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Barry Hirstius

Is It Just a Dream — Or is the Saints Defense REALLY Good This Season?

In back-to-back weeks, the New Orleans Saints defense has been doing some things out on the football field which appear to be so incredibly far-fetched, that it stretches the imagination and completely defies the bounds of belief and reality.

In fact, if you would have told someone a few weeks ago that the Saints would put up the type of numbers that we've seen in successive Pre-Season wins over the Chargers and Texans, they would have told you that either you were dreaming, or that you were bat-crap crazy.

It was just one week ago at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California; that the Saints tallied 8 sacks, an interception, 12 quarterback hits, 13 tackles for a loss, 6 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a 13-7 win against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Photo courtesy of Layne C. Murdoch, Jr.

Not to be outdone by that performance, last night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the defense notched 4 more sacks, 9 tackles for a loss, 9 quarterback hits and 12 passes defensed while recording their first Pre-Season "shutout" of an opponent in nearly a decade (Cincinnati in 2008).

It was also only the team's 5th shutout EVER of an opponent in the team's entire 51-year history.

Through 3 Pre-Season games, the Saints have 16 total sacks -- already over half of what they only had all of last season -- and haven't allowed an opponent to score an offensive touchdown in 8 straight quarters.

All of those fancy facts and numbers listed above are just some of the very impressive statistics this Pre-Season put up by the defense so far; and while there are plenty of people that deserve recognition for those numbers, there's one man that should get more than his fair share of accolades: defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

Now well into his 2nd full year as the team's man in charge of the defense, Allen has finally gotten all of the pieces into the right places.

For Allen, it's never been a question of the scheme that's run, but simply a matter of getting the right players to "fit" into that system, and then being able to have them actually stay healthy long enough to play in it every week.

Photo courtesy of WWL TV New Orleans

The most encouraging sign is that outside of a few late 4th quarter deep passes given up to the Browns 2nd-string WR's in the 1st Pre-Season game, we haven't seen all that much of the blown assignments or coverages like the ones of the past, especially within the past 3 years worth of losing seasons.

Allen has this unit playing fundamentally sound and perhaps more importantly: an emotionally invested, inspired and passionate brand of defensive football which hasn't seen in New Orleans at least since the 2013 season, when the Saints finished ranked 4th overall defensively.

If he can just get the Saints defense to "middle of the pack" in the overall NFL defensive rankings in the upcoming 2017 regular season, it isn't all that unreasonable to think that the Saints will be a Playoff team -- assuming that they can remain healthy and avoid the injury problems that have devastated that side of the ball in recent seasons.

"We were in survival mode last year," long-time veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp told reporters in the Saints team locker room after last night's game. "This year, fortunately we've been healthy and everybody has bought in what Coach D.A. (Allen) is bringing forward - coaches and players - so it's showing."

Now before getting too worked up over the Saints' defense performance of the past 2 weeks, it's important to emphasize and stress once again:

IT'S ONLY PRE-SEASON.

Photo courtesy of Brett Coomer, The Houston Chronicle

More often times than not, what happens in the Pre-Season, doesn't always carry over to the regular season.

Which is exactly why comparisons of the Saints defense by some last night to the famous 1985 Chicago Bears defense -- considered the greatest single-season defense of all-time -- are probably a little bit premature.

But nevertheless, while it's important to remember that these games in the Pre-Season are nothing more than glorified practices or fully-padded scrimmages, it is also important to be able to have some confidence heading into the regular season. That sentiment was echoed last night by Tapp.

"Us old heads (veteran players) have to steer the ship and let everybody know it's good that we're making progress in the preseason, but honestly this doesn't mean anything."

"We have bigger things on the horizon."

Tapp might just be on to something there, to be honest.

Because if the Saints defense can become just good enough to at least complement what's expected to be another year of Top 5 caliber-play by the Saints offense, there isn't any reason why New Orleans wouldn't at least contend for a Wild Card spot in the NFC.

Photo courtesy of Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

However, that's always easier said than done; and the Saints will have to prove to everyone including themselves, that what we've seen for the past in the past 2 weeks is indicative of the things still yet to come, and not just a temporary state of being.

Is it all just a dream --- or is the Saints defense REALLY going to be good this season?

In 2 weeks from tomorrow night in Minneapolis, Minnesota against the Vikings on Monday Night Football, we'll finally get our answer........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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