When former New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen departed to fill the defensive coordinator position in Atlanta, and former co-defensive coordinator Kris Richard's contract wasn't renewed due to philosophical differences, Saints Coach Dennis Allen turned to Joe Woods to take over the defensive coordinator position. Woods did not join the organization at a "down" time for the defense.
Allen will oversee the defense but will structure a cohesion with Woods, with whom he has a familiarity. Woods was defensive coordinator in Denver from 2017-18, and in Cleveland from 2020-22.
New Orleans was a formidable unit last season: Ninth in scoring defense (20.3 points per game), fifth in yards allowed (314.8 per game), fourth in yards per play allowed (5.0) and 48 sacks, with three Pro Bowlers (defensive end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis and cornerback Marshon Lattimore) and a few others who could be headed for breakout seasons in '23, like linebacker Pete Werner and cornerbacks Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor.
But New Orleans only forced 14 turnovers, a figure the team desperately wants to increase this season. Senior writer John DeShazier caught up with Woods this offseason to gauge his assimilation to the Saints.
DeShazier: Did you see things where the team can be better in terms of forcing turnovers?
Woods: It's definitely something we need to get better, because we didn't get the takeaways we wanted, but you could see the attempts were there. Because you go through and you're like, 'Ah, this is an opportunity we missed on.' But guys were ripping at the ball, guys were punching at the ball. But it has to be second nature. When the opportunity presents itself, you can't miss it. So every time you have an opportunity out on the field, you have to try to make it. Whether it's interceptions, whether you're the second guy running in and you punch at the ball, that's what we're trying to develop, that mind-set.
DeShazier: Dennis Allen brought you in as defensive coordinator because he said you were like-minded. How is that synchronization coming along?
Woods: It's good. I'm still feeling out, because this scheme is a little bit different than schemes I've been around. Very detailed, different concepts, we're going to really attack offenses or handle what they're doing. So it's really me just getting familiar again with the defense. But I definitely think like D.A., in terms of game planning.
DeShazier: Where do you feel your biggest impact will come, because this is viewed as D.A.'s defense?
Woods: First of all, just trying to do my role, what he wants me to do. I know it will increase as we go. The knowledge that I've gained over the years, just in terms of breakdowns, what I'm looking at, maybe certain tendencies that I find, those are things that I'll make him aware of. Along with different cover schemes that I feel like are good versus what the offense is doing. So I'll present those ideas to him, if it's something he likes he'll take it. But I feel like that's something I can bring to the table.
DeShazier: How receptive is he to input from that perspective?
Woods: As long as you can back it, he's good with it. So I'll make sure that I have empirical evidence if I'm going to present an idea to him. And he's good with that. He always has been.