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Saints' defense likely to decline

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Aug. 01, 2010 @ 12:27 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

This is the 26th in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.

Projecting the fantasy value of defenses prior to the season can be a futile task.

There are only a few teams that consistently field one of the league's best defenses, and even the Steelers and Ravens of the world have a down year. Then again, one team's defense could surprise us.

One of the questions facing fantasy owners this season is whether the Saints, who had one of the top fantasy defenses in 2009, can be counted on to produce turnovers at the same rate they did last season. Are they deserving of the No. 4 ranking they received in the PFW/Yahoo! Sports 2010 Fantasy Football Guide?

New Orleans' "D" ranked just 25th in the league in '09, but it forced 39 turnovers, which was the second-most in the league, and scored eight touchdowns.

FS Darren Sharper made nine interceptions and scored three touchdowns on his own.

It was a remarkable performance inspired by the addition of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who made the Saints' defense into an aggressive, opportunistic unit during his first year on the job.

There were issues, however, with this "D" that are still concerning heading into the 2010 campaign.

New Orleans' run defense gave up nearly 140 yards per game in the final 11 regular-season games and 5.2 yards per carry in the playoffs. The addition of DE Alex Brown, who is more of a run stopper than a pass rusher, could help the Saints clamp down vs. the run. But aside from signing Brown and a couple other decent veterans — DE Jimmy Wilkerson, who is coming off a torn ACL, and SLB Clint Ingram, who is still recovering from surgery — the team didn't add any pieces significant enough to inspire hope that things will drastically change.

Plus, Sharper may be unable to produce at the same level. He underwent microfracture surgery in the offseason and it's unclear when he'll be back at full speed. At some point, age will catch up to the 34-year-old Sharper, if it hasn't already.

The Saints have talented players, including DE Will Smith, MLB Jonathan Vilma and CB Jabari Greer, at every level of their defense, but when it comes to drafting a fantasy "D," owners ought to think twice before betting on the Saints to produce at an '09 level in 2010.

They might not be able to overcome their deficiencies with takeaways this time around.

 

For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.

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