- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009

Led by quarterback Drew Brees and his army of receivers, the New Orleans Saints are again the NFL’s high-scoring offense, averaging 40 points a game during a 3-0 start that includes consecutive road wins heading into Sunday’s matchup against the undefeated New York Jets.

The fact Brees and Co. are rolling up points and yards isn’t a shock.

The news is that New Orleans is actually playing defense.

A woeful unit last year led to an overhaul of personnel and at the coordinator spot, which former Washington Redskins defensive boss Gregg Williams took after a forgettable year in Jacksonville.

Even though the season isn’t a month old, Williams already has put his stamp on the Saints’ defense. New Orleans is giving up 27 fewer yards and nearly a touchdown less a game.

The latest win was also the Saints’ best defensive performance - a 27-7 wipeout of the Bills in which New Orleans held Buffalo to 243 yards and only 2-for-14 on third down.

“As a team we played well, and I thought our corners played well enough to give our defensive linemen a chance to get in there,” Williams told reporters Thursday. “Coverage and rush work hand in hand.”

One familiar aspect of Williams’ defense is pressure.

On 25 snaps, he rushed at least two defensive backs. Overall, he rushed five or more players 17 times.

One aspect that wasn’t used often with the Redskins from 2004 to 2007 was a 3-4 alignment. Williams now has New Orleans playing a mix of that with the traditional 4-3 alignment.

Williams’ famous package count is now at a whopping 27. The most he had with the Redskins was 21.

“One of the things we did was look at our schedule, and we’ve been plotting throughout the course of the year where it might work out for us,” he said. “We’ve worked all spring long on a kind of package against a type of offense. [Buffalo] made very few adjustments during the game to counteract that, so we just kept it going. We were ready to do other things.

“It decreases their preparation time when all of a sudden you say they’re going to have to divide the snaps in practice and what we’re going to play is up to us and not up to them.”

Williams was first exposed to the 3-4 when he hired Dick LeBeau to work on his staff in Buffalo in 2003.

“Coach LeBeau wanted to learn some Buddy Ryan stuff, so I had to spoon-feed him that and he spoon-fed me some of the 3-4 stuff,” Williams said. “When I went to Washington, I started integrating some of the 3-4 stuff.”

The Saints have taken advantage of facing Matthew Stafford and Kevin Kolb in their first NFL starts to defeat Detroit and Philadelphia, respectively. Next up is Jets rookie Mark Sanchez.

New Orleans was labeled an also-ran by some precincts in the preseason because it was unclear how Williams would mix the holdover personnel with new pieces like safety Darren Sharper.

But three games into the season, with Carolina and Tampa Bay struggling at 0-3 and Atlanta at 2-1, New Orleans should be considered one of the early-season surprises.


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