In Rob Ryan's first year running the defense his squad had a breakout season. Of course, you can only go up when finishing 2012 as the worst total defense in the league. In 2013 the unit was ranked fourth in the NFL, giving up only 12 points a game. With the additions of Jarius Byrd, Champ Bailey, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and Victor Butler coming off injury, the Black and Gold could improve in 2014.
"On paper this is one of the best defenses I've ever been a part of. We got talent two-deep at every position. So there's going to be competition in practice, it pushes us to be better. I told some of the guys we can learn something from the NBA Finals. The Heat had the best players by far on paper, but the best team was the Spurs. So we have to come together as a team and a unit, and that's what's going to help us achieve our goals of being a number one defense in leading this team to hopefully a Super Bowl. Just coming together and start gelling as a team. It started back in OTA's, mini-camp, and now we're heading to training camp," said linebacker Curtis Lofton.
"It's definitely looking really good right now. We're preparing for war really. So you have to prepare as such. We have the pieces to be successful, but if we're not doing the things we need to day in and day out it won't come to fruition," said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks.
Talent can get you far in this league, but getting a coach to harness all these big-time names can lead to a Super Bowl win. The silver-haired legend in Ryan is that man the players feel raises their game to a whole new level.
"The guy is electric. When he comes into a room you feel it. He's one of those guys when he steps in a room you know he's there. Not because he's loud and rambunctious, just because he has a personality that just takes over. You know he brings that every day. It's amazing, you see a person come in and get really fired up for one or two weeks or a month. This guy brings it the entire season, the entire offseason, he just doesn't stop. It's something you look forward to, and it's motivating as a player," said Hicks.
Lofton is one of the leaders of Ryan's defense. He's racked up 248 tackles in two years with the Saints. With West Virginia getting closer the "man in the middle" has a little anxiety going into camp.
"I think it's a lot of mixed emotions. I enjoy having my freedom. I took a trip to Europe, did some traveling, it was amazing. Then there's excitement because I love football. Football has given me so much. Just being here in New Orleans, around the fans, just wanting to get back out there. That's what you get excited about. During this time you question yourself, did I do too much. Am I going to be tired, did I do enough. There's all these questions, so there's some anxiety. Once the first day starts, all that's to rest. You know you put in the work, and it's all going to payoff for you," said Lofton.