There’s been a lot of talk about how strong safety Roman Harper might not be a great fit in the new defensive scheme coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is implementing in New Orleans.
That’s fueled by the fact Harper has a reputation for being an effective blitzer (7.5 sacks last season) and not a ball hawk (zero interceptions last season). Spagnuolo is known for having his defense generate its pressure from the front four and letting his defensive backs play zone coverage and come up with interceptions. But, as he reported to camp Tuesday, Harper said he likes the new defense and thinks he still will get a chance to record some sacks.
“I think it’s going to have different aspects to it, but I think we will still be able to blitz a lot," Harper said. “But now we get some zone blitzes and things like that. Now we’re making the QB not always know we’re going to be in man-to-man on third-and-2 and third-and-3, which we usually would be. Now we can throw some zone in there, different scheme looks, and things like that. We can mix it up a lot more.”
Harper realizes the emphasis will be on getting more of a pass rush from the front four.
“We pay D linemen a lot of money to make some plays and I think this system is really going to cut these guys free,’’ Harper said.
Harper said he’s played man-to-man coverage since college, but he’s looking forward to switching to zone.
“Now you get to see some more eyes on the ball," Harper said. “I think we get to react more on the quarterback, and get some better breaks, instead of always putting our back to the quarterback. Now we actually get to see the quarterback and react to him. And now we might make a play. Or a tipped ball or something, someone might see it now, where in a man-to-man, you won’t be able to see it.’’
Interesting stat to note here: Harper and starting free safety Malcolm Jenkins combined for zero interceptions last season. It’s pretty obvious -- Spagnuolo already has gotten the message across that he expects his safeties to come up with more turnovers.