- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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But, now, let’s follow that up with some numbers from ESPN Stats & Information.
As I said in the previous post, Vilma tried to play through a knee injury last season before having surgery and missing five games. Before and after the surgery, Vilma didn’t look like the same dominant player he was in previous seasons. That’s supported by the fact that the Saints got better defensively when Vilma was out. In the games Vilma played, the Saints allowed 6.0 yards per play and 5.0 yards on rushing plays. When the Saints were without Vilma, they allowed 5.6 yards per play and 4.8 yards per rush. On pass plays, the Saints allowed 6.9 yards when Vilma played and 6.3 when he didn’t.
Vilma wasn’t healthy all of last season and Smith missed the first two games while serving a two-game suspension for using a banned diuretic. But, in the games Vilma and Smith did participate in, they played a lot. Smith was in on 87.3 percent of the defensive snaps in the games in which he played -- that’s a very high number for a defensive end because most teams rotate three or four defensive ends. In the games Vilma played, he was on the field for 91 percent of the defensive snaps. The only Saints who had higher percentages in the games in which they played were safety Malcolm Jenkins (96.6), safety Roman Harper (93.9) and cornerback Jabari Greer (92.6).
Smith had a team-high 10 sacks the past two seasons when the Saints sent at least five pass-rushers. That total was the fourth best in the league over the past two seasons when using additional pass-rushers.
Smith led all New Orleans linemen with seven passes defensed/intercepted in the regular season since 2010. He also had nine tackles for a loss in that same time period.