Saints will need to retool the defense to have success

daniels    For those who think the absence of head coach Sean Payton would have made a huge difference in the outcome of the 2012 season, a Sunday night loss at Denver provided a painful dose of the truth.
    The Saints’ defense, worst in the league, is the biggest culprit in a 2-5 start.
    Peyton Manning threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints. But the most alarming numbers were these: the Saints allowed touchdown drives of 93 and 98 yards. And the Saints’ defense allowed 225 rushing yards.
    As Payton watches his defense perform poorly, he understands the problem isn’t the coaching of coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Payton understands that the talent on the Saints’ defense must be upgraded quickly to give Drew Brees a chance to win another Super Bowl.
    In both free agency and the draft, a total retool of the Saints’ defense will be the No. 1 offseason priority.
    That the Saints’ defense is this bad is puzzling, considering the attention the defense has received at the top of the Saints’ draft board. For four consecutive seasons, the Saints spent a first-round pick on defense.
    In 2008, it was University of Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. A year later, the Saints selected Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. In 2010, the Saints selected Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson with the final pick of the first round. And, in 2011, the Saints selected California defensive end Cameron Jordan with the first of two Round 1 selections.
    What the Saints have received in return is a defense that cannot stop the run, rush the passer with any consistency or create turnovers.
    On Sunday night’s Saints vs. Broncos national telecast, analyst Cris Collinsworth said the Saints coaching staff told him that middle linebacker Curtis Lofton was the club’s best player on defense. That was telling indeed, considering that the Atlanta Falcons let Lofton depart in free agency.
    Even the return of linebacker Jonathan Vilma from suspension has not stemmed the flow of big plays from the opposition.
    In the meantime, for the first time in five years, the Saints will be playing games that aren’t relevant in the NFC playoff picture.
    If the Saints, as expected, beat the Eagles Monday night, they have three wins with the teeth of the schedule remaining.
    In the next six weeks, the Saints play Atlanta twice, are home versus San Francisco and then travel to play the New York Giants.
    The combined record of those teams is 18-4 (pending San Francisco’s game last Monday night vs. Arizona). The Saints would have to win six of their last eight games to have a winning record.
    With the current woeful state of the Saints’ defense, the only path to victories appears to be when the club’s franchise quarterback plays lights out.
    2012 is looking like a rerun of 2007, when the Saints finished 7-9.
    Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .