New Orleans Saints Defensive Line Coach Ryan Nielsen
Video Conference with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Can you discuss how Sheldon Rankins has been moving out there after having a tough end to his last two seasons?
"Today he had a good day. He's improved (day to day). I think to last year, it doesn't appear that he has lost a step, moving around pretty good. The reps can increase. We'll be smart about getting him back, but it's awesome seeing him out there and he's doing some good things."
From a mental standpoint, what do you think his mindset is after the disappointing way the last two seasons ended?
"I would say I just think that he's still confident. I know he's done a good job in the last couple offseasons. Even though he's had a couple injuries, he's done a great job getting his body back, rehabbing, doing the right things. So you're not seeing an apprehensive or timid player out there. You're seeing a guy with a lot of confidence, still explosive, so like I said, he had a good day today so it was really good to see."
When we got to talk to Marcus Davenport last week, he mentioned one of his goals is to be better than Cam Jordan this season. I'm curious, has he talked to you about that and do you have a sense that's what he's aiming for?
"There's a maturity that comes with that and he's played some pretty good football for us, particularly last year, and I think the confidence, you're seeing a more confident player and person. I think that's what you're getting when you're talking to him in those situations. That's a lofty aspiration, but certainly he has all the talent in the world to do it. You're just seeing more confidence in how he's handling himself and playing football. He's put on a lot of weight, so I know that's helped out as well."
Have you seen that confidence translate in the way he practices?
"Yes, this is his third time going through camp, installation, all the things we're doing on defense. It's not like he's learning new terms. We're not doing anything drastically different than the last two years. You're third time through, the repetitions are adding up, meaning he's done those things so many times, so he's just playing football out there. That's where that confidence is coming from."
Does the strength of the secondary and the cornerback position now with Janoris Jenkins paired with Marshon Lattimore change anything up front?
"It's great. Anytime we can get an extra second or an extra step it helps us out. Those guys have done a great job. Our secondary's deep. We're really good back there. As long as we can get to the passer a little quicker, I think we'll have a better defense this year."
Where do you think you can see growth from Shy Tuttle?
"A little bit similar to Marcus (Davenport) in that this is his second time through, we aren't changing that position or his position. He's hearing the same things, he's getting the same blocks. He played some good football for us last year as well. That confidence is into year two. I'm excited about this guy. He did a good job in the offseason of taking care of his body, getting bigger, getting stronger. That's what you've seen on the field the last few days."
Do you ever work with Zack Baun on the field some?
"He's doing some stuff in pass rush and he can rush and has done a good job with that. He's mainly focused on linebacker right now, but there will be a role for him a little bit more as we keep going."
I know this is across the board, but we've seen guys like Shy Tuttle and Taylor Stallworth make the team based on preseason game performance. How challenging is that for you in that specific position groups given that's where players can really make strides?
"It's going to be a little bit more of a challenge this year with the preseason games (eliminated). Shy Tuttle last year, his third preseason game he really took off. Had a good preseason game three, good preseason game four and made the roster. Without that we'll have to manufacture some of those situations, manufacture some individual, some things to really see what players can do. We're going to have to do that situationally and in practice and I know Coach (Payton) has a couple of live periods coming up, maybe for those guys down the road. We're going to have to evaluate from day one to the cutdown day on every single one of these guys."
Last time you talked about these undrafted free agents in June all you had had were zoom meetings with them. Now that you've had hands on time with them do you see some of the traits that maybe a Shy Tuttle had that just needed development and teaching?
"I do. There's a couple of guys that we have that I'm not going to name names because of we're not having preseason games. It's been good and they've done a good job. I'm just going to leave it at that."
When you said earlier that it was helpful for Marcus Davenport to gain weight, how much of that was a directive from the staff and how much of it was something that he wanted to do? How much weight are we talking about? How is it helping?
"Yes, when he was drafted here at a certain age and weight, we saw a vision for a guy as he grew over time, three years now and he's at 280, around there, a couple pounds above, a couple pounds below and he's holding that and this offseason he worked and he had a couple of these injuries and put in the work in the offseason. You're just seeing a bigger strong, more athletic person out there. He's able to do some things, striking blocks, able to hold the edge in the run game and being able to create some more knockback and more power in the pass rush. With that weight and keeping the athleticism, that's where I think he's really turned the corner. It's really a vision where I give all the credit to the scouts. They did all the homework on this guy and Coach Sean (Payton's) vision. We just have this guy that's really bought into what we're doing and jumped in and you're really seeing the maturity and process of this guy pick up. It's exciting. He still has to do it on gameday, consistently. He said the Cam thing. We now need to have that consistency every gameday that he's playing because there were games last year because he played lights out but there were a couple games where he took a step back, so now we have to keep that confidence and consistency week in and week out here and put together a full body of work."