When the Rams and Saints square off Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, there will be no one more familiar with the opposition than Rams LB
In his first career meeting against his previous employer, Dunbar is quick to acknowledge this game is a bit different from the first nine he’s appeared in this year. Dunbar still works out each offseason with Saints TE Jimmy Graham, and looks forward to the opportunity to face the Pro Bowler for the first time on Sunday.
“It’s always going to have a little extra juice when you know the guys you’re playing against,” Dunbar said. “Jimmy and I work out in the summer, so we talk trash to each other back and forth. One of us has to have the edge, the upper hand. He’s tough. He’s mentally tough and he’s physically gifted. He can do everything. He’s fast, he’s strong, he catches the ball at the highest point. He’s dangerous and he’s one of the reasons they’re successful.”
The Saints’ offense also features one of the league’s best running back combos with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles. The backfield trio combines to provide 174 yards from scrimmage per game.
Following Dunbar’s departure to St. Louis, New Orleans has undergone a defensive renaissance. Three years following a Super Bowl championship following the 2009 season, the Saints’ defensive unit set an NFL record for yards allowed last year. In a year’s time and following the addition of Rob Ryan as its defensive coordinator, New Orleans is sixth in overall defense, including third against the pass.
Dunbar, who was a member of the Saints’ Super Bowl championship following the 2009 season, has viewed the valleys—and now the peak—of the Saints’ defense from afar.
“They’re fast, and physical, and I’m guessing it’s working for them,” Dunbar said. “It’s a complete turnaround from last year, so obviously, it’s worked out for them and they’re reaping the benefits of it.”
Dunbar served as a starter in his final two seasons in New Orleans, but has come into his own since joining the Rams, as he established career-bests in tackles (157), sacks (4.5) and interceptions (2) in his first year in St. Louis. Since returning from a four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2013 season, Dunbar has quickly re-acclimated himself as a key cog within the Rams’ defensive front seven. It’s a unit that figures to see quite a challenge from Dunbar’s former teammates.“I’ve played with those guys and I’ve seen those guys do it year-in, year-out, consistent in terms of putting guys in position to succeed,” Dunbar said. “They just provide so many challenges in the running and passing game.”