The Hand Off: How improved is Saints defense?

The Hand Off: How improved is Saints defense?

The Hand Off: How improved is Saints defense?

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by Bradley Handwerger / WWL-TV.com Sports Writer

wwltv.com

Posted on August 9, 2010 at 1:30 PM

The Saints are now 14 practices and a scrimmage into their training camp for 2010, which means it’s now time to bring back the mailbag, or what we at WWL-TV.com like to call “The Hand Off.”

Lots of questions about the defense this time around. Suffice it to say that after Saturday’s scrimmage, I kind of saw that coming.

So, here we go.

Q: It seems to me the Saints defense is much improved this year. What is your opinion from watching practice? – Billy Gore, Kenner, La.

A: Billy, I figured this one would be coming once the defense held Drew Brees to 6 of 16 and no touchdowns in the “spring game” this past weekend. To me, it’s not necessarily that the defense is improved. It’s that the veterans on the unit are now comfortable with what Gregg Williams calls and why he calls certain defenses when he calls them. Fullback Heath Evans put it thusly: A year ago, those guys were thinking about where they were supposed to be and reacting to their thoughts. Now, they instinctively know where to be and just do it instead of thinking about it. It makes a huge difference and it’s why the defense appears quicker right now than it did at this time last year.

Q: Do you think the Saints will sign or work out Aaron Schobel since his release from the Bills? – Thomas Kendrick, Slidell, La.

A: I think the Saints are more likely to pick up a different uniform than they do Schobel. Besides Will Smith, the Saints have Alex Brown (whom they really like), Bobby McCray (who is getting a second chance), Jimmy Wilkerson (who can play both end and tackle), Jeff Charleston (a veteran who knows the defense and the coaches like him) and undrafted rookie free agent Junior Galette, who has been turning heads during camp. I just don’t think there’s room for Schobel on the roster.

Q: How is Malcolm looking at FS? Is Rod Harper doing returns as well as receiving drills? When will Charles Brown return to practice? – Jude, Breaux Bridge, LA

A: Simply put, I’ve been impressed with Jenkins at free safety. He’s quick, he’s on-the-ball and he’s a big-hitter. In fact, while I think Usama Young hasn’t done himself any harm during camp, I think Jenkins has been more impressive to me. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jenkins in the position against Minnesota.

As for Harper, he has a long way to go before he can make the roster again. Courtney Roby is catching the ball better as a receiver than Harper and does so much more than return kickoffs. Roby is loved by special teams coach Greg McMahon because he not only receivers kicks, he delivers hits on punt team, something Harper can not do.

And Brown has been back at practice and should be slotted as the second-team left tackle as of right now.

Q: There is a lot of talk about the defensive ends. Where are the Saints at solidifying their defensive tackle rotation in order to be effective when stopping the run? Do the young linebackers show signs of becoming future every down linebackers? – Shawn Gruber, Overland Park, Kansas

A: Remie Ayodele and Sedrick Ellis will be your starters. The difference between this year and last year is that the Saints have upgraded in adding Wilkerson to the line instead of Kendrick Clancy. Anthony Hargrove will hold onto that spot where he can just be a maniac on the field and create havoc. More than anything, the difference will be Wilkerson, who is recovering from late season surgery to fix a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. But by watching him in camp thus far, he’s close to 100 percent.

To answer your question about the linebackers, I’m not sure any of them are every down players. That said, I’m not so sure defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is upset with that. He says each player – Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Jonathan Casillas, Stanley Arnoux – can each do something different than the other players, meaning he’s happy with the way each is playing in camp. It also helps him to vary the defense up.

Q: Have they ever considered bringing in Jeff Garcia for a tryout? I always thought he'd be the perfect backup for Drew if he ever go down for a period of time. – Raymond Gable,  Somewhere, United States

A: Jeff Garcia is too expensive. I, too, think he’d be a good backup quarterback, but I would believe that right now, he still thinks he can start. Who knows, however. Patrick Ramsey has struggled in camp. His rust isn’t being knocked up quick enough, though he is showing signs up picking up the offense and making the right decisions even if his throws aren’t always there. Plus, something tells me the team likes what they’ve got in Chase Daniel and aren’t ready to give up on him just yet. Garcia, right now, will remain on the outside looking in.
 

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