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Injuries an obstacle for Saints’ improved defense

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Dan Parr
Associate editor

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Posted Oct. 21, 2010 @ 2:57 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Heading into the season, some were predicting that Gregg Williams' defense wouldn't be able to ride a wave of turnovers to the top the way it did during the Saints' run to the Super Bowl.

The odds were against replicating its performance of 2009, when it had the second-most takeaways in the league (39), some said, and the opportunistic play that helped the team overcome some weaknesses, particularly when it came to defending the run, wouldn't be as abundant.

Through six games, that forecast is true regarding the number of turnovers, but the defense isn't suffering much because of it.

The Saints have just nine takeaways, which is well off the pace of '09. They have improved in other defensive categories, however, and the team is allowing just 18 points per game. New Orleans' "D" has been stifling at times and has given up only three touchdowns in its last 12 quarters.

That they're doing this while key contributors are missing time with injuries makes it even more impressive.

The secondary has been hit the hardest, and its depth is being tested.

FS Darren Sharper, who is coming back from offseason knee surgery, has been on the PUP list all season and just returned to practice on Oct. 20. It's still not known when he will be activated for a game. Starting CB Tracy Porter hasn't played in the past two games and is another week or two away from returning from knee surgery. The team's other top corner, Jabari Greer, suffered a shoulder injury in Week Six that could keep him out vs. the Browns in Week Seven and nickel back Randall Gay (concussion) was placed on injured reserve this week.

Players like second-year FS Malcolm Jenkins, who transitioned from playing corner to safety in the offseason, and rookie CB Patrick Robinson have had to step into larger roles, but the players appear to be well prepared. We're not even at the midpoint of the season yet, and things could change, but if the Saints weather this storm of injuries and the defense continues to play well, it's likely that rumors connecting Williams to the head-coaching jobs that could become available will emerge.

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