When training camp first got underway a couple of weeks ago Sean Payton said defensive end Cameron Jordan would at times assume the role vacated by Junior Galette in the “Jack” linebacker role (the Jack is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker). Then a few days ago the Saints release their 1st official depth chart and lo and behold there’s Jordan listed as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense.
It’s really no surprise because they could have came out with a 3-4 or a 4-2-5 or any other base defense and it wouldn’t make a difference because defensive coordinator Rob Ryan runs variations of them all depending on the team, personnel, situation, injury depth and so on.
Ryan’s defense would best be described as a hybrid defense with mixing and matching but just for the sake of starting somewhere, we’ll start with the base 4-3 defense. If the regular season started tomorrow below is how I see the starters lining up against a base offense.
Depending on the match-up this base defense is fine playing a team that uses a more traditional offense like say the Ravens for instance. Last year in the very first game against the falcons the Saints played almost the whole game in a nickel defense because the Falcons love to spread you out with 3 and 4 receiver sets.
The way the NFL has changed over the last ten years dictates multiple defensive fronts and that 3rd cornerback spot is just as important as the two outside starters. Below is a screen shot of the very first offensive play the 2014 Saints defense would see, the Saints are in a 4-2-5 defense. On your front four you have Bunkley over the A gap, Hicks with the B, Jordan with the C and Galette way over to the D.
These next two shots are the Saints playing the Ravens last year in the 3-4 defense, pretty vanilla stuff right here – when people talked of the Saints being in a 3-4 defense last year, this is it.
Now lets fast forward it to the pre-season game against the Ravens, this is the first play from scrimmage with Baltimore in a basic run formation with the fullback and two wide outs. The Saints are in their “base” 4-3 defense with Kikhaha in a ‘joker’ LB spot at the line of scrimmage as seen in the screen shot below.
Notice Vacarro in the box and Browner playing off man. The very next play Baltimore is vanilla again but spreads the receivers a little further out but watch what Ryan calls. He flips the defense (staying in 4-3) it’s like looking in a mirror but this time he brings Browner to press and has Vacarro lined up almost like a linebacker as seen below.
Take a look at that screen shot above, even though technically it is still a 4-3 all Kikhaha has to do is lean over and touch the ground and you’re looking at a 5-3-3 cover one. Now last year the Saints were a 3-4 defense correct? This is the 1st snap against the 49ers, they are in a base run formation (almost identical to the Ravens base) but instead of the 3-4 they are in a 4-3 base defense. Why is that? it’s personnel match-ups and scheme match-ups, below is a screen of it.
Lets flip it over to a more dangerous offense, the Detroit Loins. Detroit is like Atlanta, they love to spread you out and have their skill players kill you. This next set of screen shots is a typical 1st and 10 with these guys. Remember the first example I showed you with Atlanta with the nickle? this is much different on how they align and personnel..I don’t even know what to call this, I guess technically it’s a 4-2-5.
Now lets take another look back at the game this past Thursday, this is the Saints defense against the ravens on a 3rd and 7 with their starters in (I don’t go past the starters because I want a feel on what we will see) Here you have Kikhaha as a defensive end and Richardson moved inside at the DT next to Davison. Rookie Stephone Anthony is at the line of scrimmage and Vacarro is covering the slot with the Ravens 4 wide set as seen below. (*NOTE: I’m not a 100% sure that is Vacarro, I couldn’t get a clear look at the number)
And here is Ryan’s Amoeba defense where everybody just stands up confusing the QB as to where the pressure is coming from. Remember back in 2010 when the Browns upset the defending Superbowl champs? Ryan was their defensive coordinator and this Amoeba defense confused Drew Brees all day long in one of his worst days playing for the Saints. The thing about the Amoeba is that you have to use it in spots, pick and choose your poison because it can be beaten pretty easily. The purpose is to confuse but once the other QB get’s a feel for it – he can make big plays against it. It has to have the surprise element to be a success.
These examples are just a few of the looks Ryan will throw at you, for the purposes of space I limited it to just a handful of plays with the starters in. Next week after the Patriots game I will go in with a closer look at the reserves on this team. The players have said that Ryan is simplifying the defense (maybe the Dennis Allen influence?) either way we won’t know for sure until the regular season starts.
Well that’s it for today, I ll see you next week with another look at the scheme and defensive personnel that goes with it, so until then, as always…WHODAT!