As summer seems to get hotter and hotter and we get down to only baseball on TV, there’s only one thing to do to keep our interest – answer questions and give our thoughts about the Saints heading into training camp.
We’ll run out one question a day in a hope that we satiate your thirst until actual toe meets leather. The questions are in no particular order of importance…except for No. 1.
11. Will we see a blitz-happy defense under Steve Spagnuolo?
For much of the 2007 and ’08 seasons, much of the Saints fan base was riled up wanting then-defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs to do more to get pressure on the quarterback.
Fans wanted blitzes. And blitzes. And, yes, even more blitzes.
Then Gregg Williams came to New Orleans and fans got their blitzes. In bunches.
By the end of his three-year stay, the Saints were blitzing more than anybody and it wasn’t working.
The key is somewhere in the middle and the Saints might have found just the man they were looking for in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Thanks to help from Aaron Schatz at FootballOutsiders.com (a must-go to website for the statistically-inclined football fan), we were able to compare the Rams – where Spagnuolo coached the past three seasons – with the Saints over the same period of time.
And the differences are staggering.
From 2009-11, the Saints led the league in sending five-plus and six-plus players. The Saints sent five or more players 47 percent of the time in 2009, 49 percent in 2010 and 50 percent in 2011. They sent six or more players 23 percent of the time in 2009 and 25 percent of the time in both 2010 and ’11.
By comparison, the Rams blitzed far fewer times than the Saints did.
In 2009, they sent five or more defenders 30 percent of the time, 25th-most in the NFL and six or more players only nine percent of the time, 16th in the NFL. St. Louis sent five or more players 39 percent of the time (6th-most) and six or more 17 percent of the time (2nd-most). And in ’11, the Rams sent five or more 29 percent of the time (19th in the NFL) and six or more 12 percent of the time (5th).
In other words, it appears we’ll see the Saints blitz less now that Williams is out of the building.
But careful what you wish for, however. The results, albeit with different athletes, were roughly the same.
The Rams finished 29th, 19th and 22nd in total defense the past three seasons blitzing less than New Orleans. The Saints, meanwhile, were 25th, 4th and 24th in total defense.
And on third down, a generally heavy blitz down, the Saints were much better than St. Louis. Whereas the Rams were 29th (43.54 percent stops), 2nd (33.48 percent) and 18th (38.43 percent), the Saints were 14th (37.96 percent), 5th (34.48 percent and 5th (33.17 percent) the past three seasons.
So yes, the Saints might blitz less than they have in the past three years. But the results might not vary all that much from we’ve seen.
--Bradley Handwerger, WWLTV.com Sports Reporter