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New Orleans Saints Coach Dennis Allen likes progress, additions team has made in offseason

'And we still have a lot to do'

Phoenix – The New Orleans Saints aren't totally where they want to be in terms of offseason additions and needs filled, but Coach Dennis Allen said he feels good about the progress the team has made.

"I would think so," Allen said when asked if he believed the Saints have had a good offseason. Allen spoke during a media session Tuesday morning from the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"And we still have a lot to do," he said. "We still have the draft coming up, another opportunity for us to add some players that we think will be able to help our team. But I feel good about where we're at and what we're doing.

"I think for the most part, I think we've handled a lot of the musts. There's always wants. Probably a couple of needs that we need to try to make sure we fill a couple of spots. But again, I like where we're at."

The Saints have added, among others, unrestricted free agents Derek Carr (quarterback), Jamaal Williams (running back), Khalen Saunders (defensive tackle), Nathan Shepherd (defensive tackle), Johnathan Abram (safety) and Bryan Edwards (receiver), and re-signed several of their own, including tight end Juwan Johnson and defensive tackle Malcolm Roach.

"I think we've made some nice moves in free agency," Allen said. "You're always looking to see where you can continue to try to fill out your roster, but we feel good about where we're at right now."

Allen said Edwards earned good grades coming out of the draft, and his familiarity with Carr should be helpful. Edwards played two seasons with Carr in Las Vegas, and had his most productive NFL season (34 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns) there in 2021.

"We felt good about the relationship that he has with Derek," Allen said. "I know when we played them out in Las Vegas in the 2020 season, I was impressed with some of the things that I saw in terms of a big, physical pass catcher. He's a guy that I think you bring him in, you put him in the mix and I think he's got a chance to help us."

Of Saunders, Allen said he's reminded of retired defensive tackle Hollis Thomas, who was a Saint from 2006-08 and spent his first nine seasons with the Eagles.

"Kind of a big, square-bodied, athletic, can move, good run-stopper but yet has some sneaky pass-rush ability, I think," Allen said. "The ability to push the pocket inside. I think he's going to help us in that regard."

Shepherd is similar to a defensive tackle that the Saints lost in free agency – David Onyemata, who signed with Atlanta.

"Big, physical run-stopper," Allen said. "Another guy that probably doesn't get enough credit in terms of his ability to rush the passer. I think that's an area that he can still improve on, but yet, I think there's something there that hasn't been tapped into yet."

JOINT WORK: Allen confirmed that the Saints will have joint training camp practices with the Chargers, which they've done in the past. Last season, New Orleans traveled to Green Bay for joint practices with the Packers.

"We're excited about it and looking forward to it," he said. "I've always thought that practicing against somebody else was a good change, so that you don't get stale with your training camp practices. It's a good football team, and it'll give us an opportunity to work against somebody else.

"I think there's some benefits to injury prevention, in terms of the difference between a joint practice, where it's a little bit more to it than when you're just practicing against your own group. But yet, it's not the same as a preseason game. So from an injury-prevention standpoint, you're less apt to be injured in a joint practice than a preseason game."

There also is an increased amount of starter-vs.-starter work.

"There's a higher concentration of reps, when you talking about your first group getting out there and getting some work," he said. "I'd say generally, probably the most work that your 1s are going to get is probably 20 plays, 25 plays maybe in a preseason game. That would be on the high end, whereas they're probably getting 30 to 40 reps in a joint practice. So there's a lot of good benefits to that."

SALUTE: Allen had high praise for team John Amoss, the Saints’ team doctor who recently helped detect Hodgkin’s lymphoma in free agent tight end Foster Moreau, the latest of several significant conditions Amoss has been able to detect.

"Our medical people, and the lives that they've saved, specifically John Amoss," he said. "We found the heart condition with Nick Fairley, we found a heart condition with Jon Dorenbos. The offensive lineman that we claimed from Buffalo, we found a heart condition with him. And now, with (Moreau). Look, you don't like to find these things. You don't want to see these things be present, but yet, our medical people being able to find these things and really save people's lives is amazing. And I think our medical people do a hell of a job."

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