New Orleans Saints Secondary Coach Aaron Glenn
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
How are you holding up through the pandemic?
Me and my family are doing really well. I have a son that's 25 and he lives on his own. He's been camped out at his apartment. My daughter goes to LSU so she's been home with us. Also, I have a 17 year old whose been out of school. Them, I guess you'd say are lucky being able to do online classes and be at home around us. It's been enjoyable just to be around them and just see how they operate on a day-to-day basis. Those are the things that we take for granted that you miss. It's been outstanding, being able to be home and stay camped out and just try and stay healthy."
What's it been like being away from the players knowing the kind of social interaction you like having with them?
"That is always the hardest part as a coach. I have always been a coach that interacts with his players and like to get hands on in drills. Not being able to do that is always hard to do, but I will tell you what these opportunities to get on these Zoom calls, what we call Webex, be it just talking and slowly to be able to go through film, slowly through the install. The guys get a really good understanding of what we're doing and we don't have to go through every coverage that you have. You can specifically pick out certain coverages you have that you want to dive into and it's been really good and is something that I can see going forward that might be a change as far as offseasons are concerned, so you can have these isolated events to be able to talk with players on a lower level as far as getting things across that you want to get across to your players."
How beneficial is it to have a veteran secondary, guys that are familiar with what you're teaching?
"That's always good to have guys that have been in this system for a while and I always say this statement the past couple years, even though guys have played a lot of football that we have, a lot of those guys in our secondary are still young .When you look at Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, but we brought in Malcolm Jenkins a very intelligent, highly professional and will really help our back end with the things he brings to the table. D.J. Swearinger, same type of guy, he's been around the league for a while and even though he's new to our team, he understands football. A lot of these coverages, I think that (what) we're doing won't be different for him. And then it's time for Marcus (Williams) and (Marshon) Lattimore to take the next step. I expect that from both of those guys. I've spoken with both of those guys throughout the offseason and that's what they do and that's what I expect from them. Then you have Janoris (Jenkins) who's been around for a while, again nothing new for him and then P.J.'s (Williams) just the ultimate swiss-army knife for us. He's a guy I think we sometimes take for granted. I'm glad we have him back."
What makes Janoris Jenkins so valuable as a player?
"I did a high level study of Janoris just over his career and when you think about when he first got into this league. He came in as one of the better corners in this league and he' really good press corner early in his career and made a lot of plays on the ball. As his career started to develop and he started to have this knack for being an off corner and being able to anticipate and see the quarterback and be able to make plays on the ball. But that didn't take away his ability to play press coverage. That's one of the things that we really need to tap into. He actually hasn't had a chance to do as much when he was with the Giants. That's what we do, we're a press team and want those guys to be able to go up there and challenge. I want him to tap into that again and allow him to do what he came into the league doing really, really well at. Plus, also being able to use those off skills that he developed over his career. But am excited to have an offseason like we've been doing and I'm excited to have him in training camp and going through a whole season."
Did you guys play less press coverage than you would have liked last year?
"We had several calls that actually ended up working really well for us. To where we had our corners playing a little bit more vision and that's in some of our split safety defense. When you look at it even in our split safety defense we went up there and pressed quite a bit too, but it just allowed our corners to play with their vision. They did a good job of that, but again when you have Marshon Lattimore and you've got Janoris Jenkins you want those guys being able to play press man and be able to do what they do best. I could see us getting back and doing a lot of that stuff."
What do you think are the next steps for Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams and what do you want to see out of them to take that next step?
"I will tell you this and I think both guys will tell you (as well) that I'm hard on both of those guys, because I see greatness in both of them. And I do not want them to limit themselves to being just a talented player. I want them to have the whole gamut for what an NFL player should be like and that is not just going out there and covering up a receiver, that's not just playing in the middle of the field. Marcus has to be better at playing down low. He has to be better as a tackler. I want to consistently see him make plays on the ball, but don't want him to force those plays and I think sometimes that gets into his head, everybody saying he's this type of player. We know the type of player you are Marcus, just go out there, play football and don't try and force these plays. The plays will come to you because of who you are and the way that you play the game. It is the same with Lattimore also. Man I want him to not just be a great cover corner, but I want him to be the smartest corner, because he's a corner that you hardly ever see this in the league because he's a really good tackler and he's a physical player. We have a guy like that and we want to take advantage of that skillset as much as you can. I allow him to play with his vision and be able to see the quarterback and be able to react and make tackles and things like that. I want those guys to be all-around players. I don't want them to limit themselves on anything they can do and I will continue to challenge those guys in that aspect."
What are your thoughts on Drew Brees' comments last week and how the team has dealt with it thus far?
