METAIRIE, La. – You don’t have to tell New Orleans Saints acting head coach Joe Vitt or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo that the team’s tackling against the Jacksonville Jaguars was lacking.
They know. And for much of this week, they’ve let the players know that the skill will need to be improved.
“I don’t think we can win many games tackling like we did Friday,” Spagnuolo said.
Vitt ran the defense through tackling drills for parts of practice, getting the players back to fundamentals.
“Proper angles to the ball, proper fits,” Vitt said. “See the target and your eyes are over your thighs and then you wrap up.”
On Jacksonville’s opening series, a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a touchdown, at least four players missed tackles on four different plays.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson’s missed tackle led to an eight-yard gain. Three plays later, safety Roman Harper’s missed attempt ended with a 15-yard gain. Harper again missed a tackle on second-and-eight, though middle linebacker Curtis Lofton cleaned up that miss.
And then on third-and-eight, cornerback Marquis Johnson bounced off of Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon, who then walked into the end zone for a touchdown.
Spagnuolo recognizes that things are a bit different than when he entered the NFL coaching ranks in the 1990s. Teams are allowed only so much contact and so many days in pads for practice.
That doesn’t mean he thinks the team can skirt by without working on tackling.
“I think anything has to be perfected and polished,” the defensive coordinator said. “I’m going to take a pure guess here but Tiger Woods, as good as he is, still goes out and practices hitting nine irons. So you’ve got to tackle.”
Harper said the key is getting more defensive players to the football and then completing the tackle.
Practicing against tackling dummies only goes so far.
“We’ve just got to get guys down,” Harper said. “We had people grabbing on them, pulling on them, hitting them. We just did not continue to get them to the ground. It’s part of it and we’ll be better because of it.”