Saints mailbag, Part 2: Will they play 3-4 or 4-3 defense?

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@MikeTriplett: I expect the Saints to continue what they've been doing in the first two seasons under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, which is to blur the lines between a 3-4 and 4-3 front. It's kind of a moot point since the Saints spend about 75 percent of the time in nickel defense with five defensive backs on the field, two true linebackers in the middle, and outside linebacker Junior Galette rushing the passer. But when they have their base defense on the field, I think we'll typically see four linebackers, including Galette and outside linebacker Parys Haralson. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Saints mix things up. But nothing in their personnel moves has signaled change, considering they re-signed Haralson (a career 3-4 outside linebacker) and only have six defensive linemen on the current roster -- seven if you count Galette. As for what the Saints' nickel package will look like, it's entirely possible they'll go back to using three safeties, like they did in 2013, since they're healthy and loaded with depth at the position (Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush, Jamarca Sanford, Pierre Warren, Vinnie Sunseri and Marcus Ball, among others). Plus, Vaccaro's best fit might be in the slot. However, that could change if the Saints draft another cornerback early or like what they see from the development of backup corners such as Kyle Wilson, Stan Jean-Baptiste, Terrence Frederick, Brian Dixon or Delvin Breaux. It all depends on whom New Orleans sees as the fifth best defensive back. It's not set in stone whether that has to be a safety or a corner. @MikeTriplett: I disagree with the second part, because like I said, the Saints are in their nickel defense close to 75 percent of the time, so a third cornerback (or third safety) is practically a starter in the NFL. And right now, the Saints still have question marks at their backup cornerback spots. So if they have a corner as the highest-rated player on their board at any point in the draft, I think they'll take one. But you're right that the Saints don't have to reach for one. They filled the most pressing need by signing Brandon Browner in free agency. And it's possible that one of their young backup corners will make a big leap this season (including Canadian Football League transplant Breaux). I don't know enough about Breaux to predict whether he'll become a key member of the rotation, like Browner did when he came over from the CFL to the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. Or maybe Breaux will be more middle of the road, like current Saints safety/CFL transplant Ball. Or perhaps he'll end up like former CFL cornerback Derrius Brooks, who didn't make the Saints roster out of training camp last year. @MikeTriplett: I have always said and written that I believe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell went overboard with his punishments against the Saints for Bountygate -- especially considering the lack of evidence of actual intent to injure opposing players. I also have always wondered if the punishments would have been a bit lighter if the same thing happened to a team that had a better relationship with the league or cooperated differently with the investigation, etc. That being said, I don't get into comparing Bountygate to things like the Atlanta Falcons pumping in crowd noise or what happens with the New England Patriots and Deflategate. The biggest reason why the Saints were punished so harshly is that their case was in the realm of player safety -- which was emerging at the time as the NFL's No. 1 concern and biggest threat to the league's long-term success. Everything from the initial news release (when the NFL broke the Bountygate story itself) to the swiftness and severity of the punishments demonstrated how strongly Goodell wanted to make a point in that particular case -- whether you agree with his point or not. I wasn't expecting the Falcons' punishment to be anywhere near as severe and don't expect the Patriots' will be either.