These past few weeks all Saints talk has surrounded Jimmy Graham and the unrestricted franchise tag. However with the draft approaching my fellow Saints correspondent and I are finishing up position breakdowns.
This year the Saints defense has done a 180. Going from one of the worst to one of the best, Rob Ryan truly has done a fantastic job of turning this part of the team around. I believe that his passion is contagious and his knowledge of the game is scary good. I once heard a former player describe Ryan as a mad scientist and that he is always thinking up new plays, just for fun.
I think he really takes the time to get to know each player and their strengths, specifically the Defensive Line. This is an interesting group. Together they make up some of the youngest on the team. Some argue that inexperience isn’t good, but I believe that they are fresh and ready to be molded. Rob Ryan has worked wonders with these young players and rookies. They have the eagerness to learn and the drive to become better.
For instance, look at how much defensive end Cameron Jordan has stepped up this year. I bet he and Rob Ryan have become good friends. Jordan has taken almost a leadership role on this line, and following his lead wouldn’t be a bad thing. This past season he had a career- high 12.5 sacks along with 66 tackles. He started in all 16 games and was selected for his first Pro-Bowl. He has speed, strength and good size. I also like how he is versatile with a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment. He also has 21.4 quarterback takedowns in his three seasons; this is something worst investing.
Anther guy you might have heard a lot about this past season is Junior Galette. Each year, his numbers get bigger. Recording 12 sacks this season, more than his last two seasons combined, Galette is finally showing his worth. Could this be due to Rob Ryan giving guys more attention and really developing them into the players they can be? Together, Galette and Jordan work as a tough pair. They are relentless with the pass rush every play and have been doing a good job with pushing the pocket back.
But the Saints defensive line also has some hidden talent. For instance, rookie defensive tackle John Jenkins. Coming out of Georgia, this 6-3, 359lbs tackle is a force to be reckoned with. In his first season, Jenkins started in 5 games of 16 he made appearances in. He recorded an impressive 29 tackles and contributed to the Saints ranking fourth in defense this year. John Jenkins doesn’t even have a picture on his bio on the New Orleans Saints online roster. This needs to be fixed since he is going to be one of the stars of the defensive line soon enough. Keep an eye out for this guy, with mentors like Galette and Jordan he will develop sooner than other rookies might.
Let’s not forget defensive end Akiem Hicks, with only 2 years of experience under his belt, he is progressing fast. Last offseason Hicks actually transitioned out of defensive tackle and has played opposite Cam Jordan in the 16 games he started last season. Like the rest of the line, he is in his prime. Young and ready to perform his best this upcoming season.
Two other rookies that show true potential are defensive end Tyrunn Walker and defensive tackle Glenn Foster. Both were not given much playing time, but when they were on the field they gave it their all. You can tell these guys want to make an impact on this team and expand their roles next season. I can’t wait to see more from these two. For the past six drafts, the Saints have chosen a defensive player with their first pick. I think that now they are stacked with young and talented guys to accomplish their main goal – another Super Bowl.
A few words to describe the Saints defensive line would be: deep, young, passionate, talented and guided. All of these words can be used to describe each individual player and coach Rob Ryan as well. This year we saw much improvement on the defensive side of the ball. If it wasn’t for the injuries of a few key players, the Saints probably could have made more of an impact this season.
In past years, the defense has suffered because there was a lack of motivation, which Rob Ryan now brings to the table. Because this defensive line is so young, there is positive feeling for the future.