The New Orleans Saints know better than most teams how much their former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves to blitz. So they’ll be on high alert now that they’re going against Williams in Friday’s preseason opener at the St. Louis Rams.
Tight end Jimmy Graham said the team watched tape Wednesday of the Saints’ 2011 preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers – when Williams infamously and relentlessly blitzed the 49ers, leading to five first-half sacks.
“Yeah, we were just watching,” Graham told reporters after Wednesday’s practice. “It was like zero blitz like four times out of nine. So it’s going to be great work for the quarterback, for the O-line, for the tight ends; I mean for everybody across the board.
“That’s who he is, and he brings it. So you know we’re going to have to be ready for that.”
Saints coach Sean Payton earlier this week downplayed the reunion with Williams as “not a big deal." It will be their first meeting since Payton opted to let Williams leave when his contract expired in 2012 – months before they were both punished severely by the NFL for overseeing an alleged bounty system.
Clearly, though, Payton isn’t ignoring Williams’ tendencies as a defensive coordinator. Wednesday’s practice included several individual full-speed pass protection drills with the running backs, receivers and tight ends.
“That was a point of emphasis today, setting up four different drills,” Payton said. “It’s going to come up in a game, and what I don’t want is the very first full-speed look for a runner or tight end to be … in a game. I thought it was good. I thought it was organized. I thought guys were going hard.”
The Saints’ pass protection will be tested right out of the gates on several fronts. The Rams’ defensive line is loaded with some of the NFL’s best pass-rushers, including All-Pro end Robert Quinn, end Chris Long and highly touted rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Meanwhile, New Orleans’ offense may also be a bit short-handed for the matchup. Although Payton hasn’t ruled anyone out with injuries yet, quarterback Drew Brees and guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans have all missed time in practice this week.