AR -- Andy Coen, LehighPATRIOT LEAGUE

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METAIRIE, La. -- Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, who early this season lambasted New Orleans defense for canceling out Drew Brees brilliance, no longer sees it that way.Weve gotten better every game, Vaccaro asserted after practice Wednesday as the Saints prepared to meet the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday. The stats, obviously, on total defense might not say it, but if you look up certain things, theres an improvement.Indeed, recent numbers back Vaccaro up. After allowing opposing offenses to pile up nearly 420 yards per game through their first five games, New Orleans has yielded an average of 346.2 yards during the past five. The club still ranks 27th in total defense, but thats up from dead last after Week 1 and as bad as 31st through the seasons first several games.When Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff, the NFLs top draft choice last spring, makes his first road start in the Superdome on Sunday, hell face a defense that has held opposing quarterbacks to 234 yards passing or less three times since Week 7. The Saints are coming off their best defensive performance yet, having held Carolina to 223 net yards and just 173 through the air.Our defense is playing really well, Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. Those guys have bailed us out so many times the last few weeks.After giving up 34 or more points in four of their first five games, the Saints have given up fewer than 24 points per game in the five weeks since -- even as their offense has given up both an interception and fumble return for touchdowns, and as their special teams unit had a kick blocked for a defensive 2-point conversion.New Orleans is also getting more turnovers lately, and has climbed into a tie for 10th in the NFL in takeaways with 15 -- six on interceptions and nine on fumble recoveries.They definitely have changed some things, Goff said when asked if hes noticed an evolution of New Orleans defense when he compares recent game video to clips from early in the season.One of those changes involves New Orleans base formation, now comprised of four linemen, two linebackers, three safeties and two cornerbacks. In three of the past four games, one of the two linebackers has been Dennell Ellerbe, who missed the first six games of the season with a quadriceps injury. Since his return, hes been one of the top playmakers on the team while handling wide-ranging responsibilities, from blitzing to covering tight ends.Hes just a great player. You see him in pass rush. You see him in coverage. He can cover tight ends. He can play the run, Vaccaro said. He literally can do it all. Hes the same Dannell who won the Super Bowl with Baltimore when he was healthy.Ellerbe already has been in on 16 tackles, including two sacks. He also has been credited with four quarterback hits and two passes defended.Meanwhile, the Saints interior line has gotten a boost from the return of rookie tackle Sheldon Rankins, the clubs top draft choice in April, who broke his fibula in training camp. Also back is cornerback Delvin Breaux, who has played two of the past three games since returning from his fractured fibula, which occurred in Week 1.I just feel like we had a few guys go down early that we needed, Ellerbe said. So now that were getting those guys back, were having our full defense back -- the defense that we were supposed to have.Game notes RB Mark Ingram, who left last Thursday nights game at Carolina after being knocked unconscious, was at practice today. He confirmed that he was diagnosed with a concussion, but said he expects to play Sunday. I felt good. I was running fast, I was making my cuts, Ingram said. Im feeling good and looking forward to playing. ... Also practicing Wednesday were left tackle Terron Armstead, who has missed the past two games with a nagging knee injury, and Breaux, who was scratched from the last game after playing the previous two. Breaux has said he expected to return this week, and was only held out last Thursday because the Saints didnt want to unduly stress his recently healed fibula with two games in a five-day span.