New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
When you look at the first four games, what is your current evaluation of the defense and where you want to go from here?
"I would say obviously we did not start the season the way that we had hoped that we would have. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole. I'm proud of our guys and the way that they handled that adversity. They never really wavered and just continued to work and try to get better. I think sometimes you need that shock and that wakeup call to let you know where you are at and what you need to do to get better and I think our guys really focused on the things that they needed to do for us to improve as a defense. At least over the last two weeks, I think they were more accountable as to what their responsibility was and the things they need to do within the defense to allow us to be successful. That was good and now what we have to continue to do is continue to build off of two solid performances, because the NFL is about consistency. The NFL's not about being the roller coaster team that's up and down. It's about being a consistent team in all phases. Certainly the area that we're focusing on is being defensively consistent."
Ken Crawley said that some of his habits improved this year and that he doesn't panic at the ball of attack like he did. Can you address his improvement?
"I think it has to do with gaining more and more experience and being put in those situations. Let's look at this realistically and say that Ken Crawley was an undrafted free agent out of Colorado who was thrust into a role that quite honestly wasn't ready for at that time. We all recognized that he had talent. We all recognized that he had ability. But yet, it's a big difference between being at the University of Colorado and playing games on Sunday or Monday night in the National Football League. I think it's just been a process of continuing to be put in those situations and continuing in practice or game situations to be able to have success. Then you begin to realize that you're capable of doing it. Coach (Payton) talks about it all the time that confidence is borne out of demonstrated ability. But to be able to do that, you have to be able to put yourself in that position several times."
Was the possibility of him getting rattled from his experience last year something you had to manage?
"Certainly, we're all very prideful men that are in this profession, but we all when we struggle, all of us take a little hit to our confidence. That's certainly something we have to deal with, really with all young players. As you begin to establish yourself in this league you begin to gain that confidence and even though you may have a rough outing, you got enough positive credits in the bank that you realize and understand that you're capable of doing the job. It probably doesn't affect you as much when you have a lot of skins on the wall."
What has stood out the most to you about Marshon Lattimore? Has he done anything that's surprised you?
"I've been pleased with the performance that we've gotten from Marshon. Again, he's a guy that opened up the season and he had a couple of rough little moments in the Minnesota game, yet he learned from those experiences. He learned from those plays. He's come back and I thought he played a really good game in the New England game and as well I thought he played well the other day against Miami. I've been pleased with where he's at. As you keep looking at the tape and evaluate the whole season, obviously these guys, the younger players in particular there are a lot of things we have to clean up, but I think the mistakes are fewer and farther between."
If Delvin Breaux returns in a few weeks will you be closer to being a strength in the secondary?
"I don't know the answer to that. What we have to do is take the guys that we have available and get them to play to the best of their ability and get them to play as consistently as we can to the best of their ability. I think that's what our focus is going to be week in and week out. I'm not really into trying to assess what the hypothetical situations might be. We're going to take it one day at a time. I know that's cliché, but I think you focus on getting better in the here and now and I think the results take care of themselves."
How hard is it as a coordinator to make sure we don't give up big passing plays? Is it risk/reward or easier said than done?
"That's certainly always something that you have to try to limit. It's certainly not something that you want to have happen. We all can play defenses that prevents them from getting 50 or 60 yards on a pass play. We just play a defense 30 yards deep and they're going to check it underneath and we have to rally down and tackle them, but you're not stopping anybody doing that, so yes, there's a little bit of risk/reward in that. I think our guys have to understand where these potential explosive plays can occur and how these potentially explosive plays can occur. When these things happen maybe someone has put their eyes in the wrong spot or gets a little bit out of position when those big plays occur. The key for us is getting those guys to understand their responsibility within the defensive scheme and trying to focus in on what kind of plays to expect from the offense based on whatever tips or alerts they have."
Did you guys change anything along those lines in Week Four with your scheme to prevent those plays?
