushed the tackle position and Junior Galette took over at end.
Roman Harper moved to weakside linebacker in nickel, partly because of lack of depth at linebacker because of injuries and partly because of his athleticism near the line.
Hardly any pressure.
Extra pressure up the middle and from the outside.
All picked up by the Packers linemen.
And then when there was pressure, Rodgers’ athleticism took over, converting passes while falling down a couple of times or eluding the rush other times.
“We changed where we rushed three a couple of times and so we are kind of mixing it and trying different ways to do it yet somehow, some way we have to find a way to do it,” Spagnuolo said. “We have to find a way to effect the quarterback more.”
With Monday night’s game still to play, the Saints (0-4) rank 25th in sacks per pass attempt and are 29th in passing yards per play. New Orleans also is 29th in the NFL with only six sacks; only four teams have less.
Kromer seemed to hint on Monday that the unit just needed time to figure out and understand Spagnuolo’s tweaks.
“If you would watch the defense, see the way they tweak and the way they align or execute the defense, there are little tweaks in each formation or each thing that the offense does,” Kromer said. “That’s where his defense has been good in the past and that’s what we have to get better at of understanding that clearly so we can execute what he wants done.”