"I'm going to give you a long winded answer on this and just bear with me for a little bit. As I have thought about the events that have happened, it brought me back to my playing days and an issue of an event that happened and it sparked the same (reaction), totally different situation, totally different, but there are similarities as far as what it sparked. I remember I was playing for the New York Jets during 9/11 and all those issues happened, plane goes through the building. I remember myself being in the facility getting treatment and when that happened the one thing that, as Americans, I'm not saying black Americans, I'm not saying white Americans, I'm saying as Americans the one thing we did was it sparked communication. It sparked education, it sparked everyone to listen and to strategically plan and it sparked action. I got back and I look at these incidents that happened and what's going on in our nation right now and it's the same thing, all right. It's sparking communication, it's sparking education. Everyone has to strategically plan on how do we handle these issues and the action behind it's what's most important. There's no doubt there's an issue going on in America right now that we have to get ready to hit head on and can't run from it. We can't hide from it and we've got to continue to have these dialogues on getting better because I think unless you really open your eyes and listen and see it. I think everyone sees the issues going on and as Americans, the same thing we did during 9/11. We came together as a nation, all right, and we didn't have any fear, all right. We ended up conquer the whole deal and we ended up getting past the whole deal and I see this the same way, all right. We can't have fear about it. We have to talk about it and communicate about it and we have to plan on how we're going to defeat this and how we're going to get past this and it's not going to black people who do it. It's not just going to be white Americans that do it, we have to come together as Americans to defeat this and you'll see us overcome this just like 9/11."
A lot of your players were very emotional after that, Malcolm Jenkins, C.J. Gardner-Johnson made a lot of public comments after Drew's comments. As a coach, what's the line between letting the players express themselves, especially in times like these, and trying to work in within that team dynamic and maybe keep that private, within the team? How do you handle that?
"Well, I'll say this, and you have to give a lot of credit to Mickey (Loomis), Coach (Sean) Payton, Jeff Ireland for the type of players that we bring on this team. Everyone talks about culture. Everyone wants to build culture. Everyone wants to know, what's culture? This is one thing that I say in the DB room all the time, I say, 'culture is coach fed, but player led.' Meaning that, we as coaches, we set the standard and we give direction, but the players have to police it. That's one thing that we have in our locker room and that's one thing that, again, I commend Mickey, Sean, Jeff for bringing these guys in because we have cultured players. When you have guys like Malcolm, when you have guys like Drew Brees, no one is afraid to sit there and talk and give their opinions on what is going on. Again, going back to what I said before, that's where communication comes in hand, that's where education comes in hand. Now I think those guys have a plan of action that they're actually going to go behind and get things done. The good thing about our team is that we have that with the players that we have. We have it. You see Double D (Demario Davis). You see Cam Jordan. You see the Drew Brees'. You see Terron (Armstead). You see all these guys, no one was afraid to give their opinion and talk about it and it was powerful. It was a really, really powerful meeting. Some guys had tears in their eyes, rightfully so because emotionally that hits you. Then you take the teams that don't have that culture. Now it's up to the head coach, he has to step in and he has to make sure he can spark that dialog. That's the good thing about us, we have the coach that can do it and we have the players that aren't afraid to do it. That's what makes our team such a good dynamic."
Yesterday, Dennis (Allen) mentioned P.J. Williams' ability to play safety and how that might help with disguise and stuff like that. How much have you guys seen from him in that spot and is that something that he can a little bit more and what did you guys learn about him last year when he was doing that?
"I've always had respect for P.J., but my respect for him went to another level during the Tennessee game. P.J. had hardly ever played safety ever and we had a ton of injuries in that game. I was able to talk to P.J. on the sideline, coach him up for what we had to do to get him to play. There were some things that he just knew playing safety. That is the thing that I was talking about with all these veterans that we have. Some of these guys, they just know football. You just give them some parameters to play in and some ideas on how they have to do certain things then they'll go out there and they'll perform. That's what P.J. did for us. I know in baseball they have utility players, I'm don't know if I'm saying that the right way, but P.J. can play safety for us and that's either one, free or strong, he can play nickel, he can play the dime, and he can play corner for us. He's a very valuable player for our defense and he hear coaches talk about position-less players and I see him being one of those guys. You just don't put him at a position because he can play a number of positions for you. I think that's where this game is going to. As a coach, the game is evolving towards getting players like that. You see the Malcolm Jenkins', you see the C.J. Gardner-Johnson's, he can play safety, he can play nickel, dime, he can play corner when we need him to. So I think that is the wave of players you're trying to get on your team because they you can move them around. They can be in different positions. If the offense can identify where they are, I think that can be troublesome."