---For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Cheap Sneakers Australia Online . Jeff Green scored 13 points and Kris Humphries 12 for the Celtics, who nearly blew an 18-point, second-half lead. Sullingers 20-20 was the first by a Celtics player since Kevin Garnetts first game in Boston in 2007. Garnett was dealt -- along with Paul Pierce -- to Brooklyn during the off-season. Sneakers Australia Sale . -- PGA TOUR Canada member Steve Saunders took a three-stroke lead Saturday in the Web. http://www.cheapsneakersaustralia.com/ . Duchene scored two goals and had an assist, helping the Colorado Avalanche beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Friday night to match the best 10-game start in team history. Sneakers Online Australia . They hope to persuade the other team owners and commissioner Roger Goodell to put pressure on Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to drop the nickname they find offensive. "Given the way the meeting transpired," Ray Halbritter, an Oneida representative and leader of the "Change the Mascot Campaign," said Wednesday, "it became somewhat evident they were defending the continued use of the name. Wholesale Sneakers Australia . -- Ty Montgomery had 290 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, and fifth-ranked Stanford held on to beat No. (STATS) -- Rushing for more yards than anyone in the FCS -- and by a wide margin -- could put Chase Edmonds in the running for some national player of the year awards. Yet, that wasnt good enough to get him top honors in the pint-sized Patriot League.Instead, it was Lehigh quarterback Nick Shafnisky who was named the Patriots Player of the Year even though he missed 2 1/2 games and didnt lead the league in passing yards or touchdown passes. Apparently voters felt that the senior dual threat leading Lehigh to a perfect conference record, a 9-2 season overall and a playoff berth outweighed Edmonds seemingly superior statistics.Edmonds, of course, did make the All-Patriot first-team offense after rushing for an FCS-best 1,799 yards, 281 more than second-place Tarik Cohen of North Carolina A&T. A junior who already owns the conferences all-time record with 62 rushing TDs, Edmonds ran for 19 scores this season to finish second in the Subdivision.Shafnisky did run for 10 TDs of his own and threw for 20 in just nine games, having missed time due to a nagging ankle problem. He completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 2,448 yards and rushed for 302 as the Mountain Hawks finished among the top 10 offenses in the FCS with 40.5 points and 491.5 yards per game.Andy Coen is the mastermind of that offense and earned the conferences Coach of the Year honor. Its the second time in 11 seasons at Lehigh that hes won the award.Shafniskys two favorite targets were among five Mountain Hawks named to the first-team offense. Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey each topped 1,000 yards and totaled 25 touchdowns.A pair of Colgate defendeers took home the conferences other two honors.dddddddddddd Junior Pat Afriyie earned Defensive Player of the Year after finishing among the national leaders with 10 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Defensive back Abu Daramy won Rookie of the Year after totaling 22 tackles and four pass breakups while keying the Red Raiders special teams with 21.4 yards per kickoff return and 7.3 per punt return.---=PATRIOT LEAGUE POSTSEASON AWARDS=OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Nick Shafnisky, QB, LehighDEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Pat Afriyie, DL, ColgateROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- Abu Daramy, RS/DB, ColgateCOACH OF THE YEAR -- Andy Coen, LehighPATRIOT LEAGUE FIRST TEAMOFFENSEQB -- Nick Shafnisky, LehighRB -- Dom Bragalone, LehighRB -- Chase Edmonds, FordhamFB/HB -- John Wilkins, ColgateWR -- Gatlin Casey, LehighWR -- Brendan Flaherty, Holy CrossWR -- Troy Pelletier, LehighTE -- Dylan Wadsworth, LafayetteOL -- Anthony Coyle, FordhamOL -- Jordi Dalmau, ColgateOL -- Julien Davenport, BucknellOL -- Zach Duffy, LehighOL -- Ryan Paulish, ColgateDEFENSEDL -- Abdullah Anderson, BucknellDL -- Pat Afriyie, ColgateDL -- Dewayne Cameron, Holy CrossDL -- Justin Vaughn, FordhamLB -- Colton Caslow, LehighLB -- Kyle Diener, ColgateLB -- Nick McBeath, Holy CrossLB -- Ben Richard, BucknellDB -- Bret Berg, BucknellDB -- Caleb Ham, FordhamDB -- Bryan Marine, BucknellDB -- Chris Morgan, ColgateSPECIAL TEAMSPK -- Ed Mish, LehighRS -- Gatlin Casey, LehighP -- Ed Mish, LehighNON-SPECIALIST -- Hunter Kiselick, Georgetown ' ' '

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