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Transcript: Dennis Allen conference call - Monday, June 8

Saints defensive coordinator talks defensive preparations for 2020 NFL season

New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, June 8, 2020

How have you been the last few months with everything going on?
"I've been doing well. Just trying to stay busy and keep active, both mentally and physically and trying to do what we can to prepare for the upcoming season."

Have the coaches been allowed back into the facility?
"Sean (Payton) mentioned to us in a meeting the other day that he does not foresee us coming back into the office until training camp. I know there's been some talk around the league of some other teams beginning to have their coaches show up into the office, but that's really not part of the plan, as far as Coach Payton is concerned. We're really just handling everything that we can remotely and I think at this time of year, I think if players were in it would be, maybe, a little bit different story. I think we can get a lot of things accomplished being able to work remotely."

How is the team handling the events last week and Drew Brees' comments?
"I think the fact that we've got a veteran team, I think allows us to handle these types of situations a lot better, certainly. I think the thing that's evident is that there has to be communication in our country and communication really is a two-way street. To be able to have effective communications, someone has to be willing to speak, but someone has to be willing to listen and I think that's where we are at right now. Obviously, these are challenging times that we are dealing with in our country and we've got to do whatever is necessary to make sure that we solve some of the issues that we are dealing with."

What's been the most unique or different way to coach in the virtual ways that have become commonplace today?
"I think this, I think coaches have had to adapt and embrace technology and I, myself haven't held any meetings with the players. I have been on with other position coaches and dealing with some of these players and I think our coaches have done a really good job of utilizing technology that's available to us. The fact that we're able to have a classroom setting and be able to watch the video. I think it has been very impressive. The ability for the coaches to utilize the drawing tools on the video has really been impressive and look I guess the players would be the ones that would be able to answer that questions, in terms of the ability to learn in that type of environment."

Have you given much thought what this team needs to do to get over the hump?
"You talked about getting over the hump and have you given it much thought, well certainly we've given it a lot of thought. The thing about getting over the hump is, we don't get to start where we finished off last season. We've got to start totally anew and so it's more than just getting over the hump, but one of the things we talked about as a defensive staff is we really don't need to do anything different. We just need to do what we are doing better and that includes coaching it better, teaching it better, having a better understanding of the communication. That's really the fundamentals and technique's that we're going to utilize to accomplish our jobs. Those are really the things we're focused on, it's going to be less about scheme and not nearly as much about what we play, more about how we play."

Are you excited to work with Malcolm Jenkins again and what experience does he bring to a team?
"I was here when we drafted Malcolm (Jenkins) back in 2009. I think Malcolm brings a sense of leadership, an intelligence level to our defense especially from a backend perspective. I'm excited about working with Malcolm. I thought Malcolm was an outstanding player when he was here before and he continued that in Philadelphia and I'm anxious to get an opportunity to work with him again."

Does having Janoris Jenkins for a second season change anything or allow you to do more with him this season?
"I don't know if anything changes in terms of our approach. Certainly, I think the more opportunity we have to be around him and to evaluate him the easier it is for us to really determine all the things he does well and try to put him in those positions as much as we can. Certainly, we feel like he has real good man coverage talent and when you do have corners of that nature with he and Marshon (Lattimore) both it does lend to the ability to play, maybe a little bit more man-to-man. That will be something (we look at) as we go through training camp and get through some of these preseason games. Certainly, we'll utilize that time to evaluate, look not only Janoris (Jenkins), but everybody on our defensive football team to find out the things that we can really do well and those would be the things that we want to stick to as our bread and butter throughout the season."

Can you divulge anything on how to get three safeties on the field this year?
"Yeah, look I have thought a lot about it. I think certainly when you look defensively, at least for us and I'd say this is a trend throughout our league. We played 70 something percent, I do not know the exact number, but 70 something percent of our snaps were played in a sub defense, with five defensive backs on the field. Now, whether that's three safeties and two corners or whether that's three corners and two safeties, certainly that remains to be seen. I think when you look at some of the depth that we do have at the safety position, I think that bodes well for us and we've got some guys that have some flexibility, in terms of what they can do. Guys like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, guys like P.J. Williams, who has the ability to play inside the slot of wide receivers, as well as play and succeed at a traditional safety position. Certainly, we feel good about some of the depth we have and look, part of this whole process is going to be getting through training camp and getting through some of these preseason games. Finding out exactly who we have and what we have and then our job will be to utilize those players the best we can to give us success on Sundays."

