The New Orleans Saints hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan during the offseason, and that was a move that was met with a lot of disdain and confusion. Four games into the 2013 season, the Saints are sitting at 4-0 and atop the NFC South thanks to an explosive offense and a defense that is reminiscent of the Dome Patrol from the late 80s and early 90s.
Longtime Saints fans will remember the Dome Patrol, and why shouldn't they? The NFL Network rated them as the number one linebacker corps of all time, and with very good reason. From 1986 through 1992, the quad group combined for 18 Pro Bowls including a trip together in 1992.
Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Vaughan Johnson, and the late Sam Mills made up the group known as the Dome Patrol. They are often looked at as bringing about the best defensive unit that the New Orleans Saints have had in the franchise's history.
Only now, there is a group of young players and back-ups, outfitted in black and gold, that may very well compare.
In 2012, the Saints had the horrific distinction of being the worst statistical defense in the history of the NFL. As they started this season, they dealt with losses of Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Victor Butler, and Brodrick Bunkley who all got injured early on.
The Saints are looking at a defensive front rotation of:
- Akiem Hicks - second year
- Cameron Jordan - third year
- John Jenkins - rookie
- David Hawthorne - sixth year
- Curtis Lofton - sixth year
- Parys Haralson - eighth year
- Martez Wilson - third year
- Tyrunn Walker - second year
- Glenn Foster - rookie
Chances are you have never heard of some of these guys, or if you have, you just first heard about them within the last season or two. Yet, that doesn't matter to them. They aren't looking for recognition. They are looking to get the job done, and that's exactly what they've been doing.
The Saints are currently ranked fifth in opponent's passing yards, 22nd in opponent's rushing yards, and giving up only 204.6 yards per game.
The Saints are allowing only 13.8 points per game.
The Saints have already racked up 12 sacks, seven interceptions, six forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. They have a +5 turnover ratio and that is way above how last year looked.
Sure, the Dome Patrol may have been limited to a set of four Hall of Fame caliber linebackers, but they made the defense of the Saints for seven seasons. They brought about a veracity and fear that was put into the hearts of opponents to cause them to make mistakes and turn the ball over.
Maybe it has only been four games. Maybe they haven't racked up the types of numbers that the Dome Patrol had. That still doesn't change the fact that the Rob Ryan-led Saints defense is helping them hold leads, cause turnovers, and win games.
I'm not entirely sure what name can be given to this new groups of defensive youngsters and back-ups, but they're patrolling the dome and putting up victories.
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