Photo by Courtesy New Orleans Saints/Michael C. Hebert
The New Orleans Saints are 3-0 after the first three weeks of this season, which is a complete turnaround of last year's 0-3 start. The turnaround may be due in large part to how much the Saints' defense has improved over last year.
In the first three games of the 2012 NFL season, New Orleans gave up 459 total yards against the Washington Redskins, 463 total yards against the Carolina Panthers and 510 total yards against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Compare that to this year: The Saints gave up only 367 total yards against the Atlanta Falcons, 273 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 247 yards against the Arizona Cardinals. All told, the Saints gave up an average of 477.3 total yards per game last season, but this season they're down to 295.7 total yards per game. That is a difference of 181.6 total yards per game in the first three weeks.
The Saints have improved in both passing and rushing defense. New Orleans allowed an average of 215 yards on the ground last season compared to just 111.3 rushing yards this season.
Only one opponent, Tampa Bay, has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Saints' stout new defense. Both Atlanta and Arizona failed to even reach 90 yards rushing.
During last season's 16 games, New Orleans was only able to hold three opponents to under a 100 yards rushing. The Saints are just one game away from equaling last year's total in just three games this season.
New Orleans began the season with a defensive goal-line stand to defeat the Falcons which immediately proved this year's progress. Last season, the Saints allowed 28.4 points per game. Only one other team, the Tennessee Titans, allowed more points per game than New Orleans did last season with 29.4.
The Saints are only allowing 12.7 points this season, which puts the team in fifth place in the league through three games. Right now, New Orleans has the fourth-best defense overall in the NFL.
By allowing few rushing yards, the New Orleans defense is not getting beaten on play action passes.
One of the big reasons for the Saints defensive turnaround is defensive end Cameron Jordan. Either the light has finally clicked on for Jordan, or new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has found ways to put Jordan in positions where he can succeed. Either way, Jordan has three sacks and one forced fumble in three games this season. He has three forced fumbles and nine sacks in his first two years in the league.
Jordan is finally looking like the player the Saints hoped he would become when the team grabbed him in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. It's likely New Orleans wishes they could say the same about Mark Ingram, their other first round pick that year.
The Saints' opponent on Monday Night Football Sept. 30, the Miami Dolphins, are averaging 24.7 points per game. The Saints' opponent last week, the Arizona Cardinals, were averaging 24.5 points through two games but left New Orleans at the end of the game with just seven total points.
The Saints defense has been so good that it's best to go low when predicting the score in the Saints Score Facebook game. Pick wisely to win that $25 dollar gift card to Cool Al's.