METAIRIE - Sean Payton remains confident in the moves the Saints have made to improve their defense, even if he wasn’t particularly happy with the nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns the unit gave up in a season-opening loss at Green Bay.
“I wouldn’t want to after Week 1 start trying to evaluate and make grades on, or measuring upgrades on how guys are doing,” Payton said Friday after reviewing video of New Orleans’ 42-34 loss to the defending champs a night earlier.
“We’ve got a lot of football ahead of us and we feel real good about the players we’ve acquired,” Payton continued. “Obviously, it’s always disappointing the day after a tough loss, but that’s kind of where we’re at. We’re paying close attention to the film, we’re going to make the corrections and work hard.”
Key changes on defense this season have included the addition of defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin, along with defensive ends Turk McBride and Cameron Jordan, the latter being their top overall draft pick.
At Green Bay, New Orleans played without top defensive end Will Smith, who is suspended for the first two games because of a 2008 positive test for a banned substance.
However, Saints defenders agreed that Smith’s absence did not excuse things like missed tackles and improper angles of pursuit to the ball.
Cornerback Jabari Greer said those things can be fixed as New Orleans prepares to host Chicago on Sept. 18, adding that players in New Orleans’ locker room “have the professionalism to work on it,” and, “the pride to take it personally.”
“We realize we can be a lot better. We’re going to be a lot better,” Greer said. “It’s the first game. It’s a long season. ... We’re not looking at ourselves and thinking that are worse than we are. We realize that we have a lot of talented guys in this room.”
Greer said that while New Orleans’ defense faltered early, the unit played better in the second half, forcing three punts, including one with just more than a minute left to set up a drive in which the Saints got within a yard of a potential tying touchdown.
“When the game was on the line, our guys stood up,” Greer said. “That’s respectable and admirable.”
Saints defenders were also quick to point out that the Packers have an explosive offense that can be tough for any team to stop.
“It’s almost like you faced the hardest challenge right now,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “From here it only gets better. ... If we continue to fight and play until the end like we did, once we clean up the things we need to correct, I think we’ll win a lot of games.”
The Saints had hoped that the arrival of Franklin and Rogers, bolstering an interior line already featuring Sedrick Ellis, would help shore up their run defense and allow them to pressure quarterbacks more.
The Packers rushed for 103 yards and the Saints struggled to pressure Aaron Rodgers, whose quick delivery helped him pass for 312 yards and three TDs.
“They got the ball out quickly. They did a lot of things well in the game that were hard to deal with, so as a defense we need to just continue to do things that we do and we just need to get better at some things,” Ellis said. “It’s the first game. We’ve had a shortened offseason. I don’t really think that was anything to be terribly worried about.”
Ellis added Rogers and Franklin, who could not begin practicing with New Orleans until training camp because of the NFL lockout last offseason, still need time to mesh with their new team.
“Those guys are still learning our system. We’re still learning things about those guys, so I’m still excited to get in with those guys throughout the season and see how they come along, and I think it’ll be good once we all learn each other and learn how to play off of each other.”
A person familiar with the situation said Saints receiver Marques Colston could miss about four weeks with a broken collar bone.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Saints have declined to release specifics of the injury.
Saints coach Sean Payton on Friday acknowledged that Colston was banged up in the final seconds of Thursday’s game. However, Payton says he’s not providing details until the Saints’ next injury report is due on Wednesday.
Colston’s injury raises the prospect that New Orleans could be without two key receivers against Chicago on Sept. 18. Lance Moore did not play against Green Bay because of a sore right groin and his status for the Bears game is unclear.