Nov 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen against the Houston Texans during the first quarter of a game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
3. Fundamentals and accountability on defense.
Perhaps the single most exasperating thing about the Saints defense over the past couple of years has been the astonishing lack of basic fundamentals. Guys who don’t wrap up when they tackle, use good hand technique, or just get flat out lazy have been way too common. The players have been constantly out of position, flat, and have rarely ‘swarmed to the ball’ like good defenses do.
However, after the recent change at defensive coordinator from Rob Ryan to Dennis Allen, there has at least seemed to be a greater focus in that area. One thing I can say for sure is that this defense has been more aggressive and players are swarming to the ball and at least trying to make the right play. Football players are just like anyone else, they need confidence and leadership to succeed. A major part of that is having solid fundamentals as well as being held accountable to USING them.
The Saints defense has had little accountability under Rob Ryan and to me that is his greatest failing. I can, to a certain degree, forgive the lack of talent as well as the injuries for being things that are beyond his control. But what I can’t forgive is the fact that Ryan never seemed to get on his players and make sure that they not only knew where to be, but were getting there. At the end of the day these guys are professionals and the basics of the game (such as wrapping up or substituting) should not be nearly as much of a consistent issue as they have been.
In my opinion, one of the biggest indicators of whether or not Dennis Allen should continue to be the team’s defensive coordinator beyond this season will be if he can get them to demonstrate that they actually do know how to play the game of football on a more regular basis. If over the final four games the team has fewer (preferably MUCH fewer) pre-snap penalties and substitution problems, plays where players don’t display the correct basic techniques, and begin ‘swarming to the football’ the way a good defense should.
If any/all of those things are shown to a reasonable degree, then at least Allen should be considered to be brought back. However, if the Saints continue to conduct themselves as they have through the first 13 weeks of the season, then I see no reason to bring back a coach who can’t even demand the basics from his players.
Next: 2. Playing for the 2016 roster