Going back to Janoris Jenkins, how important was the couple weeks that you got to spend with him at the end of last year there or is the overall body of work more important there?
"Well, look, certainly there's an overall body of work that you utilize to try to form opinions about what a guy can or can't do, but there's nothing like the experience of having a guy in your building. I can tell you just from my experience with him in that brief period of time, I felt like he was a real pro, I felt like he came to work every day with the intention of getting better and I think he was a great addition to our football team. I am certainly excited about working with him again this season."

Can you speak about playing Tom Brady twice a year in the division and how much extra study, if at all, looking at him and what he does in the offseason knowing that he's going to be in the way twice a year?
"Certainly I think it's a great addition for Tampa Bay's football team. Certainly Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. It's certainly a huge challenge for us. I think it's a challenge for us opening up the season and playing these guys because you really have a couple of things that you're looking at. There's the study that we've got to do of Tom in New England and the things that he was doing there as well as studying Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich, their offense, their philosophy and then trying to merge those two together to find out or see exactly what we're going to get to open the season. That'll be a challenge. That will be difficult for us to deal with, but it is a challenge that we are excited about. I think when you play in the National Football League, there is something about competing at the highest level that excites you. I think we are as competitive of a group as there is and we look forward to the challenge. We understand that it is going to be difficult, but we are excited about the challenge."

With all those guys with the position flexibility, how much does that open up your ability to disguise? I know you already do a lot of it, but do you feel like you have to even more room to be creative and create deception?
"I think that's certainly something that we want to be able to do and having guys that have the versatility and the athleticism we have, both at the linebacker and the secondary position will be advantageous for us in terms of what we can do. Certainly the longer the down and distance, third-down, two-minute, some of those things we can get a little bit more creative in what we do and how we try to attack the offense."

I would imagine with this accelerated offseason, it's obviously going to benefit, at least early in the season, having continuity as a team. How much do you also feel like, from a coaching standpoint, just one's own ability, the cream will rise and be able to show some of the better coaches just how they're able to prepare just on a short offseason too?
"Well, I had this discussion with the defensive staff last Thursday it was, we were on a conference call together, and I said, 'this is the challenge for us. The challenge for us is how are we going to be better teachers this year?' And I do feel like the best staffs rise up in these type of situations. When you face challenges, that's when you really find out how good your group is. I feel like we have a good group of coaches and I feel like we have an advantage over some other teams because I do feel like we have a veteran group that's worked together, but we have to be creative in how we go about teaching because we're not getting all the same time that we would get if we had a normal offseason program with the OTAs and on onto minicamp and then training camp."

Are there any elements to the virtual offseason program that you think might carry forth in future years?
"I think certainly there's some things we can do with the technology that we have that allows us to really be able to still accomplish a lot of things, but yet be able do it virtually. I think there was a lot of things in terms of the meetings that we were able to do with the players and the staff. I think we can handle those things virtually, but I do think there's a lot to be said about one-on-one or face-to-face communication. That element I think you miss a little bit with this technology, but I certainly think there's some things about, whether its Zoom or WebEx or whatever that you can utilize those things and still get a lot accomplished."

What's your vision for Zack Baun and is he someone too that can be flexible in the sub package, sub rush or various ways?
"Yeah, we love the flexibility of the player. That was one of the things that was the most intriguing to us about him. There's a vision for this guy being able to move around and do some different things for us. Obviously, as a rookie there's a big learning curve in terms of what he's going to be asked to do, but we see him as a guy who can play on the ball, he can also play off the ball and certainly we felt like one of the things that we thought he really did well was affect the passer. There's certainly a vision in our mind of some things that we can do with him from a rush standpoint that I think can really benefit us."

You made a significant donation to the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund, can you talk about why that was important to you?
"I think we're going on 11 years here in New Orleans on two different stints. This city has really become home to our family and we just felt like we needed to do something to try to help out our community and we felt like that was the best way for us to go about doing that."

I've heard a couple people now reference their vision for Zack Baun, but is it difficult to start executing that vision when you can't get hands-on work with him on the field yet? Does that change anything at all?
"I do not think that changes anything in terms of what the vision is for the player. How quickly we can accomplish that vision, that will be determined once we're able to actually begin getting on the field and getting this work done. So certainly the vision I don't think changes, how quickly we get to that vision is really what we're talking about."

