It’s finally here folks, starting this Friday 90 players will get down to the business of shaping this years team. Training camp is always a fun time when the grizzled old vets mix with the incoming youngsters and battle it out between the white lines. Camp as usual will be full of surprises when some unknown players always seem to stamp their presence like Khiry Robinson and Glenn Foster or not like Eric Martin and Chase Thomas. Make no mistake this year will be no different, some will impress while others will be sent packing.
This year’s young guns are led by Brandin Cooks, Stanley Jean-Babtiste, Khairi Fortt, Vinnie Sunseri, Ronald Powell and Tavon Rooks plus a whole new crew of undrafted free agents. But to me the most important addition to this years team is the off-season free agent acquisition of Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd, the reason I say that is the guy is a ball hawk plain and simple. The New Orleans Saints haven’t had one roaming the backside since Darren Sharper had his run with the Saints.
Even though the Saints 2013 defense looks better on paper than the Super Bowl team of 2009, it was the ability to create turnovers that made that squad special, Jairus Byrd brings this important aspect to the table.
Last year Jairus Byrd played in only 11 games for the Buffalo Bills sitting out the first 5 with a plantar fasciitis foot injury, there were rumblings coming from the Bills management that Byrd was milking the injury but Byrd playing under a one year franchise tag said he wasn’t coming back unless he was 100% and to be honest I don’t blame him.
Today I’m going to do a closer look at what Jairus Byrd does best, I have to give Buffalo credit, they used him differently depending on the team they were playing against or the groupings that were involved.
Against the Miami Dolphins in Jairus Byrd’s second game back from injury he was handed the task of spying the Dolphins TE Charles Clay, subsequently Byrd played a lot closer to the line of scrimmage at times in this game. In the screen shots below Miami tries a pick play with WR Mike Wallace coming across while TE Charles Clay goes out in the flat to the right, Byrd gets around the pick play and forces quarterback Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball away.
When the Bills came to New Orleans to take on the Saints, it was a chess match between Drew Brees and Jairus Byrd, you win some and you lose some (you got to love it) in these screen shots below, Byrd wins. The Saints are facing 3rd and 11 and try to do what they have done numerous times in the Sean Payton era, have Brees hit Marques Colston on an inside post slant to the end zone.
Jairus Byrd reads this quick, first he’s eyeballing Jimmy Graham and Drew Brees while Brees is selling the fake looking Graham’s way. Buffalo Safety Aaron Williams reacts and helps with the double team while Byrd see’s Marques Colston breaking for the end zone (this happens in a split second) Byrd’s timing is perfect, this is how you draw it up playing free safety.
But like I said it was a chess match between Drew Brees and Jairus Byrd, this time Brees wins. To be honest this was a really horrible play call by Bill’s defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Anyways WR Nick Toon does a middle deep crossing pattern taking cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Byrd with him while Kenny Stills slips underneath and does a wheel route while DE Jerry Hughes tries a futile attempt to keep up, In my opinion this was on Byrd, he didn’t recognize the severe mismatch and the result was an easy pitch and catch touchdown as seen below in the screen shots and clip. To be fair to Byrd it may have been Gilmore’s mistake by not releasing Toon to Byrd and taking Stills on the route, either way it was a busted coverage.
Next up is Tampa Bay, quarterback Mike Glennon really makes this too easy. Jairus Byrd is cheating over to Vincent Jackson‘s side because….well because he’s Vincent Jackson. Glennon makes a rookie mistake trying to force the ball to his stud wide receiver but he fails to realize where that all pro free safety is, below is a couple of screen shots and a clip of the results.
This next Byrd interception is against Pittsburgh, again Byrd is playing deep center field and cheats over to his left a bit all the while reading the quarterback’s eyes. The Steelers wide-out Markus Wheaton just runs a straight go route down the sideline, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in my opinion didn’t see Byrd other wise he wouldn’t have thrown it, the result is a Byrd interception that he returns 57 yards as shown in the screen shots and clip below.
Next up is Byrd with a sack on New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, I’m sure Saints fans are used to seeing this play at the line of scrimmage over the years as Greg Williams and Rob Ryan love to dial-up safety blitzes, Roman Harper would be proud. Initially Byrd is lined up about 5 to 7 yards off the line of scrimmage and right before Smith calls for the snap, Byrd comes up right behind his defensive linemen (He tells them something) Those two linemen seal that edge off and Byrd slips around them untouched on his way to Smith (below) The Bills didn’t use Byrd in this capacity very much but when they did the results were usually good.
Over the next month or so a lot a good stories will be emerging from Saints camp regarding the new players trying to make this team but it is what Jairus Byrd brings to the table that really has me excited. From all reports it looks like he came out of his back surgery with flying colors and should see the practice field at some point before the season kicks off and if Byrd can continue his ball hawking ways, this defense has a chance to be the best ever to put on the black and gold and with that I say to you, as always…..WHO DAT!
You can find me on twitter @eggheadwhodat if you want to talk Saints or anything for that matter, like food…and yes I am typing this hungry for some BBQ ribs