It looks like Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette has taken a few pointers from pop music icon Beyoncé — it was time for defensive upgrades.
Out with the old ...
On Thursday, Galette said he’s welcomed lineup changes in recent seasons — personnel moves that he said sent teammates packing, allowing more talented guys like strong safety Kenny Vaccaro and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton space in the Saints locker room.
In with the new ...
“The guys they replaced them with were better than the guys we had here,” Galette said. “It’s not even close. Across the board. Each player you can name.”
In recent weeks, Saints players have defended coordinator Rob Ryan, who took over a unit which tallied an infamous effort during the 2012 Bountygate season — one of the worst in league history — then rebounded to earn a top-five defense ranking (2013) to this season’s rank of 31st out of 32 teams.
Comparisons to the Saints of the recent past and present have become a subject of conversation during the franchise’s up and down defensive play of recent seasons. While execution is still considered the primary reason, leadership (or lack of) has also crept into many of these conversations.
While Will Smith may not have been as productive a pass rusher during his final season with the Saints, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma not as nimble in his middle-of-the-field mechanics and strong safety Roman Harper not as sound in his technique, they were believed to be well-respected.
Not enough for Galette.
He’s a much bigger fan of Vaccaro, now in his second season, and defensive Cameron Jordan, a fourth-year pro who made the 2013 Pro Bowl. Also, Lofton, now in his seventh NFL season, including his third with the Saints.
“I’d take Kenny Vaccaro over any (former) safety,” he said. “And Cameron over any defensive end. (Free safety) Jairus Byrd (signed last offseason) over any safety. And Lofton is putting up numbers that Vilma never put it. It is what it is.”
Robinson, Cadet at full go
The Saints on Thursday afternoon moved two steps closer to becoming healthy at running back Sunday against Carolina.
One day after being limited at practice, running backs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Travaris Cadet (hamstring) participated in full practice. Only fellow running back Mark Ingram was still bothered by injury (ankle/toe).
Linebacker Kyle Knox (hand) was also upgraded from limited to full participation for the Saints (5-7).
For Carolina (3-8-1), DE Mario Addison (foot), DT Star Lotulelei (ankle) and TE Greg Olsen (knee) were upgraded to limited. G Amini Silatolu (knee) and RB DeAngelo Williams (hand) missed practice for the second time this week. Also, DE Kony Ealy (illness) and C Ryan Kalil (illness) were added to the injury report, missing Thursday’s practice.