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Payton Moved on From DC Gregg Williams

Mike Silver of Yahoo Sports reports that according to a highly placed Saints source, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had been essentially fired by coach Sean Payton, who sought a sharp change in defensive philosophy. In January, Williams’ lateral move to the St. Louis Rams was publicly portrayed as his own decision, but the source said Payton had made it clear that the Saints were moving in another direction. Williams couldn’t be reached for comment.

At least one New Orleans player believes Payton’s decision to replace Williams with recently fired Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was a move for the better, given the way offenses had adjusted to the Saints’ blitz-happy approach.

“Well, yeah, teams knew we were going to be in a blitz 90 percent of the time, and they reacted accordingly,” defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis said Friday night following the Saints’ 27-24 preseason defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “It started to be where everything was three-step drop. I feel like people started to know exactly what was going on.”

Enter Spagnuolo, who before going 10-38 in three seasons in St. Louis coordinated the New York Giants’ defense during the team’s stirring run to a Super Bowl XLII triumph. While the upheaval caused by Payton’s yearlong suspension has received the bulk of the attention from outsiders, the Williams-to-Spagnuolo switch had already triggered a seismic shift within the building.

“The scheme is drastically different,” veteran linebacker Scott Shanle says. “Under Gregg, it was man blitz, or you’re playing Cover 2. Now it’s three-deep and a lot of zone blitzes – everything is opposite, really. And ‘Spags’ isn’t a big rah-rah guy, which Gregg obviously was.”

In theory the dramatic schematic change makes the Saints less predictable, and less vulnerable to the big play.


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