New Orleans Saints Commentary: What the Saints’ 3-4 Defense Will Look Like Under New Coordinator Rob Ryan
The New Orleans Saints have ended their search for a defensive coordinator, by hiring Rob Ryan to run their new 3-4 scheme. NFL.com’s Kareem Copeland reported the news of Ryan’s appointment.
What can Saints fans expect from Ryan’s defensive scheme? The simple answer is a mix of fronts, each tailored to heavy blitzing. For his base defense, Ryan has tended to favour a traditional, 2-gap 3-4 front.
That puts pressure on the likes of young defensive linemen Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks to draw double teams on the edge. It also means the Saints need a hulking nose tackle to occupy the middle. 4-3 veteran Brodrick Bunkley may not have the size the traditional 3-4 demands.
The Saints current personnel does feature a few weapons Ryan should find plenty of use for. Linebacker David Hawthorne is an excellent blitzer, as is strong safety Roman Harper. Ryan will scheme various pressures to free Harper and Hawthorne.
His sophisticated blitz designs could also be a boon to Martez Wilson and Junior Galette. Both are ‘tweener players, with the hybrid skills to rush from various positions. That makes them key tools for the kind of designer blitz schemes Ryan loves to employ.
While Ryan’s defense will present a 3-4 skin, he won’t be shy about moving pieces around to confuse blocking schemes. As defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys during the last two seasons, Ryan frequently moved rush end DeMarcus Ware across the formation.
He often had Ware blitz straight through the middle. Ryan also rotated his inside linebackers to the edges and let them blitz from the outside. It’s that combination of movement and pressure from all angles the Saints will hope improves the worst defense in football.
However, Ryan won’t just rely on the moving pieces of the 3-4 to disrupt offenses. He will also utilize the vaunted ’46’ front, made famous by his father Buddy and the 1985 Chicago Bears. Using the 46 will help the Saints defensive linemen during the schematic transition.
It will allow the Saints’ defensive front to line up in a T-N-T alignment. This means three defensive linemen will cover up both guards and the center directly. The Saints will be able to create instant pressure on the middle of the pocket from this front.
They have plenty of experience with 46 principles. They practiced them during the stewardship of ex-coordinator, the infamous Greg Williams, the architect of the notorious “bountygate” scandal.
Perhaps Ryan’s best front is the one defensive lineman, “Psycho” or “Amoeba” package. It is a nickel front that usually takes the form of 1-5-5. Only one defensive lineman is on the field and he aligns with his hand down.
The rest of the defenders are standing up and moving around pre-snap, to cause confusion. The Saints have bitter experience of how well Ryan uses this scheme. As defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, he used the front to stifle Drew Brees, causing a huge road upset for the Browns in 2010.
Ryan can be too scheme-heavy and his defenses have had the nasty habit of blowing late leads. However, he certainly has plenty of innovative ways to create pressure. That could be a major asset for a defense that ranked second to last against the pass and in points in 2012.