Curtis Lofton joked Wednesday afternoon that he switched deodorants this week, part of a faux superstition — anything to overcome a rough start to the 2014 season.
“Hopefully, it comes through for me this week,” said Lofton, the New Orleans Saints’ middle linebacker.
Just as quickly as Lofton made his quip, a reporter countered, asking if the deodorant was his way of saying this season’s Saints defense stinks.
“Wow,” Lofton said, smiling. Surely, he wasn’t pleased — but hey, he realized a few swipes under the arm might help.
After all, Lofton’s defense enters Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay (1-3) as one of two units in the NFL without an interception. The other is the New York Jets.
If you haven’t figured it out, those defenses are engineered by Rob Ryan (Saints) and brother Rex Ryan (Jets).
The only way the Saints can take their franchise off the no-interception list is to emphasize turnovers in practices. Eventually, Lofton added, they will show up in games. Maybe Sunday against the Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Not if it’s up to Mike Glennon, who led Tampa Bay to a last-second win Sunday at Pittsburgh.
“They’re really doing a lot of different things, really trying to put pressure on the quarterback,” said Glennon, who last week passed for 245 of his 302 passing yards in the second half, including a five-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with 7 seconds left.
“Rob Ryan is not afraid to throw whatever defense at you. That’s the way he was last year, and that’s the way he has been this year. We’ll prepare for all of the different looks they may give.”
The road to more Saints turnovers may need to include improved tackling.
Problem is, tackling is one of the defense’s most visible troubles this season. During Sunday’s 38-17 loss at Dallas, running back DeMarco Murray took advantage, adding to his league-league rushing efforts with 149 yards and two scores.
“There’s always that happy balance,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “You have to get numbers to the ball and often times that turnover is caused with the second end or that third end. Those are also caused by a good pass rush and they are also a product of winning on the early downs and getting to those third and medium and longs.”
Think it’s been hard this season to watch the Saints?
Imagine watching the losses hours after they occur. Thanks to today’s technology, that’s what many Saints players do, long before they watch film critiques in front of coaches and teammates.
“A lot of us will watch it on the plane,” tight end Benjamin Watson said. After home games, players will do the same at home.
“Each man, individually, has to look at what he can do better.”
Juggling the running backs
Travaris Cadet saw action Sunday on 18 plays, an increase in action. Pierre Thomas played 23 snaps.
Payton said the change had to do with the offense playing in a “hurry-up, empty set which was a little bit more of a package for him than Pierre.”
Thomas has rushed 20 times for 85 yards. Cadet has three carries for 10 yards. In the passing game, Thomas has 14 catches for 110 yards, while Cadet has seven catches for 64 yards.
Thomas is preparing to face a Tampa Bay that which ranks 25th in the NFL (387.8 yards per game), including 18th against the run (115.2).
“It shows that bad things can happen to you,” Thomas said. “But if you turn them around, stay focused and believe in yourself, good things will happen.”
Center Jonathan Goodwin has dealt with foot injuries before in the NFL.
And last time, he played through it.
“In 2009, I dealt with it for three weeks,” Goodwin said. “(This season) I’m just day-to-day. I don’t think it’s as bad as that time.”
On Wednesday, Goodwin (neck) and cornerback Corey White (foot) did not participate in practice. Running back Mark Ingram (hand) and fullback Erik Lorig (ankle), both dealing with long-term injuries, did not practice, and are not expected to play Sunday. Left tackle Terron Armstead (concussion), cornerback Patrick Robinson (thigh) and middle linebacker David Hawthorne (ankle) was limited.
Armstead said he expects to play against Tampa Bay after being injured during the first quarter of Sunday’s loss at Dallas.
“Any symptoms or anything went away pretty fast, so I had a feeling I was going to be good to go for the week,” Armstead said.
Against the Cowboys, Armstead was replaced in the lineup by Bryce Harris.
For Tampa Bay, defensive end Larry English (hamstring), receiver Mike Evans (groin), safety Dashon Goldson (ankle), defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle), backup quarterback Josh McCown (right thumb) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) did not participate. Linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) was limited.