With C.J. Gardner-Johnson, what is the next step in year two, what do you want to see him do?
"Getting better mentally and understanding our scheme to a tee. Getting better in coverage because he will be playing a good amount of nickel-back for us in the slot. He'll be covering top level receivers in the slot and we're not afraid to put him in there and let him cover guys because he has that skill set. He's uniquely built for the nickel because he's very compact. He's 210 pounds so he's able to play in the box, he's able to make tackles just like P.J. (Williams) did. Both of those guys did a really good job playing in the box for us. So that's where I see his growth as far as mentally, really understanding football and not just playing football. We've been on a lot of zoom calls this offseason and he's getting that down. Just understanding what the offense trying to do when they're in certain formations and how are they trying to attack you. He's getting better at that."
When you're looking for one of these position-less players, what kind of traits are you trying to identify, is it an intelligence thing, is it a physical thing, is it a little bit of both?
"Well, I think you're always looking for the intelligence factor for anybody in the secondary, but physically can they handle being in the box, make tackles and play like a linebacker. Do they have the ability and the speed to cover receivers? When these teams go fast and they catch you on these personnel packages where you can't get out of it, can that guy just go out there and operate like a nickel corner? These guys can do that, the ones that we have, P.J. and C.J. So those are the things that you're looking for. The physical traits, you're always looking for the intelligence, the guys that can actually play (in the box) and have the body type that can do it, but also be on the outside and cover receivers."
Is this trend towards (position-less players), do you think this is something that could have always been a thing? Could you have played like that as a nickel, safety and all that or is this something that coaches have had to adapt to and be willing to kind of change?
"I think this, I think it's something that you have to be willing to change. Back in my day, when I was playing, you had true free safeties, true strong safeties. I remember I played with (Steve) Atwater, he was a true strong safety. I played with Victor Green, he was a true strong safety. You didn't want those guys playing deep because it wasn't what they did best. Nowadays you see these interchangeable type players that can play in the box, they can play back deep, they can play in the slot, they can do a number of things. Plus I think it's hard for the offense to try to identify guys, especially when you have a ton of these guys on the field. That's why you see teams like Baltimore, they might only have one D-lineman and they'll have five linebackers and the rest are DBs or one D-lineman, three linebackers and the rest are DBs. Now you've got to identify who's coming, who's going to be blitzing, (inaudible). When you have guys like that, it just makes you a better team and allows you to do a lot of things defensively as a coach, and schematically to attack the offense."
I've heard coaches say before you do your one thing really well and you get really good at it and that's kind of your thing. Do you have to stretch against stretching guys too thin if they're asked to do a lot of things?
"Well, that's where the intelligence comes in. I think in today's game guys have to be multiple, guys have to be able to play different positions. The game is not to a point where I am this and that is all I am. Those guys are being weeded out in this league. You have to be able to do other things. You can see it on a number of teams. You look at guys coming out in the draft this year, (Isiah Simmons) from Clemson, he's played safety, he's played linebacker, he's out there covering somebody. You put him in those positions to where you can utilize him and their skillset to best help your team. You're starting to see guys like that come into this league a lot. Look at the safety that came in this year, (Jeremy Chinn) from Southern Illinois, the big safety, there's a number of spots where you can play this guy. You look at the other guy (Kyle Dugger) that New England drafted, you can clearly see Patrick Chung, that's what (type of role type) he's going to play. I'm assuming that's what he's going to play because he's built just like Patrick, he's probably an overall better athlete. As you see, all these coaches are going out and getting these guys because they know they can play a number of positions."
When you mention C.J. Gardner-Johnson just needing to get better mentally, do you also mean maybe just learning to play within himself? He's a very passionate player obviously, but that can be great or sometimes it gets you in trouble.
"Yeah, but I would say this – it's helped him more that it hurt him. I'd say that. And you never want to take away a player's personality because sometimes you take his thing away from him. You've just got to control it. You have just got to let him understand there's some that you can and can't do, alright? But I want you to be yourself go out there and play. The mental part, it is not that he cannot pick the scheme, he can do that. It's learning football. The best thing in this league for a player is to understand football. You can know your playbook. You can have the best technique you want. But if you're not understanding what the offense is trying to do to attack you, you're always going to be a step behind and that's what I am trying to teach all our players. These formations, positions, guys, they're there for a reason, so how can I get you to understand what they're doing pre-snap, so your post-snap reaction can be a lot quicker."
We've heard a lot about Malcolm's (Jenkins) leadership qualities being really attractive to you all, but how does that translate on the field? How does having a guy who's a vocal leader and intelligent player, how does that help you guys actually play defense?
