New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Friday, October 21, 2016
Have you seen steady growth over these last few weeks from the defense?
"Yes, there's steady growth. I think you see some of the young players are getting better and really some of the veteran players have really stepped up and made some plays. I think we all look at it we would like to see consistency. The way we played the second half against San Diego, the way we played in the first half against Carolina. I think that is the thing that you fight and battle when you have a lot of young guys playing. When you are dealing with guys that are playing in roles that maybe they hadn't when we started training camp. They weren't quite in that same role. Whether it be by injury or some of the different things that we are doing with the packages. I think that's the thing and I think that's the biggest thing we've tried to preach and talk to our guys about. Let's play a consistent, tough, smart, competitive four quarters of football and if it takes us five quarters let's play five quarters, because we've proven we can do it in spurts. We just haven't been able to sustain that throughout the entirety of the game."
Is there one area you like that has been working for you?
"I think we came into the bye week and really looked at (our strategy), which we'd already kind of started doing a little bit, but just how do we get some of our best players on the field and try and put them in the best position for them to affect the game in a positive way and I think some of the things we did with our three-safety package was really good and being able to keep Kenny (Vaccaro) around the ball and do some different things there. I think our pass rush has improved a little bit over the last few weeks. We have been able to get a little bit more pressure on the quarterback. Those are a couple of things we have seen and I think overall we've made a lot of plays on the ball, with some of these back end guys, but yet there are still some things, some awareness issues that we have to continue to improve on. Where we can be again more consistent at being able to make those plays on the ball."
How much has Kenny's (Vaccaro) versatility helped you as a play-caller?
"It helps, I think you try and get a good feel for really what are the strongest qualities of your players and who you have that can go out there and make a play and I think keeping Kenny close to the line of scrimmage allows him to really utilize his talent. He's really aggressive close to the line of scrimmage. He can fit the run game up, very similar to what a linebacker can fit the run game up, but yet he has the athleticism and skillset to cover wide receivers at times and tight ends."
How big has it been for the offense to go down and score on the opening drives, it has to help the psyche of the defense?
"I think that's a good point and a valid point and obviously anytime where you're struggling to get that consistency on defense, I think our offense's ability to control the time of possession and take those long drives where we (the defense) gets a chance to sit back and gather ourselves a little bit and really stay fresh and I think that's a critical component for us to be able to have success and look I hope they continue to score a bunch of points and that's always good, but I like them to be able to control the time of possession too, because that helps us out."
How unique or rare was the players deciding to get together on a victory Monday this past Monday?
"I don't know about the uniqueness or the rareness of that. What I do know is that I think that shows that our guys care and are highly competitive. Our guys are highly motivated and hungry to get better as a defense. They know we have to improve. For them to take that onus and really come to us and say look, I know coach (Payton) gave us the day off but we really want to meet because we think we need it and that it'll benefit us. I think that says a lot for our guys and really what type of workers they are, what type of people they are and how hungry they are to improve as a defense."
You were at Oakland when Kenny (Vaccaro) came out of the draft; what do you remember about him as a prospect?
"A lot of the same things that we are seeing him do right now. They used him in a role where he was out there on the slot a lot. Very physical player who was athletic and could really run. (He'd) fit up the run game good but had the athletic skill set that he could cover wide receivers in coverage. I am seeing a lot of the same things. When you look at Kenny (Vaccaro), I have seen a lot of growth and development out of him from an awareness standpoint and from a football knowledge and how teams are trying to attack us as a defense, and what type of plays that he can expect based on formations and how the individual people are getting aligned. I think it has helped him to play faster and has helped him to make more plays. One area where I have really seen some improvement of him is just his ability to affect the quarterback when we send him on some pressures. Those are some things that I think he has done really well."
Is it fair to say that he has played a little bit of the WILL and SAM positions?
"We put him in a lot of different roles. There are roles where he's playing like a linebacker. We put him in a little dime package last week where he was actually playing the WILL linebacker in a dime package last week. That's not easy to do when you go from one personnel package to the next and then each one of those personnel packages you are really playing a different position and your responsibilities change. His responsibilities per se don't necessarily change but how you do those things and your alignments are different. That was a challenging thing for him last week but I thought that when you come out of the game and you look at the stats, you'd say that he was productive in doing it."
Does that have a lot to do with the evolution of the game or does it have more to do with his skill set?
"I'd say that there are a lot of elements that are involved in that. I would say that some of our injury factors have been a factor of that. I would say that his skillset has been a factor in that. Then, I would also say that how offenses are attacking you and really spreading the defense out and getting athletic players in space. How many athletes can you put out in space to defend their players because when the game is played in space, generally the team that is the most athletic is the team that is going to win that situation."
New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator Pete CarmichaelConference Call with Local MediaFriday, October 21, 2016
We were talking a few minutes ago to Sean (Payton) about the success you guys have had on opening drives; why do you think that has been a strength of yours?
"It's the end of the week. We've got pretty much the whole gameplan ready to go. As a coaching staff, the next hour or two we'll take here to kind of clean some things up and get some tips or reminders ready, and we start talking about some things that we'd like to see in the openers. We kind of work as a staff and put that together. I think our players have done a great job of going out there and executing those plays."
How do you think scoring on the opening drive can impact the rest of the game?
"Drew (Brees) will be the first one to tell you that he is looking to score on every drive but I think a lot of times there is an emphasis on getting off to an early start and building some confidence. I think the opening drive is important but again, it is one of 12 or maybe 14 drives that you are going to have. Obviously, you'd like to have success on all of the drives."
Have you guys changed anything or done anything different to make that happen?
"I don't know that we have done anything different than we have done the last 11 years that I have been here. You would say that when we put the openers together, you always feel like we have a good group of plays. It's nice for the players, maybe the night before, to say okay, here are going to be the top 12 plays. But again, you can be on play three and it already changes because you are jumping to a third down or now you have moved into the red zone after six or seven plays, and you really end up getting off that script. I don't think anything has been done different. The players have just done a good job."
Brandin Cooks had mentioned that he thought you guys did a better job of using him after he had a couple of quiet games; is there a challenge there because of his speed and the attention he draws?
"Anytime that we put together a gameplan, the focus may be for an individual route to go to a certain guy. If he is covered, the one thing that Drew Brees is going to do is he's going to find the open guy. Maybe he is first in the progression and you end up getting to the second or third in the progression. There are a lot of things that go into that."
Obviously, it is hard to argue with the success your passing game has had but why have you guys been so heavy pass compared to the run so far?
"Part of that you can just blame me and say we have to call more of the run game. Then, maybe there are certain situations where you feel better about the passing game for this game plan based on who you are playing or what you're seeing defensively. Maybe, they are loading the box or something like that. I think there are lot of variables to that. "
We just haven't seen Mark (Ingram) break off the big runs like he has in the past; how do you get him going a little bit more?
"I think the more carries he has, the better chance you have of seeing that."
How much have you enjoyed the opportunity to call games again like you have this year?
* *"I love to do it and yet I still say that there is input coming from the head coach, the offensive line coach, the quarterbacks coach – everybody is giving their input and there is a lot of talk in between series of maybe what we saw and what we want to do going forward. The other thing is that you can call any play and Drew Brees has a good chance of making it work."
Had you lobbied for it or did Sean (Payton) come to you with the idea?
"I did not lobby for it. I just think that you'd have to ask Sean (Payton) why he chose to do that."