New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen
2016 Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability Transcript
Monday, August 15, 2016
You've had a few weeks to analyze this defense. What is sticking out to you about this unit?
"I think the biggest thing is that they are understanding the way we have to play. The effort, the intensity, the physicality with which you have to play the game of football. Defense is probably a little bit different of a mindset than what most teams might think offensively, but I think that's the biggest thing. I'm encouraged with some of those signs."
From New England to Houston, what do you want to see improved?
"You said the word. I want to see improvement. I think more consistently, we have to do a better job of fitting up the run game. I thought we did a pretty good job in the run game (against New England), and then all of a sudden, we misfit a run and then there was an explosive run. So, limiting the explosive plays and just seeing us being a little bit more consistent in our play (is what I'm looking for)."
Is there a line to toe with how aggressive you can be in terms of blitzing?
"Yes. I think you have to always pay attention to the flow of the game. So, there'll be certain times that the situation might dictate that we want to bring a pressure. There'll be times we have to sit back and play zone coverage. There may be times where we need to play four-man rush and play some man coverage. I think it is really based off of the situation of the game. That is what we try to do."
Back to the preseason game, we saw so many turnovers here the first couple of weeks of camp during team drills. What is so hard about translating practice results onto the field?
"You're not going to get takeaways in every single game. That's a fact of life. I think the key is that we have to continue to stress the importance of taking the ball away. That's why we call them takeaways and not turnovers; we feel like it's our responsibility and our job. We're in control of that and not the offense. I think it is just us continuing to stress that, and I think if you play the right way and you play with eleven guys running to the football the right way with the right type of effort and the right type of physical play, I think those takeaways will come. We had opportunities, and we didn't take advantage of them. We need to take advantage of the opportunities when we get them."
I'm sure you're not the only one who (calls them "takeaways"), but how did that start?
"I don't know. We just started calling it that. It made sense to me. We have a saying that we use in our room—when you begin to blame others, you give up the power to change. What that means is that you're in control of what happens to you. I feel that way in football; I feel that way in life. You make your own breaks in life. That's our mindset, and that's our philosophy."
Can you manufacture some opportunities with disguise or creating confusion?
"I think that's all part of it. At the end of the day, it's players going out and making plays. My job's to put them in the best position. Our job as coaches is to put them in the best position and make sure that they understand exactly what their responsibilities are. They have a lot of decisions that they have to make out on the field that you can't make for them as coaches. There are opportunities out there that you can't make the play for them. We try to do everything we can to put them in the best position. I have been encouraged by where we have gone up to this point. I think if we continue to play the way we're playing, takeaways will come."
Injury aside, what have you seen from Sheldon Rankins?
"He's an explosive player. He plays the run well; he plays the pass well. He has an ability to get to the quarterback. I think all the things that we saw on tape at Louisville are the same things that we've seen here. I think he's a good player."
How important is he to what you guys are trying to do?
"If he was not important, I do not think we would have drafted him with the 12th pick in the first round (of the draft). So, he's a good player, but he's one of however many guys we're going to keep on defense—25, 26 guys on defense. If it's any significant injury—I don't know what the situation is; Sean (Payton) probably would know more about that—it's next man up. You are going to face adversity throughout the season. Nobody knows when it is going to come or in what form. It's going to happen. If that's the case, it's next man up. The next guy has got to step up, rise up, and play to that same level. That's our mindset."
(Ken) Crawley and Erik Harris, have you seen them make a lot of plays in practice and even in the preseason game?
"I think with all young players, the first thing that jumps out at you is the recognition of what type of plays you're going to get before they actually run those plays. Every time the offense breaks a huddle, they're telling you a story. We have to make sure we're reading the book. We have to make sure we understand. As a corner, there are certain routes that you do not have to cover, based on formation and splits. There are certain things as a safety that give you a run-pass indicator. 'How tight do I need to be to the line of scrimmage?' It's really more about just getting the reps, seeing the formations, seeing the plays, and knowing what to expect rather than reacting to them. There's a little bit more anticipation."
Is that why it's important to have a veteran presence like Cortland Finnegan in the meeting room for the secondary?
"Yes. I think any time you get a chance to have a veteran guy in there that has experience, that has been through the battles, that has an understanding of how offenses are trying to attack, I think that is obviously a plus. The biggest plus is having a veteran in there that can go in and make plays. So, I do not think we bring anybody into this program just for a veteran presence. The primary goal is that the guys that we put out there on the field can go out and make plays. That's what we're evaluating with him, and he's done a nice job to this point."
What have you seen from the linebackers from a coverage standpoint?
"I think we're more athletic than we were at this point a year ago. I think we've got the ability with those guys to be able to go out and match up with backs and tight ends. So, that gives you a little bit more freedom as a signal caller to do some different things where you might put those guys in coverage on backs and tight ends. I think that's a positive with our linebacking corps."
Does having (Dannell) Ellerbe fully healthy and running at full speed, is that a big asset to the coverage here?
"Yes. Anytime we get those guys out there healthy, it's a benefit to us. Yes, that's been great. Dannell has done a great job throughout this offseason program. He's changed his diet. He has done a lot of different things to try to help him stay as healthy as he can. I've been extremely pleased with that. I thought he had a hell of a game the other night, some great snaps in coverage. I think he's been fitting up the run pretty well too. That's a plus."
How has it been having Aaron Glenn?
"Outstanding. I think he does a tremendous job. He has a wealth of knowledge. He was a great player in this league. He is able to—you talk about veteran presence and veteran leadership, you get a guy that was an all-pro player—come in an impart some of that knowledge on our young guys. I think he's been outstanding. I'm extremely pleased with the coaching staff. I think they've all done a tremendous job with a really young group of players. They've done a good job of installing the defense and coaching these guys and giving them the information that they need to know so they can go out and execute, but not so much information that we paralyze them with too much information. I've been pleased."
You mentioned the linebacker corps and the running ability. Is that something that in the offseason you wanted to improve?
"I think when you look at the game of football now, teams are spreading you out (more). It's a little more basketball-on-grass. They're trying to get athletes into space and take advantage of that. I think the way the game is moving, having speed and having athleticism on the field is going to make you a better defense."
How did you like your unit in the goal line drills?
"I thought it was solid. We'll go back and watch the tape and see where it is. I thought the first group did a pretty nice job. It looked like they got in a couple of times against the second group. We'll see. Goal line, short yardage—those things are about controlling the line of scrimmage. We'll see how we did."
How has Kasim (Edebali) progressed?
"I have seen a lot of progression out of him. He is not a finished product, but I have seen some really good things. Obviously, he has worked a lot on his pass rush in the offseason. He studied a lot of the top (pass) rushers and expanded his repertoire of moves with which he can rush the quarterback. I think when I look at it, his ability to play stout in the running game has been the most impressive thing to me."
As a coach, how do you react when you see a guy like Sheldon (Rankins) go down?
"I don't know where he's at. Here's how you handle injuries as a coach. You move on. That is the only thing you can do. We're going to play 16 regular season games this year no matter what. We have a job to do. Our job is to go out and win. Whoever we have available to us to go out and win a game, that's what our job is. We'll be judged whether we win or lose. So, that's how we look at it."