"I would say this, the intelligence part, it always helps because there are going to be some teams that use some formations – some things that you need somebody to problem solve. They're going to be able to fix it quickly. And he's one of those guys that can problem solve. Especially when you have two young guys out there in the backend. He can get guys to line it up and he can fix it. He can get you in position where you can just get it done. The second thing is, he's going to challenge our guys to be at their best. And not just the backend, but the whole defense. You need guys like that that are not afraid to challenge the Cam Jordan's, the Marshon Lattimore's, the Marcus Williams'. And we know he is challenging those guys to be at their best. So they do not take it (as a) slight. They take it as, 'Man he wants me to play at a high level.' And when you do that as a player, you also put that on your back as, 'Man got to make sure I pick my game up.' So you have a guy like Malcolm to be able to do that and that only elevates your defense. And you know he's doing it to help the players on the defense, to be the best players that they can be. And it's nothing about pointing the finger at me. It's, man I'm trying to get everyone to play at a level. We have a goal that we're trying to get to, and I want to make sure that you all play together."
Would having two guys that can press like Marshon and Janoris Jenkins, and I know he used to kind of shadow No. 1 guys earlier in his career, Jenkins did, Does that allow you guys to be more matchup-based in particular with who is going against who and does that open things up a little bit more for you guys?
"Well we always go into a gameplan seeing exactly where Marshon was going to go. When you bring in another good cover corner like that, it kind of allows that to be stationary, especially if you feel good about the matchups. They can play left and right. We also look at the skillsets of the receivers we're going against to see how they matchup well against each other. Janoris being a smaller stature than Marshon, sometimes you want to have Marshon on the bigger receiver, and put him (Janoris) on the small receiver. So what you are saying is right. You are able to mix and match and be able to find the right matchups. And what our guys do best be able to alleviate what their guys do best and try to put that matchup against each other. So sometimes they are going to stay left and right because both of those guys are good press corners and receivers are just normal receivers. Or those receivers might have physical matchups that we feel like Marshon's better at or Janoris is better at and try to match them up like that."
I'm curious what you saw in that (Deatrick) Nichols guy that you guys signed on out of the XFL. When you are looking at him, how do you evaluate that type of a guy playing in another league like that versus playing in college? And what have you gotten to know about him since you've been working with him?
"I would say this, and I think our scouting department does a good job of this, you take this from the (Bill) Walsh era, you take this from the Bill Parcells era, and they are always going to look for talent. Wherever you can find it. Whatever league you can look. You always want to look for talent. So when you look at Deatrick, the first thing that sticks out with him is how competitive he is. And then the ball skills that he possesses. You saw that not just in the XFL, but you saw that in college. I think he had like 11 picks when he was in college, so the ball finds him. And as a defensive back, I see two attributes that you like in a DB – competitive and ball skills. And those are the things that stuck out to me when I saw him play. So he's going to get a chance to come in and compete. He's on the smaller side, but we do have a clear vision for him. I could see him fighting his butt off and not taking a backseat to anybody on this team. That's just the mentality that he has. You want those guys like that even though we have a number of good players in the secondary. He's not afraid to come in and compete and show what he can do and try to get some good tape."
Is he more of an inside guy, outside guy or interchangeable?
"He is an inside guy. And I would tell you this, when you watch him play and he is not the best tackler, but there is a possibility that he could be at the free safety spot because how he can judge the ball. But I do see him playing nickel. I see that being his main position. Possibly on the outside, but nickel is the number one job (he will compete for defensively)."
I'm assuming you have kids?
"I do. Three of them."
So what has this experience kind of been like for you just getting maybe a little bit more time around them while you are doing work? And has that kind of been beneficial side of this for you?
"Man, it's been outstanding. And I said it earlier, I have a 25-year old son and he's on his own. He has his own place, but it's been good to have family dinners with everybody. That's something that my wife's big on. I have two daughters. One that goes to LSU, and one that is going to be a senior in high school. And it's been outstanding. The thing is you see how you take for granted it is those little small things of being in the house. Family dinners with everybody. Being able to sit outside and conversate just about some of the things that's happening in the world today. Those have been huge plusses for me and my family. Even though there have been some horrific things that have been happening during this pandemic, I always think there's something good that comes out of it. And I think that's been one thing. It's been more family time for everybody. Even having a chance to sit back and talk about the racial injustice that's been going on. Being able to have those conversations with my kids. Sometimes they get confused about what's going on and why these things happen. So again, I get a chance to communicate and educate. And then we get a chance to plan and then also have action behind that too. But it's been good man, I've enjoyed it. I do miss working. I do miss being on the field. But I do love my family. I do love being around (them)."