Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Saints Nation: Amit's Take - Analyzing the Saints Secondary

Saints Nation welcomes Amit to the writing staff as he tackles the secondary changes in his first post:

A year ago, I would have said that the Saints secondary wasn’t worthy of being trusted. I wasn’t wrong, as the porous secondary surrendered the big play all too often. The secondary blowups started from week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and continued all the way through week seventeen against the Carolina Panthers. The 23rd ranked pass defense was a major Achilles’ heel for the team, and was in large part responsible for the Saints not making the postseason.

Last offseason, the Saints made only three upgrades to the secondary by signing Randall Gay and Aaron Glenn and drafting Tracy Porter. Randall Gay proved to be a reliable if not solid corner, and Tracy Porter was a pleasant surprise in the secondary…until Week 5 when he dislocated his wrist against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. Beyond those two players, the performance of the other players was spotty at best.

This offseason, Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis made it a point to improve the secondary. The signing of Jabari Greer to a four year $23 million contract was the first of many moves that the Saint's front office made in an effort to improve the pass defense. They followed up that move by choosing not to re-sign FS Josh Bullocks, who just seemed to get lost in the back end play after play. Following that was the release of CB Mike McKenzie, a controversial move given that McKenzie was a consistent playmaker in the Saints defense. But McKenzie's massive contract coupled with two major knee injuries made him a financial liability. The Saints also signed FS Darren Sharper, S Pierson Prioleau, and released S Kevin Kaesviharn. Finally, they drafted CB Malcolm Jenkins and S Chip Vaughn.

Let’s compare the 2008 Saints secondary to the current Saints secondary:

2008 Secondary

CB Starter1 Mike Mckenzie(after game 2) (WOULD BECOME INJURED)

CB Starter2 Tracy Porter(5 games, then JD) (WOULD BECOME INJURED)

CB Nickel Randall Gay(started after MM injury)

CB Dime Jason David(started after TP injury)

CB Depth Usama Young, Aaron Glenn (injured), Leigh Torrence

S Start Kevin Kaesviharn (1st half of season), Josh Bullocks(2nd half), Roman Harper

S Depth Kevin Kaesviharn, Josh Bullocks, Chris Reis

2009 Secondary (as of now)

CB Starter1 Jabari Greer

CB Starter2 Tracy Porter

CB Nickel Randall Gay

CB Dime Malcolm Jenkins

CB Depth Leigh Torrence

CB Depth Jason David

S Start Darren Sharper, Roman Harper

S Depth Pierson Prioleau, Chris Reis, Chip Vaughn, Usama Young

Quite a difference from a year ago. To give some perspective, Jason David went from starting last season to practicing with the third team at minicamp last week.

Clearly, the Saints made some great moves in their secondary in an attempt to prevent other teams from passing all over them. But perhaps the biggest move they made was signing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Not only will Gregg Williams’ scheme improve the pass rush which in turn will help the secondary by limiting the amount of time the quarterback has to throw, but Williams also has a reputation for making players more aggressive. The secondary may give up the big play every once and awhile, but they will create the big play (turnovers) more often.

The front office made a frantic effort to improve the secondary, and hopefully their efforts will push the Saints deep into to playoffs and into the Super Bowl. We will see.