The Associated Press
The defense overhauled by new coordinator Rob Ryan in New Orleans is showing early promise, compiling five sacks and three turnovers during a scrimmage on Saturday.
Fourth-year pro Junior Galette, converted from a defensive end to an outside linebacker in Ryan's 3-4 scheme, was credited with two of five sacks, one each against Drew Brees and Luke McCown.
Veteran cornerback Chris Carr, lured as a free agent to New Orleans — in part by Ryan, his former coach — intercepted a pass by rookie quarterback Ryan Griffin. He nearly had another interception on a pass-breakup, and created another turnover when he tipped McCown's pass intended for Nick Toon into the arms of linebacker David Hawthorne.
"Defensively, we made some good plays," coach Sean Payton said. ""I was pleased with the turnovers. That is something that we have been emphasizing. ... We rushed the passer well."
Ryan said he wasn't surprised to see a standout performance by Galette.
"He's doing that every day," Ryan said.
Galette could start at outside linebacker because of a major offseason knee injury to Victor Butler, who had been a projected starter.
"The only thing with Junior is going to be his stamina, because he's so excitable, he's such a fierce competitor," Ryan said. "We've just got to keep him playing like a professional because he's going to be outstanding."
Ryan also boasted about Carr's performance.
"I called that one. He's a pro," Ryan said. "I coached this guy a lot of years in Oakland. ... He's so smart."
Rookie outside linebacker Eric Martin, who has won coaches' praise early in camp, had a sack on McCown and caused a turnover when he stripped running back Mark Ingram from behind and safety Rafael Bush recovered.
On the play after his fumble, Ingram appeared wrong-footed on pass protection moments before right defensive end Jay Richardson, who had beaten rookie left tackle Terron Armstead, chased down McCown for a sack.
Despite those lowlights for Ingram, the former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner had a decent outing that helped showcase the results of Payton's renewed emphasis on improving the running game, which ranked 25th last season.
Ingram rushed three times for 17 yards on the first-team offense's first series, with rushes of 10 and 5 yards before powering his way in from the 2.
Pierre Thomas gained 28 yards on only three carries, one of them a 17-yard gain around the left end in what was one of the first true tests of the running game after eight days of training camp in which contact was limited.
"The (offensive) line's looking great," Ingram said. "They're getting push off the line of scrimmage and making seams for us to run through. That just says a lot about how much we've been emphasizing the running game in training camp. ... Finally we came out here in the scrimmage. It was a tackling, football tempo, and we were able to move the football on the ground."
Left tackle Charles Brown, the leading candidate to fill the vacancy created by three-year starter Jermon Bushrod — now with Chicago — had a solid day. None of the sacks came from his side while he was working with the first team.
"He's done a great job," Brees said of Brown. "He's been solid all camp."