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News » Saints' stay in defensive posture

Saints' stay in defensive posture

Saints' stay in defensive posture
For the first time in franchise history, a period scanning 42 colorful and bittersweet seasons, the Saints did not select an offensive player in the NFL draft.

Team officials picked two defensive players from Wake Forest in the fourth round Sunday, safety Chip Vaughn (116) and linebacker Stanley Arnoux (118), then wrapped up Day Two of the 74th annual draft by taking Southern Methodist punter Thomas Morstead in the fifth round.

Those three players, coupled with their No. 1 pick, Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, left Saints coach/offensive play-caller Sean Payton chuckling at the irony.

quot;I think some of you think it just kills me that we don't draft an offensive player,quot; Payton told reporters. quot;That's not the case. As the head coach, I want to win. I want what's best for our team.quot;

According to Payton, the Saints are in a better position to quot;winquot; based on their offseason moves on defense than they were at the end of last season when they missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year after finishing with an 8-8 record.

quot;We felt like we needed to make some changes on defense, and this weekend gave us an opportunity to do some of that,quot; Payton said. quot;I feel like we're a lot farther along.quot;

Vaughn and Arnoux are the latest additions on defense for first-year coordinator Gregg Williams, who perhaps is the team's most important acquisition since a season-ending 33-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 28.

Vaughn, 6 feet 2, 221 pounds, was the third-highest-rated strong safety in the draft, according to NFLdraftscout. He played free and strong safety at Wake Forest but is being projected as a free safety in New Orleans, where he will compete against Darren Sharper, Pierson Prioleau and Usama Young, who is expected to shift from cornerback to free safety.

Arnoux, 6-0, 232, played middle linebacker for the Demon Deacons but is being projected as a weakside linebacker in the Saints' 4-3 scheme. He is expected to compete against Scott Shanle, Dan Morgan and Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

Vaughn and Arnoux played on a Wake Forest defense that also featured outside linebacker Aaron Curry (the fourth overall pick who went to Seattle) and cornerback Alphonso Smith (the 37th overall pick who went to Denver).

quot;Both of these guys played in a great program, an up-and-coming program,quot; Payton said. quot;They're well coached and come from a good defense.quot;

Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe said there were several games last season when Arnoux quot;played every bit as good as, if not better than, Aaron Curry.quot; Arnoux ran the second-fastest time among the linebackers at the combine (4.61), bested only by Curry's 4.56 seconds. Grobe described Arnoux as quot;the most dependable guy in the world,quot; citing numerous games when he played through nagging injuries.

quot;Stanley is accountable as a player,quot; Vaughn said. quot;He's always in the right spot, always knows what's going on. The Saints got a steal with Stan.quot;

One pick separated the two college teammates. In fact, Arnoux was planning to call Vaughn and offer his congratulations when Arnoux received a call from Saints officials with his good news.

quot;My phone rang and it was a '504' (area code), and I said, 'I know that's New Orleans,' quot; said Arnoux, who noted that he and Vaughn were going from one team to another team whose colors are Black and Gold. quot;I was so excited.quot;

quot;(Vaughn and Arnoux) were graded higher than the running backs that we had left on our board,quot; Payton said. quot;When the day started, there was a runner or two who had a value grade. But we felt that one of the things that we've been able to do with these mid-range picks or later picks is look for a few attributes that a guy has, and that we have a vision for, and we think these guys have some of those things.

quot;There wasn't a player in the third round that we said, 'Hey, let's go get him.' Generally, you like someone when you move into a round. Not that we didn't like anybody, but there was no one that stood out that we felt like we needed to go and get. What I don't want to do is try to manufacture a pick. That's the worst thing we want to do.quot;

Hundreds of Saints fans must have felt that team officials did just that with their final selection. Fans flooded various message boards and chat rooms on the Internet, expressing shock and dismay with the decision to trade up to acquire Morstead.

The Saints moved from the seventh round into the fifth round, sending the 222nd overall pick and a fifth-round pick in 2010 to Philadelphia for the Eagles' fifth-round pick (No. 164).

Payton defended the move, saying the acquisition of Morstead meets an offseason need and will compete with punter Glenn Pakulak for a roster spot.

quot;Basically, we're obtaining a five this year and giving away a five next year,quot; Payton said. quot;In order to do that, you have to give something else away. We think his career numbers and his most recent workouts with us were outstanding. We feel like in Glenn's case, it's an area of being more consistent.

quot;The player we're talking about now has outstanding leg strength and the best leg in the draft. Now it's going to be a chance to put it on the field and see where he goes from here.quot;

. . . . . . .

Brian Allee-Walsh can be reached at ballee-walsh@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3805.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 27, 2009

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