When Saints coach Sean Payton decided to bring former Raiders coach Dennis Allen back to New Orleans as a defensive assistant, many wondered whether fireworks would follow as Allen fit into defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s staff.
But Ryan and Allen don’t have any complaints so far.
During the first organized team activity session open to the media, Allen manned the secondary, Ryan worked with the front seven and then the two collaborated when the team came together for 11-on-11 work. Instead of tension, Allen and Ryan have nothing but good things to say about their pairing so far.
“I think we both understand who each other is as a coach,” Allen said. “There’s really no place for egos. Everybody’s got them, but really (it’s about) being able to set those egos aside for the betterment of the team.”
The personalities complement each other well. Ryan, the outgoing, fun-loving defensive coordinator, and Allen, a quieter, more detailed presence in charge of the secondary, have gotten a rebuilding defense’s attention so far.
“You need both of them: a guy that’s going to keep it loose, and then a guy who’s going to work on the detailed, defined things,” new Saints cornerback Brandon Browner said. “That’s what DA does.”
Allen’s responsibility, primarily, is working with a secondary that’s trying to blend a crowded mix of established veterans, familiar faces coming back after season-ending injuries and new faces like Browner. All are expected to help turn around a defensive backfield that never developed a sense of cohesion last season, plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness that caused a revolving door at some positions.
Allen is attacking the problem by breaking down everybody, from veterans to rookies, to the basics.
“He’s a very detailed guy, and that’s always big,” Browner said. “He emphasizes the details. He won’t let you slack on your technique, things like that. That makes you a better football player.”
Allen’s availability, and a five-year history as an assistant coach in the Saints organization, made him an obvious fit for a defense looking for a turnaround after finishing 2014 ranked 31st in the NFL in total defense.
He also brings a different dimension to the Saints’ defensive staff. Asked last week whether Allen has provided a “calming presence” on defense, Payton agreed.
“It is accurate,” Payton said. “I would say he has a presence about him. He is a real sharp coach. I would say he is a real good teacher and, because I have worked with him, it was an easy fit to see and just to know what you were getting exactly.”
For his part, Ryan downplayed the difference in the men’s personalities.
Allen’s addition offered him another experienced mind on defense to offer ideas and help rebuild a simplified concept to get the defense playing faster in 2015.
Personalitywise, Ryan sees no conflicts on the horizon.
“I think he’s a great guy, just like me,” Ryan said. “Bottom line is he’s an exceptional coach, he’s a detailed guy, and he’s fantastic.”
Ryan, who already has admitted he’s motivated by the defense’s near-bottom finish in the statistical rankings, said he likes the working dynamic between the coaches so far.
Another veteran’s presence on the coaching staff can pay big dividends. Egos aside, Ryan knows the Saints have a lot to prove on defense, and he welcomes the experience that comes with having another mind with head-coaching experience on the staff.
“I’m going to say it’s outstanding,” Ryan said. “It really is. We’re special, and I think we’ve got a hell of a staff. You’ve got Joe Vitt in there; he’s been a head coach for a lot of games, too. So we’ve got a special staff, and we need to make it look special this fall — that’s for sure.”