METAIRIE, La. -- Other than installing a new 3-4 scheme, the first item on the agenda for new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was to quickly figure out a way to stop the run.
The Saints were an NFL all-time worst in total defense last season, allowing 7,042 yards last season, and a big part of that was their ineptness against the run. They ranked last in the league in giving up 147.6 yards a game and the 5.2 yards per carry was the worst among all 32 teams -- and a club record as well.
When they gave up 5.17 yards per attempt, it was almost a full yard higher than the league average of 4.26 yards per try -- and the highest in the NFL since the 2006 Indianapolis Colts gave up 5.33 yards per attempt.
Speaking with flagship radio station WWL-AM, Ryan said it was "much too high, obviously." He also noted that to have any chance at playing good defense, teams have to be able to stop the run.
After several players talked about former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 scheme, Ryan didn't offer specifics about what went wrong -- just a general assessment of the results.
"Honestly, I don't think the scheme was very sound in the running game," Ryan said. "That's not a fault of anybody else. I've just been around football my whole life. I know it wasn't (sound). We're going to fix it. That's definitely been fixed."
Ryan and coach Sean Payton, the man who hired him after firing Spagnuolo, are hoping the change to a 3-4 will be a huge factor in turning around the defense.
The Saints signed several free agents -- cornerback Keenan Lewis, linebacker Victor Butler and defensive end Kenyon Coleman -- and also used two of their first three draft picks on players they hope can come in and be part of a huge turnaround -- safety Kenny Vaccaro and nose tackle John Jenkins.
Ryan, who has coached Coleman for the past four years with the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys, said the veteran is "the best best run defender in football as a 3-4 end."
"I know that doesn't look pretty as a signing for everybody else," Ryan noted. "Trust me, the Who Dat Nation is going to love him."