METAIRIE, La. -- Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. Send 'em anytime @MikeTriplett. Here is this week’s Question of the Week:
@MikeTriplett how will D change under Denis Allen?— Dharma Djojonegoro (@dharmadjo) November 20, 2015
@MikeTriplett: It’s hard to imagine drastic changes since Allen has been here coaching this team as a senior defensive assistant all year long. Although Rob Ryan called the plays on game days, Allen was part of the game planning. ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder reported that Allen was specifically in charge of New Orleans’ third-down plan (an area where the Saints have done remarkably well, ranking sixth in the NFL).
The Saints’ defense already went through a significant makeover this past offseason, switching to a simplified scheme that features press-man coverage and a single high safety. Allen was a big part of that makeover.
But all of that being said, the Saints (4-6) are obviously looking to shake things up after a dreadful three-game stretch on defense that led to Ryan being fired. Coach Sean Payton promised significant changes after the bye week. Perhaps that will include both personnel and philosophy.
I’m especially interested to see if the Saints change what they’ve been doing with physical veteran cornerback Brandon Browner. His unique skill set can be a big asset in press coverage (see the play that won the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots last season as the ultimate example). But the Saints haven’t been using Browner effectively this season as he leads the NFL in penalties and has been beaten on some deep throws.
I’m also curious to see if the Saints start blitzing more to generate a pass rush that has been hit or miss all season. The Saints have sent five or more pass-rushers just 9.4 times per game this year, which ranks 24th in the NFL according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Former Broncos safety and current ESPN analyst Brian Dawkins said Allen’s defense included many of the same aggressive tendencies as former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- whom Allen worked under as New Orleans’ secondary coach from 2009-2010.
But Dawkins said players had to earn the right to open up the playbook by eliminating mistakes after they campaigned to blitz more early in the season. The Broncos wound up ranking fourth in the NFL, using five-plus pass rushers 17.3 times per game.
"Once we grabbed the small things, we were able to grab and do more things as far as the blitz is concerned," Dawkins explained this summer when I did a detailed profile on the "Odd Couple" pairing of Allen and Ryan.
The Saints might face a similar mandate. Although they have been more fundamentally sound in 2015 than they were in 2014, they have still been too sloppy at times -- especially during last week’s 47-14 blowout loss at the Washington Redskins.
Payton mentioned the Saints’ repeated problems with getting lined up correctly and getting the right number of players on the field as a reason for Ryan’s firing. And the Saints lead the NFL with 42 defensive penalties this season.