Defense paving way to potentially special Saints season
How good is this Saints defense?
Consider the fact that it has never had all of its parts together at any time this season and how good it can be when all are in place.
To start the season, there was no Sheldon Rankins and no David Onyemata. Mario Edwards was also banged up.
Trey Hendrickson started the season on fire. Then, he went down.
Onyemata returned in week two before Rankins came back against Dallas on Sept. 29 after missing the first three games.
Alex Anzalone went down prior to the season, not playing a down. Kiko Alonso was brought in and has done a solid job.
Most recently, P.J. Williams was suspended for two games.
No problem for Dennis Allen.
He plugged in C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who had a huge game against the Bears and looks the part of an NFL starter for years to come. He plays with an edge, emotional, talkative, and backs it up as a hitter and he is solid in coverage.
J.T. Gray blocked a punt for a safety against Chicago and then he went down injured. Veteran corner Patrick Robinson went down as well.
Then, in the final minute of the game, Eli Apple went down clutching his leg. His mother, Annie, later tweeted, “Thank you for all of the prayers. Eli Apple will be fine.”
While no team figures to escape any season or parts of any season unscathed on the injury front, given the very nature of the NFL game, the Saints have taken their hits and the hits just keep on coming.
Saquan Hampton was active this past Sunday and he has a good future as well.
Then, of course, there are the established players.
Cam Jordan remains an elite defensive end. Jordan has seven sacks among his 26 tackles with a fumble recovery and 12 quarterback hits. He is fourth in the NFL in sacks.
Demario Davis has 45 tackles, including three for loss and he has three passes defensed.
Marcus Davenport is making plays consistently as he progresses in year two.
A.J. Klein has 35 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Vonn Bell has graded out extremely high, according to Pro Football Focus. Bell has 46 tackles and he has four fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown.
Marcus Williams has two interceptions and a forced fumble to his credit.
Apple has done a solid job.
Marshon Lattimore has re-emerged as a shutdown corner, defensing nine passes and has an interception.
Malcolm Brown has 18 tackles, including two sacks, and Shy Tuttle is giving the Saints good snaps while Carl Granderson has a sack.
Taking away late game, garbage time statistics, including yards and scores in wins at Seattle and Chicago, the Saints have played as well defensively as anyone in the NFL this side of New England.
Funny that the Patriots should come up.
Along with San Francisco, the Patriots are the only unbeaten team in the league and they are favored in every game the rest of the way. With an elite defense, Tom Brady now has another weapon with the acquisition of Mohamed Sanu.
It would not be out of the question for the Saints to make a bold move.
They were wise to pass on Antonio Brown. Atlanta would never have dealt Sanu to its biggest rival.
A.J. Green is out there but he is hurting and his contract expires at the end of this season. The asking price by Cincinnati would be huge to astronomical.
Of course, Allen and Sean Payton, who has done a simply masterful job this season, can stand pat and wait for the walking wounded to return, including Drew Brees either this week or in two weeks.
Tre’Quan Smith, Hendrickson, Williams, Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara will return, at some point. The hope is that Apple, Gray and Robinson are not seriously hurt.
While the offense deals with its walking wounded and continues to get the job done, the defense has stepped up to shine as bright as we have seen in New Orleans since 2009. That was an awfully good season. This looks like an awfully good season in the making as well.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…