In Gregg Williams’ second full season as a defensive coordinator, the Saints made the jump from 25th to 4th overall. That’s an astronomical difference by any standard. While he and his staff deserve a tremendous amount of praise, despite what happened in the playoffs, the one glaring deficiency was takeaways. At the risk of stating the obvious, the major reason for the drop off was interceptions as the Saints went from 26 in 2009 to just 9 in 2010. Being without Darren Sharper for the first half of the season was a major reason as he had 9 interceptions alone in 2009. When he came back in 2010, he was never the same player. Does that mean the Saints need to find a playmaker as free safety? Not necessarily.
But they do need to a guy that can change the game. While they’ve turned themselves into a solid defense that can consistently stop opposing offenses from scoring, they haven’t shown in this past season that they can create big plays. Whether it’s a player of the caliber of Julius Peppers, John Abraham, Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu, or otherwise, the main objective needs to be landing a difference maker on defense. The players I just listed are living proof that you can get a difference maker regardless of the position that they play. In my estimation, that’s the only thing that’s missing from the Saints to go back to being a dominating team. Well, that and Drew Brees cutting down significantly on turnovers. As the offseason progresses we’ll take a closer look at which player might be the answer. One that immediately comes to mind: Albert Haynesworth. I know it’s got locker room cancer written all over it, but a lot of people were saying that about Jeremy Shockey… just sayin’.
The drop off in performance from Will Smith is another notable difference. Smith went from 13 sacks in 2009 to 5.5 sacks in 2010. Despite this differece, the team only went from 35 sacks in 2009 to 33 in 2010. Still, the majority of those sacks were generated by blitzes from linebackers and defensive backs. Getting more pressure from the front 4 will be crucial to making a significant improvement in 2011. That’s where the possibility of Haynesworth coming gets attractive once again. Otherwise, the Saints may want to research who the next Dwight Freeney/Peppers/Abraham might be in the upcoming draft, and get that player.