METAIRIE, La. — For much of the offseason, the biggest storyline focusing on the Saints’ defense had to do with its switch from a 4-3 front for a 3-4.
But best-laid plans are always subject to change and Sunday, against Atlanta, they did just that.
“Between the packages that were supposed to run and then some of the packages we made up on the go, I know I played a little bit of nickel and safety,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
Wait. Did he just say first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan “made up” plays on the go?
Indeed, fellow safety Roman Harper confirmed as much, likening what happened to Ryan drawing up plays in the sand. Or, in this case, the synthetic turf on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome floor.
“We did it a couple of times,” Harper said.
In truth, the Saints are never going to be solely a 3-4 base team. Too many offensive formations demand too many different defensive alignments.
And as Harper hinted in describing what went on, game day adjustments are nothing new, though the idea of just drawing up new defensive plays on the go likely isn’t all that common. When pressed on that, Harper said, “It’s something we’re used to and we always do it. But Rob’s no different than any other coach.”
It’s the reason rookie defensive back appeared to be bouncing between the nickel back position, safety and linebacker. It’s why Junior Galette lined up both as upright outside linebacker and a hand-on-the-turf defensive end.
This isn’t new in New Orleans, either. After a one-year hiatus under Steve Spagnuolo, the Saints’ defensive philosophy is now similar to what it once was under Gregg Williams.
“We had a lot of different personnel packages when Gregg was here and had guys all over the place,” Jenkins said, before adding, “We have that versatility now with some of the guys in the secondary and some of the linebackers. We enjoy it.”