For now, the goal for the New Orleans Saints defense isn't to do something new.
It's to do what it does better.
Last year, the Saints allowed 21.6 points per game (14th fewest in the league), 334.8 total yards (11th), 93.9 rushing yards (fourth) and forced 23 turnovers (the team's plus-15 margin was second best in the league).
Obviously, some things worked well for a defense that registered 51 sacks (third most) and had seven games where it allowed 18 points or less, including five of 10 points or less. But defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, entering his 11th season with the Saints over two stints – and his fifth as defensive coordinator – believes things can be better.
And presently, he believes it can happen by sharpening the tools that New Orleans already has in its defensive playbook.
So while New Orleans is like every other NFL team, limited to virtual contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen and the defensive staff are making sure to fine-tune the details.
"The fact that the majority of our coaching staff, and the majority of our players, have been together for at least the last three years I think is very beneficial," Allen said. "You ask me about installations and how the installations are going – we didn't go through a lot of different things this offseason and say, 'We've got to change this and do this and do that.'
"What we really said during the offseason was, 'How are we going to do these things better? And how are we going to teach these things better?' And that's really where our focus has been. It's been about really fine-tuning all the little details to everything that we're doing defensively, from verbiage, terminology to techniques and fundamentals. Really trying to hone in on exactly the things that we want to teach and exactly the terminology we wanted to do to use that."
The lack of face-to-face availability with players each day has been beneficial from that standpoint.
"Because we haven't had the players in here, we've had a lot of these Webex conference calls where we've had an opportunity to really go through the playbook, and really go through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure that we're doing everything exactly the way that we need to be doing it," Allen said.
"(Making sure) the diagrams are exactly the way that they need to be, the verbiage that's in the book is exactly the way it needs to be. And just making sure that we're all 100 percent on the same page on everything that we're doing so that when we do have the players in here, it is like a well-oiled machine in terms of exactly what we're supposed to be doing.
"Because, look, it's our job to make sure that players know what their job is on the field. Their job is to execute and make plays when they have the opportunity to. But it's our job to make sure we're putting them in the right position."
Allen said he's comfortable that New Orleans has the right personnel to execute the plan. Defensively, the major additions are veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins and rookie linebacker Zack Baun.
"I really like our players," he said. "I like the fact that they're tough, I like the fact that they're extremely competitive, I like the fact that they're smart and I like the fact that they're team players. And I think that's probably the biggest thing that I can say about our players, is that they're all team and team-goal oriented.
"Certainly, we all like our own individual accolades but yet, they all understand that what we're asking them to do is for the betterment of our football team and they're all bought in to trying to do whatever they can to make us better. I like the makeup of this football team, we're always trying to get better. I'm excited about hopefully having the opportunity to get with these guys and start practicing some football at some point."
Allen, wife donate $100,000 to Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund
Once Dennis Allen explains it, it makes perfect sense.
Allen is much more than a passing-through member of the community. He is a solid member of it – entering his 11th season with the Saints over two stints – which explains his family's $100,000 donation to the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund, which was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think this – this whole situation, COVID-19 – has really had a rough impact," Allen said. "Our community, the greater New Orleans area, was impacted significantly by this virus, and a lot of people needed help. And this community has been home for me and my family for going on 11 years now, and so my wife and I both felt like it was important for us to try to do something to give back to this community that has given us so much.
"We wanted to help out and we felt like, what better way than to give to the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and specifically, the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund? I thought that was a great way for us to try to do our part to help out our community."
Allen and his wife, Alisson, decided to make the generous donation as they sought to make a contribution and an avenue through which to direct it. He said that giving back fits into his job description.
"All of us that are involved as players, coaches in the National Football League, we've all been blessed," he said. "And I feel like it's our job to try to give back to our community and to try to help in any way that we can. So I'm glad that we were able to do that."