- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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METAIRIE, La. – One of the ongoing stories out of the New Orleans Saints is a defense that has switched schemes after ranking last in the league in overall defense last season.
After Wednesday’s practice, I caught up with one of the defensive leaders for a progress report. I talked with inside linebacker Curtis Lofton and asked if the defensive players are to a point where they’re comfortable with the system.
“I think we’re getting there,’’ Lofton said. “Our basics and our foundation are good, but we still have a lot of exotics that we’re working on. But guys are picking the system up, putting in extra time and meeting with the coaches and that’s really panned out when we come out to practice.’’
I asked Lofton if the arrival of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has brought a new identity for the defense.
“Coach Ryan’s personality, if you’re around him for 30 seconds, you know he has a huge personality and great attitude,’’ Lofton said. “He just has a great knowledge of the game. It kind of instills in us a silent confidence in ourselves. He tells us we’re the best. When a coach is telling you that, you want to go out there and make him right. We don’t have to talk about it and say we’re going to be a top 10 or top five defense. I think we have to silently go out there and let our actions speak for themselves.
But Lofton acknowledged the defense still has to shed last year’s reputation.
“Last year was last year,’’ Lofton said. “But there is that shadow that’s covering us right now. The only way to get out from underneath that is by going out there and playing great defense.’’
Lofton was optimistic the Saints can play great defense and he pointed to a couple of outside linebackers as reasons for his enthusiasm about a scheme that requires a pass rush from more than just the defensive line.
“Junior Galettte is going to be something really special,’’ Lofton said. “He’s a guy to look out for. He works hard every single snap. Will Smith has been a great pass rusher in this league for years and he’s making a smooth transition and he’s a true pro.’’