The 2012 season hadn’t come to a conclusion before discontented rumblings emerged from New Orleans about defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Those rumblings and the 454 points that the Saints allowed last season combined to make Spagnuolo’s stay in New Orleans a brief one as he was fired after the season and replaced by Rob Ryan. Ryan’s moving the team to a 3-4 base look, but safety Malcolm Jenkins says that the biggest difference from last year goes beyond the way players are deployed near the line of scrimmage.
“They look different from a cultural standpoint. Last year, our defense was missing the teeth that it usually has. We were known as a defense that flew around, got to the ball, forced turnovers and hit people, but we kind of got away from those basics. So those have been just the key points,” Jenkins said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “The defense, getting that down, that’ll come. It’s a multiple defense; guys can move around, play different positions, get after the quarterback. It’s definitely fun in that aspect but we always got back to the basics: flying to the ball, trying to get turnovers, going for the interception, because that’s how we complement our offense.”
Two things come to mind in regard to Jenkins’ comments. The first is that the defense, while clearly better than it was in 2012, was still the biggest reason for the team’s playoff losses in both 2010 and 2011. The slippage last year might have kept them from even making the playoffs, but there were things that needed fixing in the culture of the defense before Spagnuolo even came to town.
The second is that the Saints still outscored their opponents last season despite those 454 points against. Should the Drew Brees-led offense continue to operate at a high level, they don’t need radical improvement in order to wind up with a winning record in 2013.