Friday, 17 February 2012 17:01

Saints quandary: Colston or Nicks and new Spagnuolo defense

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TSpagnuolohe Saints may be made to choose between Marques Colston and Carl Nicks. Ultimately with other priorities, a talented bunch of wide receivers and concerns about Colston's balky knee, the Saints will probably let Colston enter the market.

If the Saints and Drew Brees are unable to reach an agreement in two or three weeks, the team will probably put the franchise tag on him. If Brees remains as a player with a franchise tag, he will not have to go to training camp or play in preseason games.

Brees isn't the kind of guy to miss camp or preseason games. The Saints believe they can host the Super Bowl this season.

While the New Orleans Saints revamp their priorities due to free-agency and attrition, there is the other major issue--a new defense.

The Saints scored a big victory when they hired Steve Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator.

He was the guy Sean Payton had targeted for this job, probably even before previous defensive coordinator Gregg Williams left for St. Louis and a Reunion with Jeff Fisher.

If you want to know about Spag's defense, don't think too much about the St. Louis team he had been coach of since 2009. Think more about the Giants, when he was their defensive coordinator in 2007 and '08. The Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 season.  Prior to that, Sprags had a long run as an assistant with the Eagles, who played in four NFC Championship Games during his tenure. He worked for the Eagles from 1999 through 2006.

In 2009, he decided to become head coach of the Rams and suffered through one of the most painful first seasons you can imagine, with a talentless team that might as well have been called the Sacrificial Rams. He was fired after last season. He still had a team meeting and told his players and told them how much he appreciated them and that he would remain their biggest fan.

Eagles coach Andy Reid was the first to call him. Twelve days late, after his head was cleared, he started talking with teams. The Falcons were interested. The Vikings called. So did the Colts. And then the Saints did. In the ultimate irony, Fisher, who had replaced Sprags in St. Louis, had lured Williams from the Saints.

So the question is why did Spags choose the Saints over the other teams?

"I don't know how to say it,"  he told Anthony Gargano of  the Philadelphia Daily News. "It wasn't picking one team over the other. I was blessed to have a few opportunities.  I just felt like New Orleans seemed like the right thing to do. I didn't make a ledger and compare coaches and quarterbacks.

"I didn't compare people. I know there was a lot of speculation about that. The truth is I just felt like New Orleans was the right place."

His theory of defense is a lot like we saw out of the Giants this postseason. It relies on a lot of pressure from the front four and not much blitzing.  Spags prefers tall/angular cornerbacks that can play man-to-man coverage and also likes playmakers at safety. He will make changes in the defensive personnel.

Cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Patrick  Robinson probably can fit in the Sprags profile, but Tracy Porter might not. Free safety Malcolm Jenkins could be a playmaker, but strong safety Roman Harper will have to improve his coverage skills.

Will Smith is the Saints' only proven pass-rusher and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis can generate some push in the middle, but the Saints will have to add another pass-rusher.  Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma has had knee issues and linebacker Scott Shanlee turned 32 in  November.

Make no mistake about it, Spags thirsts for another chance at a top job, perhaps even more now that he's had that experience. He liked being in charge and he'd like redemption.  He'd like St. Louis to be for him like Cleveland was for Bill Bilichick, who was fired there in his first-head coaching job.

For now, the Saints got the man they wanted to direct their defense.

by Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former media relations director for the New Orleans Saints, columnist for The Times-Picayune, sports editor for the Harrisburg America, media relations associate for NFL Pro Bowl and Super Bowls and owner of Louisiana Sports Talk website.

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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