Can the Saints secondary be a strength in 2013?

Within last year's historically bad defensive season, the play of the secondary was sometimes atrocious. But with a new coordinator, new system and new attitude, the back four are picking up their slack.

"Communication-wise, we still have some things to clean up," safety Roman Harper said.

"Overall, our man-to-man coverage has done fairly well, we're competing on some different things. We had a couple of chances to get a couple of turnovers last week, and we need to continue to work on it. We need to lock it in and things like that. Other than that, you really can't complain a lot. Our tackling has been pretty nice when the ball's gotten back there. We're just trying to compete, that is it."

With key veterans in place to help guide some talented newcomers, the Saints secondary is rounding into shape, and Coach Sean Payton has been pleased with the progress so far.

"I think we do have experience, and then you add a first round draft pick (Kenny Vaccaro) who's doing very well. You add Keenan Lewis, you add a few of those pieces (and) I think we have good competition. We have some young guys that have really stepped up. (Rod) Sweeting has done a good job, Jabari (Greer) is healthy right now (and) I think Patrick Robinson probably had one of his better practices today. I would say (today was) the first time where you saw him getting a lot of team work, he was very active and moved around pretty well. There's a combination of some young guys and veteran guys, but I think that gives us a chance. Of course Roman (Harper) and Malcolm (Jenkins) are guys that are experienced and are playing pretty well right now. I think there's a combination of both."

Meanwhile, their offensive teammates have also noticed a difference in their play on the field.

"They look great," receiver Lance Moore said. "They are making a lot more plays than I ever remember in a training camp. That's not a knock on them. I think that they have gotten better each and every year but this year they definitely have been sticking out to me. Hopefully that will translate into the games."

However, whether the back four becomes a strength of the team this season remains to be seen.

"Hopefully," Harper said. "I don't want to put all kinds of pressure on ourselves, we've had a couple of good teams here. We just want to be our own group, it's going to be our own personality. We have a different mantra this year and we are just trying to live up to it. We're going to do it big. We just need to have some success, that's all it is about."

And for a defensive secondary that ranked 31st against the pass in 2012, to now in two preseason games, giving up an average just under 140 yards in the air per contest, it's definitely a step in the right direction.