"No not really, I wouldn't say that there is anything that we schematically changed to try to try to eliminate those plays. I mean obviously I think we've probably done a better job of maybe putting some guys in different positions, which kind of accentuate their positives and accentuate the things that they do well. I think coach (Payton) talks about it all the time, let's talk about what these players can do and what they can do well and how can we put them in those positions and then try to eliminate the times that we put them in places where maybe they're not quite as good. I think that is always the thought process when you go into a gameplan situation. Number one, what do our guys do really well and how do we put those guys in those positions and then number two would be in doing that how do we defend what the offense is trying to do? It's a little bit of a two-fold thing."
Did you see the players thinking about the preseason success and maybe some bad body language early on?
"No I can't say that was something that (I saw). Quite honestly I was surprised at the way we played in the opening game. I was disappointed in the way that we played in the opening game. I thought that we would play better than that. Whatever those reasons were I can't quite put my finger on. I know that we didn't execute as well as we should have, I know that we didn't do our job as well as we should have and what the reasons were for that that's what I can't quite put my finger on, but look I think if that is the case then obviously we got what we deserve and hopefully we learned our lesson from that and we'll be able to handle whatever success comes our way and understand that success in this league is on a week-to-week basis."
Do you think you're on the other side of these mistakes?
"I know this. we are going to play a game against a really good opponent, not this coming Sunday, but the following Sunday and we're going to have to be ready to play and play extremely well to have an opportunity to win that game and I know that in this league you have to get yourself ready to play every single week. There are no easy ones in this league. Hopefully our guys understand that and realize that the margin for error in this league is very. very minimal and you have to prepare extremely hard and get yourself physically, emotionally and mentally ready to play a game every week."
Does anything stand out about the difference in stats over the last two weeks compared to the first two games?
"I would say that means we didn't play very well the first two weeks and we played a lot better in the second two weeks. Some things are hard to explain as to why they happen. Obviously we did not play well the first two weeks of the season and we've played better the next two weeks and why have we played better? We played better because we executed better, because we've done better (in our) preparation, we've done a better job as coaches, we've done a better as players, but I think that's the way it is in this league and you have to come and be ready to play every single week and every week is a new challenge."
Can you explain that difference or point to anything specific?
"I was extremely surprised at the way we played. I think specifically in the first game I thought we would play better in that game, but when you really look at it there's a few plays in each of the games that if it goes the other way you're eliminating a lot of puts and eliminating a lot of yardage. The first two weeks of the season we have a couple opportunities to get off the field on third down and we didn't execute as well as we needed too, which again keeps the drive alive and the offense on the field. It keeps putting yards on the stat book and points on the board. I think rarely are things as bad as they seem and rarely are they as good as they seem. I think the truth lies somewhere in between, but our deal is we are searching to find that consistency because that what are the really good teams are. They are consistent and you don't have a lot of these peaks and valleys and I think that's what we have to strive to improve on."
What do you think of how the new linebackers have played so far this year?
"I think the group has performed solidly. I would say they're probably not a whole lot different than the rest of the guys on the defense, in terms of I don't know that we played as well as we could have in the first couple weeks of the season. Then obviously the last couple weeks we've played better in that position group. I like the group of linebackers we have and I think they are all very tough, competitive and smart football players and I'm pleased with where we are at, but we still have a lot of improvement that we've got to make and continue to strive to get better everyday"
What are the skills an outside corner would need to play inside?
"I do not know that there is a huge difference in skillset and I am talking about athletic ability. I have seen a lot of different types of players that have gone inside in the slot. I think the biggest thing is there are some mental awareness things with going inside in the slot. There's a lot more happening. Really when you're an outside corner most everything's happening on one side of you, everything's typically inside of you and happening inside of you and all of a sudden you go inside to the nickel position and there's action happening kind of on both sides of you. There's a little bit more mental awareness that takes place inside at the nickel position, than probably would occur outside."