New Orleans Saints

Can Steve Spagnuolo's Blitz-Shy Defense Get Any Pressure on the Quarterback?

METAIRIE, LA - MAY 24:  Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo of the New Orleans Saints looks on as his team participate in OTA's at the Saints Practice Facility on May 24, 2012 in Metairie, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Jason BernosContributor IIJune 15, 2012

When you take a look at the New Orleans Saints' stats sheet for the past couple of years, one interesting observation can be made.

The leading sacker from each year wasn't a defensive end. In fact, a defensive end hasn't led the team in sacks since Will Smith in 2009, and even he has had a pair of disappointing seasons since. 

This stat makes a little more sense when you think of how blitz-heavy Gregg Williams' defense was. His defenses were dependent more on the chaos factor and less on using the defensive line for pressure.

Williams' sent blitzers at an insane clip these past three seasons in New Orleans. Steve Spagnuolo will look to lower that number and concentrate on creating pressure with his front four.

In other words, what he does best. 

His impact on a defense should not be dismissed because it could be as big as Wade Phillips turning the Texans into a top five defense. That's what kind of impact he can have. 

His specialty is getting the most out of his defensive lineman, ends specifically. In his first year as a defensive coordinator in 2007, Spagnuolo got nine sacks out of a soon-to-be-retired Michael Strahan. That same year, Osi Umenyiora racked up 13 sacks, and a then-unknown Justin Tuck pitched in 10 despite only starting two games.

His teams have consistently gotten above 40 sacks a season with the exception of his first year in St. Louis, a 1-15 team. 

Despite winning a Super Bowl, his work in St. Louis might have been the best showcase of his defensive genius. I'm sure Saints fans remember those close, hard-fought wins New Orleans had in '09 and '10 over the Rams, and the terrible loss this past season to them.

Those teams never went away—even with the amount of injuries and cast-offs it had to endure. 

No one should question this man's defense wizardry, especially since he got 10.5 sacks out of journeyman James Hall, who was reportedly being brought in for a visit. 

If he can do wonders like that, imagine what he can do with a young lineup of Cameron Jordan, Martez Wilson and Junior Galette. Smith will join in that mix when his suspension is over. Greg Romeus' season-ending injury on Wednesday hurts the depth a little bit, but Turk McBride will fill in adequately.

Those players should all see a big improvement in their play with Spags in control of the defense. That should bode well for a team that sorely needs some pass rush out of their ends, as evidenced by a strong safety leading the team in sacks last season.

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