The man who might make the difference for the New Orleans offensive line this season is never going to admit it.
Dan Roushar, the veteran coach who replaced Bret Ingalls as the Saints offensive line coach in January, is affable and unassuming, a veteran of three decades in the coaching business who is quick to spread praise to his players and equally quick to deflect it away from himself.
But Roushar’s approach is already drawing praise from the men under his charge.
“Any time you switch offensive line coaches, there’s a lot of different ways to do it, and they all have kind of fundamental differences from each other, in the same way that Coach (Doug) Marrone is different from (Aaron) Kromer is different from Bret,” Saints tackle Zach Strief said. “I think some of the stuff we did with Bret was a little different than what we were used to, just some techniques that were different, some theories. Dan is closer to the norm and what guys are used to.”
Roushar, who has coached the offensive line and the running game at five schools in the past, has a traditional style of teaching that fits not only what the Saints do offensively, but the basic principles of offensive line play that everyone from second-year players like Andrus Peat to an 11-year veteran like Strief recognize.
“He’s been really good, just technique-wise and knowing a lot of information that’s out there,” Saints guard Senio Kelemete said. “I feel like it’s more what I’ve learned from being an offensive lineman. It’s something I’ve always known.”
Roushar’s approach could be key for an offensive line that appears to be roughly the same as the way the Saints left the 2015 season, save for the hole left by the larger-than-life legacy of Jahri Evans.
New Orleans effectively passed a torch on the line by parting ways with Evans and signing left tackle Terron Armstead to a lucrative long-term deal, but the Saints did not add an offensive lineman either in free agency or the draft. Peat, the Saints’ first pick in 2015, is expected to evolve into a starter, but the rest of the front-runners for starting spots — Armstead, Strief, Kelemete, center Max Unger and guard Tim Lelito — are all the same.
“We’ve got some changes coming in, just with the coach,” Strief said. “It’s always good to have a change of face there. Sometimes it’s kind of reinvigorating to have a new face and a new message.”
Roushar downplayed the differences between him and Ingalls.
“Guys like Zach and Max and Terron, they’ve got great experience, they draw from those experiences,” he said. “My background, along with (Saints offensive assistant) Brendan Nugent), has been around some very, very good line coaches over our careers. I suppose we’ve developed our teaching ways that way, but it would be hard for me to say how they perceive it. I just know we have to go in there and present our ideas, which are very similar to what they’ve done. ... There’s some subtle differences, but I wouldn’t say drastic.”
Whatever he’s doing, Roushar’s approach seems to be getting through so far.
And that could make all the difference.
“Dan is a guy, he knows exactly what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, and he has a good way of explaining it,” tight ends coach Dan Campbell said. “He does a good job of splitting people off — hey, we’re working tackles-tight ends, we’re working centers-guards, we’re working tackles-guards — then he breaks it down and brings them together. He’s big on technique, which is huge. ... I think a lot of it is, he’s going to make sure we’re all on the same page, we’re all doing it right and you know where your help’s coming from. That sounds like a no-brainer statement, but that’s imperative.”