Saints, Sean Payton have hit ground running this offseason

Sean Payton and the Saints believe they have their arrow pointed back in the right direction. AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

MOBILE, Ala. -- Sean Payton doesn't want to be here.

When asked during Tuesday's Senior Bowl practices about how the New Orleans Saints seem to have hit the ground running this offseason, Payton said he much prefers the years when the Saints fall behind because they go deep into the postseason.

That being said, there is a distinctive vibe that the Saints are more ahead of the game this January than they were at this time one year ago -- despite matching 7-9 records.

A year ago, the Saints vowed to take a long, hard look at every facet of the organization after they felt like they had let the culture of the team slip for the first time in the Payton era. That led to major changes to the roster, coaching staff, scouting staff and playbook.

This year, the Saints believe they have their arrow pointed back in the right direction, flanked by a young nucleus of talent.

Another change: During the Senior Bowl last year, the Saints were still in the process of bringing in new college scouting director Jeff Ireland and senior defensive assistant Dennis Allen, among other changes.

This year, the Saints already made most of their coaching staff changes two weeks ago -- replacing offensive line coach Bret Ingalls with Dan Roushar and adding new assistants Dan Campbell, Peter Giunta, Joe Lombardi and Aaron Glenn.

"I'd say there's a little bit more continuity with the scouting staff ... and the coaching staff," said Payton, who said he still plans to interview a handful of candidates this week for the assistant wide receivers coach -- but that's better than needing to fill two or three spots.

Payton also described recent staff-wide meetings and player evaluations as "pretty clean and ahead of schedule."

The biggest change the Saints made this year was the offensive line switch. Ingalls had been on the Saints' staff since their 2009 Super Bowl season, first as a running backs coach. But without getting too specific, Payton said he felt a philosophical change was necessary.

"There were a few things. I think that we're trying to look at a big picture," Payton said. "Obviously Bret and I, shoot, have coached a long time together, prior to even here (in the college ranks). And I think overall philosophically I know Dan Roushar's background, I think he'll bring a certain element to the room. And it's just one of those tough decisions that I felt was necessary, and those are never easy."

Ingalls was on the scene in Mobile, as well, but declined to comment on his departure.

Payton was excited about hiring Campbell, who played under him as a tight ends coach with the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and briefly with the Saints before becoming a coach. Campbell most recently served as the Miami Dolphins' interim head coach this past season.

"I've always followed his career, I've been just a huge fan," Payton said. "Just a hard worker, I think a real good teacher."

Campbell will have the title of assistant head coach and tight ends coach in New Orleans, while also working with the offensive line. Joe Vitt will remain assistant head coach on the defensive side of the ball.

Payton said Roushar won't have the title of run game coordinator. He and Campbell will both work on the run game, though it will remain an overall collaborative effort with the offensive staff.

"We typically sit in a room, man, for a long time and kind of go through the run and the pass," Payton said. "Sometimes it's not always as efficient, it's long and pretty tedious. And yet that helps me out."