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DT Grady Jackson played well against the Buzzards last week

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Haslett asks for patience for defense

Coach says unit 'takes time' to mesh - Wed August 13, 2003

By Brian Allee-Walsh - Staff writer

The Saints return to the practice field today trying to correct the many mistakes that plagued them during Monday night's 27-17 exhibition loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Coach Jim Haslett provided the breakdown Tuesday, citing 12 missed tackles, eight dropped passes and 29 mental errors (17 on offense, 12 on defense). Haslett will be looking for improvement across the board Saturday night against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium, beginning with a defense that featured seven new starters from a season ago.

The team works once today, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., in Metairie. The practice is open to the public, weather permitting.

"We didn't play well on defense," Haslett said. "I was disappointed in some of the tackling, but the speed is there. You've seen it in practice. The players are there. But we have a bunch of new guys so it's going to take some time.

"You got to play games together. You got to be on the field together. It's like our offense last year. It took time and we struggled through it and fought through it and ended up playing pretty good. Defense takes time. Everybody has to have an understanding of where everybody is going to be."

Haslett said nerves came into play for rookie defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, the team's No. 1 draft pick. He could barely catch his breath before the game.

"I thought he was going to pass out, he was hyperventilating," Haslett said.

Others blew assignments.

"The first time Philadelphia moved one guy (on offense), we had four or five guys scrambling around," Haslett said. "That comes with the territory. But we'll settle down on defense. We'll be fine. It's going to take some time when you have all those new bodies."

One of the new faces is starting weakside linebacker Derrick Rodgers, who was acquired from the Miami Dolphins in May for a seventh-round draft pick.

"Derrick played for Miami for (six) years," Haslett said. "He's known one system and it's not real complicated. That's all he's known.

"Now he comes to our place, which is a little more complicated and we do a lot more, so there's a learning process going on. So until he actually has a good understanding of it, it's not a natural reaction. There's a thinking process going on."

Haslett said he would devote more time to tackling during the three practices leading up to the Jets' exhibition.

"We haven't had a lot of live tackling; one time at the Black and Gold scrimmage and goal line a couple of days ago," Haslett said. "So this is really only the third time we've had live tackling. We got to get better. We missed five tackles on one play. That's one area we have to do better on defense."

Haslett said the defense should improve once players fully understand their jobs and begin trusting one another. How long that jelling process will take is anyone's guess.

"Everybody has to know where everybody is going to be," Haslett said. "Until you're out there playing and everybody is doing a job, you're not sure who you're playing with because you've never been lined up with the guys before. That takes time.

"Tampa Bay is probably the best defense in the NFL, and they've been together for five or six years. So it takes time to get that down. It'll come together."

NOTES: Rookie fullback Spencer Frederick suffered the most serious injury Monday night. He is scheduled to undergo surgery today after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Quarterback Aaron Brooks is not expected to miss any practice after experiencing neck spasms. . . . Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, nose tackle Grady Jackson and rookie tight end Zack Hilton drew the highest praise from Haslett. O'Sullivan completed seven of 10 passes for 64 yards and one touchdown, and Hilton caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tory Woodbury. "Grady played extremely well," Haslett said. "He surprised me. He didn't tire out. He pushed the pocket, made some pretty good pass rushes and made a couple plays on the run. If he keeps working the way he's going, he'll keep getting better and better." . . . Haslett said the offensive line could have played better, but running back Curtis Keaton missed some openings and failed to convert on two third-and-one plays. "I didn't think our line was as physical as we would have liked," Haslett said. "But we haven't had our line together yet as a whole. We haven't had much continuity. We need to get (guard) LeCharles (Bentley) back out there." Haslett said he has not given up on Keaton, who's trying to win the No. 2 job behind Deuce McAllister. Haslett said all healthy starters would play against the Jets, including wide receiver Joe Horn and McAllister.

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