Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
METAIRIE, La. – When the Saints signed defensive tackle Shaun Rogers prior to the NFL lockout, there were question marks as to whether he would A) fit in with the locker room and B) have the drive to succeed.
The move to get Aubrayo Franklin was met with different sentiment. He was rated one of the best interior defensive linemen on the free agent market.
Eight games into the season neither have stood out on the field and both have said little off of it.
They have a combined 34 tackles with no sacks, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries.
Yet, Saints coach Sean Payton stands by the acquisitions, blaming the lack of standout production from the defensive tackles, including Sedrick Ellis and Tom Johnson, on a variety of factors.
“Each game takes on a little bit different shape in regard to what the point of emphasis is and what you want to do defensively,” Payton said. “It’s easy to look at certain numbers. You take last week’s game and there were three runs that took place on third-and-15 or more that were runs where we’re in a prevent and basically we’re more than happy to allow them to run it and tackle them and force a punt.”
The Saints have a bottom-third run defense, though, allowing 124.1 rushing yards per game.
Three running backs have had 100-yard games against the Saints, two coming in New Orleans losses.
DeAngelo Williams of Carolina had 115 yards. A week later, Earnest Graham picked up 109 yards in the Saints’ loss to Tampa Bay. And in this past week’s loss at St. Louis, Steven Jackson romped to 159 yards on the ground.
While defending his linemen, Payton wasn’t above admitting there was an issue, saying they’re spending time on run defense in practice in hopes of improving ahead of games against two offenses – Tampa Bay and Atlanta – that can run the ball well.
“That’s one of the areas that we’ll pay close attention to and one of the areas we think is going to be important as we hit this stretch of division games,” Payton said.
The two leading tacklers for New Orleans are safeties Roman Harper (52 with 3.5 sacks) and Malcolm Jenkins (49 with 1 sack).