Saints head coach Sean Payton, leader of a consistent 5,000-yard-per-season passer, stated the obvious about his team on Friday.
They need help on defense.
“We have to improve our defense,” Payton said on Good Morning Football. “I was just asked this question earlier on the show. Specifically, we’ve got to find a way to get a couple pressure players in this draft. I think this draft is a pretty strong draft defensively when you’re looking at safety, when you’re looking at corner. It’s a strong draft at running back as well. But I think both in free agency and the draft, we’ve got to help that side of the ball. This is the year we finished in a lot of tough games and had some tough losses. But I love the draft class we just had and we need to partner with another good one.
Payton and the Saints made a solid move in the first round last year, taking defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. They went on to draft receiver Michael Thomas who, in almost any other season, could have made a case for offensive rookie of the year.
For Saints fans, it was encouraging to hear Payton mention free agency because it will take years to build this defense through the draft alone. Drew Brees told Good Morning Football on Thursday that he plans on playing for a few more years, but is also 38. This is a window that is rapidly closing.
The Saints‘ troubling discrepancy between offensive success and defensive success has been eye-opening for quite some time now. This year, New Orleans finished second in points scored and 31st in points surrendered. They were first in total yards (6,816) and 27th in yards given up (6,006). The one step forward, two steps back approach led them to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan last season and a horde of defensive assistants this season.
Any rebuilding effort takes time, but the fact that Payton is so open about it likely means he understands the time sensitive nature. The Saints had better hope the draft is as deep at corner and safety as they’re projecting.