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Ryan: Saints' D rallying after rough Week 1

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Not surprisingly, Rob Ryan didn’t bother sugarcoating the performance of his defense during the New Orleans Saints scrimmage on Saturday.

But the Saints’ defensive coordinator said he likes the way guys have been responding so far in the aftermath.

“First of all, we got our butts handed to us the first week of training camp. We know that, we are not hiding that,” Ryan said during his weekly visit with the media Tuesday. “We've had two good days in a row. The biggest thing is getting your run fits. That always takes a little bit of time. Once you get that down, you’ll be better. I think that’s a work in progress.

“We’ve got to be better than that, and we will.”

As is usually the case in training camp, both the offense and defense have taken turns making highlight plays or getting the “hot hand” from session to session.

The offense has generally looked sharper, especially in the run game in the first week of padded practices. That's obviously good news for the Saints' run game, which ranked as a top priority this offseason. But Ryan wants his unit to make things a little harder on the offense.

“When you’re in a 3-4 defense, you have to build a wall and set an edge. When you do neither, you look like we did on Saturday,” Ryan said. “We’ve had a couple of real good meetings on this. [Defensive line coach] Bill Johnson is doing a great job with the defensive line; he gets them right. I like what we’ve done the past two days in 3-4 defense.”

The Saints' defense has also had some headaches trying to slow down the breakout star of training camp -- dynamic rookie receiver Brandin Cooks.

But it hasn't been all bad news for the Saints' defense. Among other highlights, Junior Galette has flashed several times as a pass rusher. And the secondary has done a good job of intercepting or breaking up passes from time to time through all units -- even without safety Jairus Byrd in the lineup yet as he recovers from back surgery.

Cornerbacks Corey White, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Rod Sweeting all came up with some nice pass breakups on Tuesday (including an interception by White). And cornerback Keenan Lewis stepped up big with some pass breakups during the scrimmage when the defense tightened up in the red zone.

“As a whole, we were very disappointed [in the scrimmage]," Lewis said. “But in the red zone we stopped them from putting up points, which is the main goal. So we came out with something positive.”

The Saints’ first live dress rehearsal will come Friday night at the St. Louis Rams. It remains unclear if they’ll face Rams starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who is still working his way back from a 2013 knee injury.

“I just want to keep improving every day. We’ve got a lot to work on,” Ryan said. “Our guys are excellent players, and as coaches we know we’ve got great talent here. And we need to do a better job to get them to play to the best of their abilities because they’ve got more ability than any defense I’ve ever been around.”