Sort of related, how difficult does this actually make it to evaluate some of the undrafted free agents when OTA's and minicamp is your time to get a hands-on look at them and see how they fit into the mold there?
"Again, that kind of goes back to the statement just in terms of, look, we are going to have be better coaches, teachers and evaluators. We do not have the same amount of information to go off of. We do not have the same length of time to figure things out so we're going to have to be better and that falls on us as coaches and our ability to evaluate all aspects of the player from a mental, to a physical, to an emotional standpoint. Does it make it more of a challenge, yeah, but that is what we get paid to do."

How cathartic was the virtual call maybe on Friday, without giving any details on it, just kind of being together? I know Shaquille O'Neal was on it and kind of has talked about it. Do you think that was kind of a cathartic experience after an emotional few days?
"Well look, I think this – I think the leadership on this team, I think we're all in good hands. And it starts with our ownership, running down through Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton, our head coach, on through our players. I think we've got great leadership in our organization. We understand how to deal with adversity. So I thought it was a great meeting and I thought that our team benefited from it."

Do you think this might be the biggest coaching challenge of your career or anyone's career? I know the lockout was difficult because you couldn't see the players at all, but I feel like this year has brought an entirely new set of challenges and changes every week. And no one really knows what's going to happen come a month or two from now.
"Yeah look, certainly it's a challenge. And really, I made reference to our players earlier this offseason in just talking about the difference between how you look at this in terms of challenges and excuses. And excuses pre-date losses and not accomplishing your goal. Whereas, challenges pre-date winning and accomplishing your goals. And so this is just a challenge that we've got to face as a group, as an organization (and) as a team. And we certainly feel like we're up to that challenge."

We don't know the situation with the fans yet, but if fans aren't able to attend games, especially in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, how much does that effect your defense do you think?
"I've never been in that situation, so I can't tell you how it's going to effect the defense. Certainly we feel like we've got a great home field advantage at the Dome. We feel like we've got tremendous support from our fans. And I know that it's a tough environment for a road team to come in and play in the Dome. So again, just like anything else that would be another challenge that we'd have to overcome. And so our hope is that we could have a full stadium, but that's still to be determined and if it's not the case then we'll have to figure out how to navigate that challenge."

Is this maybe when you find out if the mental fortitude of a player is going to be tested potentially dealing with rules and restrictions and no fans? And maybe a certain level of maturity is required and that actually goes into crafting a roster based on some of these challenges?
"Well certainly, I think that the teams that have more maturity, the teams that are a little bit more veteran and have great leadership, those are the teams that are going to be able to navigate this challenge of this 20-21 season or 2020 season better than the rest. So we feel, as I said before, I feel great about the leadership of our organization. I feel great about the leadership of our team. And certainly I think that we're in good hands as we move closer to playing football."

Would you have to guard at all against your communication if everyone can clearly hear every single word spoken on the field? Like would you have to change stuff weekly, or?
"Yeah, I think there's some teams that you would have to worry about that a lot more than maybe others. Certainly, that's a two-way street, because obviously if they're hearing our communication, we're also hearing their communication. And so we can utilize that communication a little bit better. Because when we are on the field, especially when we're playing at home, it's very loud for the opposing offense to communicate, but it's also really loud for us to communicate. So there's pluses and minuses to that, and I think that's just something that we're going to have to deal with. As we go along."

I'm just curious for you personally, what has this experience been like for you at home, being around your family more, if that's been beneficial for you?
"Well I think this – I think as tough as this has been to go through this pandemic as a country, I do feel like there are some positives that have been able to come out of that. And I do feel like, and I can only express to you my scenario, but I feel like this is something that has brought us closer together. Us as coaches spend a lot of time away from our families, and so bringing it back home and really having an opportunity to sit back and reflect on what's really, really important. I think it's been refreshing for me as an individual and I think it's been a positive for our family. So certainly, I think there's that aspect of if we could carry that into some of our future business opportunities I think that could potentially be a benefit."

When you were thinking of bringing Malcolm Jenkins in, to what extent did you see him as an evolved player who maybe doing different things this time around. Or to what extent did you see him as a player who knows the defense and can fit back into where he was before he left?
"Well I think there's both of those elements involved in the decision. First and foremost we felt like Malcolm was a great leader and we felt like Malcolm was a highly intelligent football player. And so those were aspects that we really enjoyed. Malcolm I think can play the game within the game. He's going to be a guy that – he understands the whole concept and the whole big picture, and I think that viewpoint from a player's perspective can benefit the whole football team. So I certainly think there's a guy that had been in this type of system before, which makes it an easier transition. And a guy that we were familiar with that makes it an easier transition. But I do also think that if you watched Malcolm's career I think he's evolved as a football player. And evolved in an intelligent way that I think can benefit our whole entire team."

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