The New Orleans Saints defense will be able to build on its momentum without undergoing significant changes next season.
According to a report from NFL Network on Sunday, the Saints are finalizing a deal with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen that will keep him in charge of the young defense. Allen’s contract expired at the end of the season, and he reportedly received interest from the Cincinnati Bengals for the same role.
Allen rejoined the Saints in 2015 as an assistant under former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He took over as defensive coordinator after Ryan was fired midway through the season.
Since then, Allen has been instrumental in helping turn around a defense that had ranked as among the worst in the league before his arrival. New Orleans raked 10th in points in 2017 and finished 14th in 2018. The team ranked 28th or worse from 2014-2016.
The Saints got off to a slow start on defense this season, but the unit emerged as the strength of the team by the end of the season after a deadline deal to acquire cornerback Eli Apple from the New York Giants. The defense allowed an average of 27.3 points and 387.8 yards per game during the first eight weeks of the season. During the final eight weeks, it allowed an average of 16.9 points and 310.4 yards per game.
New Orleans has most of its key players on defense under contract for next season. Defensive end Alex Okafor can opt out of his contract, and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison is set to reach free agency. The biggest question for the team will be how defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.
A former head coach, Allen also interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Miami before the Dolphins agreed to hire New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores for the job.
Despite making the playoffs each of the past two seasons, the Saints haven't lost any key members of the coaching staff and front office to other organizations. Assistant general manager Jeff Ireland, tight ends coach Dan Campbell, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, linebackers coach Mike Nolan and secondary coach Aaron Glenn have all come up in conjunction with other jobs the past two offseasons, but each has remained with the Saints.
The only significant changes to the staff so far this offseason are the departure of special teams coordinator Bradford Banta, special teams coach Mike Westhoff and special teams assistant Kevin O’Dea. Former Miami special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi is expected to take over the unit.