Why Sharper's return is big for the Saints

We can have a good discussion about why Darren Sharper didn’t find a big market as a free agent this offseason — and talk about his knee surgery — but what matters to the Saints and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is that the veteran safety is back in the secondary.

And that gives New Orleans some options and some freedom in what it can do on Sundays.

I still see Sharper as a playmaker in Williams’ scheme — one that requires multiple DBs to dress and play a significant role on Sundays. The nine INTs Shaper had last season had a lot to do with his pure ability to jump routes and use technique over talent in some cases, but we can’t discount the scheme and the way Williams puts his players in positions to get a jump on the ball. A perfect fit.

That will continue with Sharper in 2010. This defense requires a free safety who can play the middle of the field and take calculated risks within the defense.

However, it also provides Williams with freedom himself as a play caller — the same coordinator who drafted CB/S Malcolm Jenkins in the first round of the 2009 draft and then added Florida State CB Patrick Robinson in the first round of this year’s draft. He’s the type of coordinator who loves to get opposing offenses in third-down situations so he can litter the field with defensive backs — and attack out of the sub packages.

That’s why re-signing Sharper was so crucial to this defense for 2010. Maybe Jenkins could have stepped into that role in the middle of the field and produced enough to allow Williams to take some risks within the game plan, but now the Saints don’t have to go that route. Instead, Jenkins will play multiple roles.

And Williams can continue to dial up pressure, take risks and expect to see his secondary put a tent over opposing offenses when he calls coverage and challenge receivers when he sends pressure. He has the players in the back end to do that, and when we watch his defense play next season, we’ll see just how crucial the secondary is to the way he calls a game.

But it had to start with Sharper. We shouldn’t expect another nine-INT season, but we should expect to see the same defense that produces turnovers in New Orleans with the veteran back in the mix.

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