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Rob Ryan 'ready to get weird' with Saints defense

Around The League's Marc Sessler suggested in April that the New Orleans Saints' defense might be "up to something funky" with more three-safety sets this season.

Now league insiders tell Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal that coordinator Rob Ryan is "quietly crafting an unorthodox" scheme with the potential to change the way defenses play in the future.

"I'm always ready to get weird," Ryan said, per Clark.

The new idea hinges on lining up the best 11 players, with size and position decreasing in importance.

As is often the case, necessity was the mother of invention. When the Saints suffered a slew of injuries at linebacker last season, Ryan was forced to deploy three or even four safeties at a time.

Adding more safeties in various packages also accomplishes the same goal as the 1-5-5 "Radar" defense that has been used on passing downs to confuse offenses now proficient at calling out protection schemes before the snap.

"The three-safety package comes in a lot more than it's ever done in football," Ryan explained. "We have five really talented safeties on the roster and we plan on playing them all because they are really good players."

In his 2010 book Take Your Eye Off the Ball, former Jets executive and current SiriusXM NFL Radio host Pat Kirwan predicted we would begin seeing "situational" safeties to counter the increasing number of personnel groups used on offense depending on down-and-distance situations.

Ryan has the personnel to pull off that specialization at safety, featuring more defenders capable of running with tight ends, running backs and slot receivers in coverage.

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As a rookie, Kenny Vaccaro was essentially a linebacker-cornerback hybrid, joining Troy Polamalu as the only safeties to play more than 70 percent of snaps within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Ballhawking free-agent acquisition Jairus Byrd trails only Earl Thomas in discussion of the NFL's premier free safeties. The Saints acknowledged the importance of hard-hitting Rafael Bush, matching the Falcons' offer for the restricted free agent. Fifth-round pick Vinnie Sunseri and undrafted rookie Pierre Warren have also impressed in camp.

It's easy for Saints fans to identify with the excitement of NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who told Clark that Ryan's plan is "the most fascinating" scheme of the 2014 season.

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