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Notebook 12/11: Saints Defense Suddenly A Strength

Posted Dec 11, 2013

Under quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton, the New Orleans’ Saints have been synonymous with the image of an offensive-centered organization for the past eight years.

That image was reinforced in the past year, when the Saints led the NFC with 28.8 points per game, but established a league record in yards allowed in a single season. While New Orleans still boasts a robust offense, it’s difficult to imagine the defensive unit could have struggled so mightily a year ago when evaluating their level of success this year.

New Orleans currently ranks sixth in overall defense, under the direction of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Ryan, who was briefly considered for the same position with the Rams last winter, has flourished in an environment that could not have appeared more difficult at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

SEE ALSO: Chat Live with DT Brockers Friday

“I think he’s a good communicator,” Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said during his Wednesday conference call with St. Louis media. “It’s not easy to come in as a coordinator, really, and come into an existing staff, and yet he’s done that in a very smooth transition. He’s an extremely loyal worker. He gets along well with everyone in the building. I didn’t know him really at all prior to this past spring, and he’s been a big addition for us and has really brought that level of excitement back for our players on defense.”

The Rams have been no stranger to top-10 defenses in recent weeks. Prior to New Orleans, they faced Arizona and San Francisco, who are currently top-five units. The Saints have been particularly adept in defending the pass, of which they rank third-best in the NFL. Rams QB Kellen Clemens was quick to acknowledge the challenge laid before him this week.

“They’re talented everywhere,” Clemens said at his weekly press conference. “They get after the quarterback. Rob (Ryan) does a nice job of mixing coverages and pressures and he does a really good job of making them look the same. So, sometimes it looks like their pressuring and they bail into coverage, looks like they’re going to cover and they bring a lot of pressure. They’re good everywhere. They don’t necessarily have a headliner necessarily, but they’re talented across the board. It’s going to be a great matchup for us.”

News and Notes:

-QB Kellen Clemens enters Sunday just 329 passing yards shy of his career-best of 1,529, established as a member of the New York Jets in 2007. Sunday will also mark his first career start against New Orleans.

-A win on Sunday would give the Rams their fourth home win of the season, and would ensure the team of consecutive seasons with a record of .500 or better at home for the first time since 2003-2004.

-Rams LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar spent the first four years of his NFL career in New Orleans, and will be facing the Saints for the first time on Sunday.

Injury report:

Rams:

WR Tavon Austin (ankle), CB Janoris Jenkins (back), CB Brandon McGee (foot) and RB Daryl Richardson (thigh) did not practice Wednesday.

Saints:

T Terron Armstead (nose), DT Brodrick Bunkley (back), S Rafael Bush (ankle), LB Keyunta Dawson (calf) and TE Josh Hill (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. DE Glenn Foster (knee) was limited.

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