With Sunday's big game between the Dolphins and Saints nearing, it's time to get to know our opponent better. To do that, let's welcome in "Saintsational" from Canal Street Chronicles. You can also head over to his blog sometime today to check out what he asked me about the Dolphins.
I could go on and on about Drew Brees - as I'm sure you could. But I've been more impressed with your offensive line. They've only allowed five sacks this season after allowing just 13 last year. But it seems like that unit gets overlooked despite a year and a half of outstanding play. Why is this?
It's easy to get overlooked as an offensive line when your splendid play means Drew Brees has plenty of time to rack up ridiculous stats and garner lots of attention. But you're absolutely right, those guys have been very impressive as a unit. Interestingly enough, the offensive linemen were all applauded by coaches and fans alike this week after they shut down the touted pass rush of the Giants number one defense this past Sunday. Even better, we're finding out that backup left tackle Jermon Bushrod may be just as good, if not better, than the Saints starting Pro-Bowl tackle Jammal Brown.
Last season, the Saints were just 28th in the NFL in rushing. But they've seemed more committed to a balanced offense in 2009, leading to an average of 10 more rushing attempts per game this year ranking 4th in the league in rushing. What do you attribute this sudden rushing attack to and how will New Orleans continue to use their three talented backs?
You've done your homework, young grasshopper. The revival of the Saints ground attack post-Deuce McAllister can mainly be attributed to a renewed effort by head coach Sean Payton to dedicate his team to running the football. A balanced offensive attack was something he seemed to pick up on only late last season. Prior to that, it seemed he felt only Drew Brees could win games. That was also the time the Saints picked up Mike Bell, who had a great training camp this season and filled in remarkably for Pierre Thomas during the first two games of this year. It also doesn't hurt that the Saints have had a lead all season and don't need to pass the ball a ton in an effort to come from behind.
As far as what the future holds, I think what we saw this Sunday against the Giants is what we can expect for the rest of the season now that both backs are healthy: Pierre Thomas as the main rusher with Mike Bell coming in for short-yardage and goaline work.
The biggest improvement from last year to this year has got to be the drastic improvements made on defense. Through six weeks, the Saints are 9th in total defense - which probably surprises many football fans. Is this all because of Gregg Williams? Which players have made the biggest impact to this incredible turn-around?
Most of it really does have to do with Gregg Williams. He has completely changed the culture of this defense as a whole and has already gotten so much more out of mostly the same players from previous years. Williams' defense emphasizes blitzing, turnovers and populating the ball; all in an aggressive manner. Former defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs ran a very plain scheme but Williams has proven these guys are capable of so much more.
The rest of the improvement can be credited with the great play of wise off-season acquisitions like safety Darren Sharper - the league leader in interceptions - and cornerback Jabari Greer.
Clearly, the Giants' gameplan to slow your offense didn't work too well. But you've seen the Saints play for the past few years with Drew Brees under center. If you were a defensive coordinator, how would you attempt to contain Brees and New Orleans' passing attack?
Chances are, the Saints have more talented receivers than opponents have talented defensive backs to cover all of them. There is always going to be a mismatch so the most important thing for defenses to do is get to Brees quickly. If Brees doesn't feel any pressure, he'll find the open man every time. The Giants never did this last week and it's what did them in. To be successful, teams must bring pressure from all angles, keep their hands in the air and cause as much confusion and disruption as possible.
How do you see Sunday's game playing out? And what do you think will be the biggest single factor in the outcome of the game?
I hope this doesn't come off as cocky but not only do I think the Saints have a very good chance of winning this game, I expect them to win. The Saints have looked just too good thus far for me to think otherwise.
The Wildcat is certainly my biggest concern. The Saints have already faced teams that also utilize the Wildcat but the Dolphins are the real deal and have perfected it. Keeping it contained and not letting it bite them in the ass will be most important for the Saints defense.