|McCray sees Saints defense as 'dominant'|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 04 August 2008 22:51|
He's not very interested, either.
``We don't talk about it,'' McCray said after a recent practice at Saints training camp. ``This is a new start, a new defense.''
Not entirely new, but certainly different, in part because of the arrival of McCray, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive end who started nine games for a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that ranked in the top half of the NFL in yards allowed last season.
His presence as a pass rusher from the end will give the Saints, who run a 4-3 defense, some flexibility in how they use their four down linemen.
In passing situations, for example, McCray could take starting defensive end Charles Grant's spot on the left side, then Grant could move inside, next to rookie defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, the Saints' top draft pick. Right defensive end Will Smith, New Orleans' top pass rusher, would stay at his regular spot.
``Bobby's an athletic guy that has had success rushing the quarterback,'' defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs said. ``As we all know, we've got to affect the quarterback more with our front four than we did a year ago. We've got to be able to put some pressure on that guy and disrupt his timing. And when you look at Bobby, and look at Sedrick inside, those two guys are going to help you.''
Head coach Sean Payton has said the Saints also were looking for a good third defensive end to rotate in for Grant and Smith to keep them from getting worn down.
New Orleans' defense had 32 sacks last season, which tied the Saints for 19th in the league. Difficulty getting pressure on quarterbacks left the Saints' secondary vulnerable to big plays. Opposing offenses had more than 50 plays that went for 20 yards or more.
McCray, entering his fifth NFL season, had his best year in 2006, when he started 12 games and had 10 sacks. Last season, his sack total fell to three. When he became a free agent, the Saints lured him to New Orleans, hoping he would rebound in a new system.
McCray, who never seems short on optimism, expects to be reinvigorated by a change of scenery as well.
``When you start with a new team you have something to prove,'' McCray said. ``You don't want to keep dwelling on what you've done in the past. If you just come in lackadaisical, they're going to feel like you're a bust and you don't want to have that on your shoulders.''
McCray grew up in Miami, a hotbed of high school football talent. His father is a head coach at Homestead High School.
In college, he played for Florida, where he was named to the All-SEC second team defense his senior year, then was selected by Jacksonville in the seventh round of the 2004 draft.
While seventh-round picks are no certainty to make an NFL roster, McCray stuck in Jacksonville and ended up starting seven games in his rookie season. He has been a regular ever since, though not always a starter.
McCray said he is not concerned about starting so much as getting into a regular rotation and contributing. He likely won't start for the Saints, which is fine by him. He prefers when offensive linemen underestimate him.
``They think I'm probably just a slim defensive end that's just going to try to give you speed, but I'm going to give you variety,'' McCray said. ``I can mix it up. I can beat you inside, beat you outside. I might run through you. You've just got to be ready for it.''
After a little more than a week with his new squad, McCray is already predicting the Saints' revamped defense, whose other new players include former Patriots cornerback Randall Gay and former Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma, will be a ``dominant'' unit.
``We're going to lead this team,'' McCray.
That's a bold prediction, considering that New Orleans' offense, led by Drew Brees, racked up more than 4,000 yards passing in each of the last two seasons.
During training camp, however, there have been stretches when the defense was the more impressive unit in practice. McCray, meanwhile, was among several defensive linemen credited with a sack in the team's first intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday.
McCray said he didn't doubt the Saints' defense, based on last year's struggles, would have lingering critics coming into this season.
``But I guarantee they're going to open their eyes and realize what we've got on that roster and what we've got coming in on Sunday.''