New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he believes linebacker Jonathan Vilma will be able to transition to a 3-4 defense.
“Yeah, I don’t think anyone wants to place him over that guard bubble and have to take on that block,” Payton said. “And I think he’s a guy that runs to the ball and has great vision, very instinctual football player. I think you take some of that away if all of a sudden he’s playing over an uncovered guard and now his size becomes an issue.
“A lot of things may concern you with a player change. So, he’ll play over on that weakside position and I that will be very similar to what he did this past year. Curtis Lofton, who’s a little heavier, will play on that strong inside Mike position. So I think that part of it for those two guys transition pretty well.”
Payton isn’t sure if he has all of the pieces needed to run a 3-4.
“I don’t know that we have the pieces in place that we feel comfortable with, or certainly there’s a transition,” Payton said. “A lot of this process, as a matter of fact, he and I spoke for about an hour about certain players and where they line up the first day of OTAs. And then you take what you have on the roster and you begin to put them into these spots and then you tweak and you make adjustments and you look to make additions.
“I think the way that we’re going to run this defense and the type of 3-4 that we’re running will be such that you saw in Dallas or Houston. There will be some under defensive principles to it. Some reduction, which means that the left guard or weak guard for the offense will be covered at times, and I think that will help a guy like Jon Vilma as opposed to the traditional two-gap 34 front that many Giants fans knew back when Bill Parcells was there … So I do think there’s some work to be done obviously when you make a change like this.
“You have the scouts who need to identify what the prototypes are for these positions different from what the scouts and everyone else in the building viewed as a prototype for the 43 scheme. Now there are good football players that can fit into either one, but I think it allows everyone a chance to maybe visualize what we’re looking for.”
Even if Payton believes Vilma can play in a 3-4, the Saints may have to end up releasing him for cap reasons.