Following a disappointing 2014 season in which they finished below .500 and missed the playoffs in the NFL’s weakest division, the Saints were expected to think long and hard about Rob Ryan‘s future as defensive coordinator. It appears now that the team has made its decision — Ryan will return to New Orleans in the DC role for the 2015 season, according to Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune.
While Ryan’s job is safe, there are expected to be a number of changes on the defensive side of the ball for next season, to both the coaching staff and the player personnel, a source tells Holder. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links), head coach Sean Payton will attempt to provide Ryan with “better pieces for success” to support him for the 2015 season.
The Saints’ defense ranked fourth overall in Ryan’s first season with the team in 2013, but plummeted to 31st in 2014, both in terms of yards allowed and DVOA (per Football Outsiders). Nonetheless, many Saints defenders voiced their support for Ryan in recent days and took the blame for the unit’s poor performance, with veteran linebacker Curtis Lofton suggesting he didn’t want to play for any other defensive coordinator.
Heading into the 2015 season, the Saints should get notable free agent signee Jairus Byrd back to full health — Byrd’s first year in New Orleans after signing a huge six-year, $54MM deal started slow, then ended fast, when the safety tore his lateral meniscus about a month into the regular season.
Additionally, Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune tweets that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints made enough personnel changes to revert back to a 3-4 scheme, which the club got away from in 2014. Still, as Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap points out (via Twitter), the Saints are already among the league’s leaders in cap space invested on defense for 2015, so the team’s flexibility may be limited when it comes to roster additions.