- Aug 1, 1997
- Reaction score
- Sunset, La
By Nick Underhill
The Saints had a clearly defined goal last winter.
The defense needed several improvements — and could still use some upgrading — but the team set its sights on significantly upgrading the interior rush. To do so, New Orleans took a chance on Nick Fairley, signing him to a one-year deal rich with incentives, and drafted defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins in the first round.
You could dismiss the moves' impact on the defense by citing traditional stats. New Orleans finished with 30 sacks in 2016 — one fewer than in 2015 and four fewer than it had in the year before that. In an NFL where sacks are king and fans ignore the process, the quick take from viewing those numbers might look like nothing changed or the situation even deteriorated.
But those figures do not tell the real story. New Orleans logged 106 quarterback hits this season after posting 64 in 2015. That means the team was around the quarterback more often, speeding up throws and inducing mistakes. Perhaps the most telling part of that equation: The defensive tackles accounted for 33 of the QB hits after having nine the year before.
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