Ryan Nielsen has a big job in front of him.
Brought in from North Carolina State after impressing Payton more than anybody else in a lengthy interview process, Nielsen takes over a Saints defensive line that has a pair of established veterans in Cam Jordan and Nick Fairley.
But Nielsen also takes over a defensive line group that includes a big group of players with three or fewer seasons under their belt, players like Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata and Hau'oli Kikaha who could pay big dividends if they can take the next step.
"We spent a lot of time looking for the right defensive line coach, and we heard a number of good things about him, and we brought him through like we did the rest of the coaches we interviewed," Payton said. "There was something unique about him. I think he is an outstanding teacher, very confident."
Nielsen, who had been at North Carolina State for the past four seasons, is a young up-and-comer who is something of the opposite of departed line coach Bill Johnson, an older veteran with a long list of NFL experience and big-time college gigs.
"There was always a dream,' Nielsen said. "There's a goal, maybe one day. I was really happy at N.C. State, but now that I'm here, and I look back, the decision was a no-brainer."
Nielsen, who played defensive tackle at USC in the late 1990's and early 2000's, is an energetic, intense presence who will apparently take an active role on the practice field.
For Nielsen, teaching means demonstrating, even if that means putting his hand down in the dirt to show a player how to come off the ball and execute a move.
"I think I'm pretty hands-on with the guys," Nielsen said. "I like to be right in there with the drills, show them, try to teach them the right fundamentals and right technique."
Nielsen's approach impressed Payton in the interview process, and although it's still early in his transition to the NFL, the coach has made an impression on the group of youngsters who were in New Orleans last weekend for the team's rookie minicamp.
Beneath the intensity, it turns out that Nielsen is wired a lot like defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who is famous for making sure his teams take care of all the little things first.
When he interviewed with the Saints, Nielsen was convinced by how much Payton's approach struck a chord with him.
"His attention to detail, and advantages in stuff like little things, he's spot on," rookie defensive end Trey Hendrickson said.
Details aside, the former North Carolina State coach will bring his unique blend of energy to a defensive line where development will be crucial this summer if this Saints defense is going to take the next step.
Nielsen plans to imprint some of his personality onto the Saints defensive line themselves.
"I think you have to play defensive line that way," Nielsen said. "If you don't coach that way, you can't expect your players to be intense and passionate about what they're doing."