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Sixteen games have passed since Week 1, when the Saints needed a late, inconsequential touchdown just to reduce the Vikings’ victory margin to 10 points.
New Orleans has lost numerous players to injuries. Other players have grown into more significant roles. Chemistry developed, and coaches became more adept at playing to the strengths and covering up weaknesses of various players. The result has been a NFC South championship and a victory in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.
”There are some similarities in regards to scheme. But when you go through the course of an NFL season and you look at the attrition that takes place, there’s – shoot – eight or nine of our (regulars) that were playing in that game that aren’t playing in this game,” Payton said Monday. ”You begin to take shape as the season progresses as to who you become.”
Seven players listed as starters in Minnesota in Week 1 won’t be playing for New Orleans this weekend. Running back Adrian Peterson was traded after four games. Six others are injured: left guard Andrus Peat; right tackle Zach Strief; defensive end Alex Okafor; linebackers A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone; and safety Kenny Vaccaro.
In addition, tight end Coby Fleener, a regular in the passing game to start the season, is on injured reserve.
As Payton discussed the most striking aspects of the Saints’ evolution this season, he began by highlighting ”the amount of guys we’ve had to replace and the new faces that are stepping up.”
Payton complimented the way linebackers Craig Robertson and Manti Te’o have handled increased roles. Robertson has two sacks, two interceptions, five tackles for losses, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Te’o has made or assisted on 62 tacklers, including seven for losses, and has a fumble recovery.
Payton also named tight end Josh Hill, guard Senio Kelemete, cornerback P.J. Williams and fullback Zach Line in a similar vein. Hill had a touchdown and key first-down catches in New Orleans’ playoff triumph over Carolina. Kelemete http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-harrison-phillips-jersey , pressed into service often this season because of injuries, filled in at guard after Peat fractured his fibula against the Panthers.
Williams, a third-year pro who missed nearly all of his first two seasons with separate injuries, has two interceptions this season and saw increasing playing time in five-defensive-back formations because of Vaccaro’s injuries.
Line, who scored a short TD against Carolina, wasn’t on the regular-season roster until Oct. 4.
The contributions from such players have been ”the most encouraging thing,” Payton said, adding that ”the resiliency and the fight” of his team ”is something that’s great to be around.”
New Orleans’ defense, in particular, has played much better since the Minnesota loss, when the Saints gave up 470 yards and allowed the Vikings to convert nine of 14 third downs.
”We’ve been playing together for a while now, so we kind of know the strengths and the weaknesses of the guys. We know how to play together, we know where people are going to be and so we’re a lot more confident,” Te’o said. ”Week 1, we were a relatively young team as far as experience goes and as far as time together.”
Now, Te’o said, ”We kind of know who we are and what we can do and what our strengths are … and also what things we need to work on.”
Offensively T.J. Green Jersey , the Saints have evolved as well, particularly with the emergence of versatile running back Alvin Kamara, who put up regular-season numbers (728 yards and eight TDs rushing, 826 yards and five TDs receiving and a kickoff return TD) worthy of rookie-of-the-year consideration. His immediate comfort with Payton’s scheme precipitated Peterson’s trade to Arizona.
Meanwhile, receiver Ted Ginn, known primarily as a deep threat before the Saints acquired him in the offseason, demonstrated enough chemistry with quarterback Drew Brees as the season progressed to convert key first downs on intermediate routes as well.
”I believe that we are different. We didn’t know what we had in store,” Ginn said when comparing the Saints to Week 1. ”We messed around with a lot of options, a lot of different players, different things like that. But as the season went on, we kind of found our mojo.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Chandler Jones had an All-Pro season as an outside linebacker in 2017, leading the NFL in tackles with an Arizona Cardinals franchise-record 17.
Now he’s a defensive end, a position that could mean even more trouble for opposing quarterbacks. His only duties: set the edge to stop the run or get to the quarterback, something Jones does with a vengeance.
There’s a viral video of Jones wreaking severe damage on a blocking sled earlier in camp.
“Just too powerful” he explained.
But there’s more than power to the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jones’ game.
“The guy has great length, good speed off the ball Derick Brassard Jersey ,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said. “He has that sliver technique to be able to get around the edge of the tackles, and he’s physical. He can turn that speed into power and create some momentum getting back to the quarterback. He has it all, and hopefully we can continue to build on what he had last year.”
Jones came to the Cardinals from New England in March of 2016 in a trade that sent a second-round draft pick and guard Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots. Because the Cardinals played a 3-4 defense under coach Bruce Arians, Jones had to learn to drop back in pass coverage as well as rush the passer and try to stop the run.
He handled the transition well.
Jones had 11 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2016 and, in March of last year, signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract that offseason, with $53 million guaranteed.
In the 2017 season, Jones lived up to those big numbers. Not only did he lead the league in sacks but also in tackles for loss with 28, well ahead of the second-best performance, 21 by Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney.
“I feel like if you want to be labeled an elite defensive end, you can’t be just a pass rusher,” Jones said. “You have to be good on all cylinders and definitely setting the edge and defeating the run is one of them. That’s one thing I tried to take pride in last season and hopefully I can carry that forward to this season.”
Now 28 and entering his seventh NFL season, Jones wants more.
His goal, he said, is to do “better than I did last year.”
“There’s never a perfect season,” Jones said. “I can sit here and tell you a handful of plays that I left out there last season and hopefully I can capitalize this year.”
With Arians’ retirement and the arrival of Wilks Jake Guentzel Jersey Kids , Jones is moving back to the 4-3 defense that he played with the Patriots. It means going back to a three-point stance instead of standing up as an outside linebacker.
“It’s not that hard,” he said. “You just have different terminology. You attack offenses different, but it’s not that big of a difference honestly.”
“He hasn’t had a problem with that at all,” he said. “You go look back at some of the things he’s done in the past. He’s put his hand on the ground before.”
Jones likes the new defense.
“I feel like guys are flying around a lot more,” he said. “There’s less thinking. There’s one-gap assignments and everyone is flying to the ball.”
Jones will get some edge-rushing help from the return of Markus Golden, who had a team-high 12 1/2 sacks in 2016 but played in just four games a year ago before a season-ending knee injury. Golden is on the physically unable to perform list but could be back before the season begins.
“Markus is a vocal leader,” Jones said. “He’s a guy that you can feel his presence out there but not by just his game play. I’m excited to have him back he’s a ‘hoorah’ guy and a hell of a player on top of that.”
Meanwhile, Jones and left tackle D.J. Humphries have had some spirited battles already in training camp as Wilks encouraged physical play. Humphries is lucky to have the practice, Jones said.
“I told D.J. yesterday, ‘You know what? You’ll never go against someone in a game that’s like me’ and I say that proudly because there’s not a lot of guys that do the moves that I do. I told D.J., ‘If you can stop me on a consistent basis, you’ll be fine.'”
Notes: Wilks said LB an MRI on LB Deone Bucannon’s knee showed no structural damage and the player’s availability in training camp would be evaluated “day to day.” Bucannon banged his knee against WR Brice Butler’s helmet on Thursday. … Several thousand people attended the team’s “Red and White Practice” on Saturday.
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