Saints Defense Ranked Dead Last in ESPN’s FPI
The New Orleans Saints had a heck of a season last year on defense for the first time in a few years. There were many young players that stepped up and played major roles for that unit and this off-season all they did was add to an already strong group. Therefore, you'd assume there's no way they'd be ranked at the bottom of any list when it pertains to their defense, right? WRONG.
Apparently ESPN's Football Power Index doesn't believe in the defensive side of the football for the Saints. Here's what the analysis said regarding the New Orleans D:
“The FPI is not buying the Saints’ defensive resurgence, as the model has pegged New Orleans as having the worst defense in the NFL, though it remains a top contender because it has the best offense,” according to the analysis. “All last season, the model thought the praise being heaped on the New Orleans defense was a bit overstated, though it is somewhat surprising to see the defense ranked this low.”
So, the team brings in linebacker Demario Davis, cornerback Patrick Robinson, and safety Kurt Coleman. They bring back defensive ends Alex Okafor and George Johnson and they draft a defensive end with their first pick which they traded up to get in Marcus Davenport. Somehow this defense is going to be worse than it was a year ago? I'm not sold on that idea or the "analysis" from ESPN's FPI.
Now, I understand the defense hadn't been good in the past and some years it was historically bad. For example, when you look at all 32 teams from 2014 to 2016, the Saints were ranked fourth worst, dead last, and second worst in points allowed per game. In those seasons the Saints surrendered 28.2 points per game during all of Drew Brees’ starts, that was the worst mark among all defenses. The Chicago Bears Jay Cutler (26.1 points allowed) and Oakland Raiders Derek Carr (25.8 points allowed) ranked second and third worst in the league during that time.
One of the major culprits over the past three seasons for the defense was the secondary. This unit had a particularly dismal showing during the 2012 season, when they gave up the most yards allowed by any team in NFL history and they became the first team to ever allow over 7,000 total yards in a season to its opponents. Compare that to what the Saints allowed in 2017 which was 5,834 total yards, that ended up being about average in the NFL.
Overall, the Saints ranked 17th last season in defense, doesn't sound great but when you look at where they came from the past seasons, it's a major step in the right direction. For me, this defensive unit will keep their gas masks on and improve even more this coming season.