Originally written on The Saints Nation  |  Last updated 11/3/14
When the Saints hired Steve Spagnuolo to run their defense, the major hope was that they were getting an elite defensive mind minus the pay for performance program (and perhaps more) that came with some. "Spags" brings a new scheme and mindset with him, though the term that best describes his style isn't disimilar from the previous regime: aggressive. The main difference is less blitzing and less man coverage, while still putting major emphasis on getting to the quarterback. The reality of the NFL is most coaches have decent systems and most will work with the right personnel if the players buy into it. If you don't believe me, look how much success the Saints had in year one in Gregg Williams' scheme, and how much they struggled thereafter. It's not like Gregg Williams magically transformed himself from a superstar coach to a bad one in one year. There are so many variables that factor into a team having success, but the bottom line is it's the players carrying out the scheme and they are the ones that ultimately have control on performance. Obviously the Saints felt the talent level on defense was lacking as we saw a roster tweak this offseason.

Coming into the season opener this Sunday against the Redskins...  the Saints will feature four new starters. The difference is just three if you consider Will Smith will come back to start once his suspension is over. That's both significant and surprising, as the changes are big by name but low by volume. The defensive backfield will remain the exact same minus Tracy Porter, but by the end of last season Patrick Robinson had already asserted himself as a superior player. The Saints will count on Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Jabari Greer and Robinson, all guys they trusted going into the playoffs a year ago. The new "starters" if you will, are at two of three linebacker spots (Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne) and defensive tackle (Brodrick Bunkley). Will Smith will cede his starting spot for four games as mentioned, most likely to a combination of Turk McBride/Junior Galette, before regaining his deserved place the moment he returns. Ironically the one guy Saints fans have always viewed as most replaceable, Scott Shanle, is once again entranched in the starting lineup. Bunkley, Lofton and Hawthorne will dramatically improve run support and tackling, but they'll do very little to improve coverage and pressure on the quarterback. So the message is simple: the Saints believe the talent they have on defense is enough to have success if they can simply stop the run. Bunkley, Hawthorne and Lofton will help them do that. Whether or not the plan is sound is a different question. The big question remains: are McBride/Smith/Cam Jordan/Martez Wilson/Galette good enough to get to the quarterback on their own with less blitzing? That is what it will take for this defense to be successful. If the answer is no, expect a similar experience to what we suffered through as fans in the last two years of the Gregg Williams defense. Ironically, the success of this defense rests largely on those five players, five players the Saints had on their roster a year ago who didn't perform well. Granted, the Saints have the luxury of counting on those five for success because we can largely take for granted that, if healthy, Bunkley/Hawthorne/Lofton will combine to make a massive upgrade over the 2011 version of Aubrayo Franklin/Jo-Lonn Dunbar/Jonathan Vilma. But while the Saints fixed some holes, makes no mistake, they're also relying on the growth and improvement of guys that struggled last season. 

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Malcolm Jenkins on McCoy trade: Could've gotten more

Does Romo restructure pave the way for Peterson?

Todd Gurley: 2015 NFL Draft Profile

Colts' Robert Mathis hopes to be back by training camp

LeBron thought Kyrie was a ballhog when season started


Muhammad Ali rooting for a Pacquiao win over Mayweather

Report: Cowboys to restructure Tony Romo's contract

Blake Griffin frustrated with lack of fan support at home

Eli Manning expects Giants' offense to take off in 2015

Bruce Irvin apologizes for DUI April Fools' joke

Report: LeBron James calls plays, David Blatt repeats them

Westbrook: I'm not Angry Man off the court, I'm a chill guy

Fourth man sentenced in 2007 killing of Sean Taylor

Players who could have their arbitration years bought out

Rookie of the Year: Should there be a winner?

What's next for the Phoenix Suns?

Aaron Rodgers to appear on celebrity version of 'Jeopardy!'

Dark horse Cy Young candidates

Final Four fact or fiction

Five worst situations at quarterback in NFL

Young sportswriter behind Cam Newton column speaks out

Tom Brady posts Photoshop as April Fools' joke on Facebook

'Zo on MJ: He would average almost 50 in today's NBA

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dark horse Cy Young candidates

Final Four fact or fiction

Why WrestleMania 31 was an all-time great

Five worst QB situations in NFL

WATCH: Curry drops CP3 with crossover

Durant wants to spend career in OKC

This isn’t Tom Izzo’s greatest March masterpiece

Are the Angels being overlooked?

Top 20 players in the Final Four

Report: Tiger's plane spotted in Augusta

Moss shares story on meeting Deion

Five coaches already on the hot seat

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.