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Dennis Allen: 'The best 11 guys are going to play'

Allen in first full season as team's defensive coordinator

New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen
Rookie Minicamp Media Availability
Saturday, May 14, 2016

Where do you start when you're evaluating these guys?

"Number one, we start totally anew. This is totally a new year and it is a totally different group. Last year was last year. We are totally looking forward on what we have to try to get accomplished this year. What we have to do is develop the right culture and the right mind-set to play defensive football around here. That is where we have started. We have had good work so far. It has been pretty good. The rookies have done a nice job out here over the first three practices. That is kind of what the mindset is."

As far as personnel, I know you guys made some moves at linebacker, but how different is it to have someone like James Laurinaitis in the middle?

"What I would say is that first of all, there is no position set here. We are going to give (players) an opportunity at OTA's, minicamp and then training camp. The deck kind of sorts itself out a little bit. The best 11 guys are going to play and everybody is going to have an opportunity to go out and prove what they can do. Like we told the players, at the end of the day, it is your job to define your role within this football team and what you can do to help us. We'll evaluate it but you're going to tell us where you need to be based on the way that you practice and based on the way that you play."

What did you like when you looked at Vonn Bell in the evaluation process?

"He's got a nice athletic skill set for the safety positon. He has had a knack for being able to get his hands on the football. He has had a few takeaways in his career over at Ohio State. I think the other thing that you have to look at any time that you are looking at these players is, when you get a chance to add some guys from a championship program, guys that understand what it takes to win, I think that helps your football team."

How important is versatility with some guys and their ability to play multiple positons?

"You carry 46 guys on the active gameday roster. The more flexibility you have in positions, and the more things that you can do for a football team, that allows us to be a little bit more multiple defensively. (Also), injuries are going to happen and having guys that have the ability to rotate into different positions gives you a better chance to be successful."

What excites you about Sheldon Rankins?

"He is a good football player. I think one of the biggest things aside from his athletic ability and aside from what we saw from a production standpoint and the way that he plays football, I think he is a real mature young man. He has a little bit of a feel for what is going to be expected of him and what we anticipate out of him. He has done a good job in this rookie camp of really working. We're excited about having Sheldon."

How much more relaxed do you feel that you're in charge of the defense as opposed to last season when you were working with Rob Ryan?

"I think it is all about a philosophy, for lack of a better term. Just being able to instill exactly the way that we want to do things. I think our guys are buying into what we are trying to get accomplished. I think that is kind of the biggest thing, kind of the overall philosophy, for lack of a better word."

Do these other players kind of look to a guy like Sheldon Rankins to be a leader out here just because of where he was drafted?

"I think leadership is an evolution and a process. I don't think that you just step out there on the first day and you're a leader. I think that you become a leader based on the way that you go about doing your business. Like I said before, he is a mature individual so he has a little bit of an understanding of what it is going to take to be a pro. I think that will benefit him, but can also benefit some of the other young guys."

Does having one offseason as the defensive coordinator give you a chance to maybe make bigger changes to the defensive scheme?

"I do not know if it gives you a chance to make bigger changes to the defensive scheme. Obviously, you're able to instill your scheme and you're able to instill your culture and how you want to go about doing things. You are not quite as able to do that when you take over in the middle of a season. Like anything else, we're starting from ground zero. We're going to be judged on what we do from this point forward, and that is the way that we have to look at it."

What are some of the prime objectives that you feel that you want to improve upon? Maybe pass rush or creating more turnovers, that sort of thing?

"I think you hit it. We have to take the ball away more and put pressure on the quarterback. The most important stat in football is points allowed and we have to get better in that area. There are a lot of areas where we have to get better. Red zone (defense) is an area we have to improve on. When I say improve, I don't know where we are at right now because this group hasn't had the opportunity to play or practice. As a general philosophy, we have to make sure that we limit the points, we need to take the football away and we need to create pressure on the quarterback."

What is your general philosophy going to be this year?

"Don't let them score. We're going to do our best to do that. We want to be an attacking and aggressive style of defense. We want to try to dictate the tempo to the offense, as opposed to them being able to dictate the tempo to us. We want to play hard and we want to play fast. I think that if we're able to do that and limit the amount of mistakes that we have, we'll have a chance to be successful."

What dictates how fast a rookie can play in a defense?

"It's two-fold – it is the ability to go out and make plays and make things happen positive for us, and eliminate the errors. Now, how do they go about doing that? It's a process of being in the meeting rooms, learning the scheme and understanding what we're asking them to do. Being able to buy into the culture and the way that we're going to ask them to play. And then ultimately, being able to come out here and play, and being able to produce. We'll see how that evaluation process goes with all of these young players, and really not just the young players, but the veteran players too."

How do you evaluate this offseason up until this point?

"Up until this point, it has really been about the acquisition of players. That was the primary objective when you go into the offseason, is identifying what players can come in and potentially help us get better. (Also), potentially moving guys around that were here last year maybe into different spots, and then now we continue on with the evaluation process as we get onto the field. We'll start to see what guys can do."

Do you feel like you have met those objectives?

"We'll see, time will tell. It is way too early to start making assumptions about where we are at, as far as the defense is concerned. I do like some of the progress that I have seen from our players with the meeting time that we have had with them and some of the walkthroughs that we've had. I like the direction that we're headed, but we have a long way to go."

Sean Payton mentioned at the draft that you could improve the pass rush both through personnel acquisition and through coaching; when he mentioned coaching, is he talking more about scheme and game-planning stuff?

"You'd have to ask Sean (Payton) exactly what he intended to say when he said that. I think our job as coaches, is to help these guys to improve as football players. It is our player's job to go out and execute on the practice field and execute what we're asking them to do in the meetings rooms, and execute what we're asking them to do on game day. It's two-fold."

During the draft when you're seeing (Leramy) Tunsil fall and Sheldon Rankins is there, are you thinking 'just make the right move and go get that defensive guy that can help us'?

"As a defensive coach, selfishly you are saying give me some toys to play with. Understanding the whole general philosophy of how you run an organization, you go out and you get the best football players. That is what you have to do. If you got two guys that as you go through the grading process and the draft and they're rated very similarly, then you take into account need. Other than that, you're trying to get the best football players that you can get."

But you weren't upset when Sheldon Rankins was the guy, right?

"No, I was not upset."

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