Following the conclusion of minicamp this week, the Saints got their first real dose of life without Sean Payton at the helm. New head coach Dennis Allen is so far receiving positive reviews from the Saints players.
That may not come as a surprise considering their familiarity with Allen, which is likely to be part of the Saints' reasoning behind promoting their defensive coordinator to head coach. Veteran running back Mark Ingram is a believer in that approach with New Orleans' current roster.
"I think that was huge, keeping the DNA the same," Ingram said, via the team's website. "It's not like it's a full rebuild here. I think you have a team that can make a lot of noise and make a run at it. Obviously, we have to improve and get better and gel as a unit, but I think keeping the DNA of the team, the culture of the team the same, I think that's huge and I think we'll all benefit from it."
Ingram, the Saints' all-time leading rusher, hasn't had the opportunity to work directly with Allen during his nine seasons in New Orleans, but the respected veteran's assessment should be considered. Allen, who will remain the Saints DC, promoted Pete Carmichael from QBs coach to offensive coordinator and retained most of the staff. Ingram sees the transition as an ideal follow-up to Payton.
"Obviously, D.A. is different from Sean. But D.A. has done a great job of just trying to keep it as normal as possible and adding his own kind of flavor to it," Ingram said. "I think the defense is more used to it, because they spent so much time with him in defensive meetings. We only saw him sometimes when he had to fill in. But I like him a lot. I think he's doing a great job with the team, he's doing a great job in the team meetings, he's doing a great job with us out there telling us let's get our work done, let's be efficient, let's be effective, let's improve, let's work, let's have a sense of urgency. He's going to take care of us and get us off the field. I think he's done a great job. Just having the same DNA, the same culture of the team, I think that's going to be good for everyone in the locker room."
A model for consistent success, Payton compiled a 152-89 regular-season record as head coach, posting nine 10-plus win seasons (all of which resulting in playoff appearances) while never falling short of seven wins and earning seven NFC South titles during his 15 seasons. The Saints' all-time winningest coach earned the franchise's lone Super Bowl title in 2009 and will forever be a celebrated sports figure in New Orleans.
Allen was there for 12 of those seasons under Payton but following up such a tenure won't come easy. For better or worse, Allen does have experience as a head coach despite his run with the Raiders (8-22 record) resulting in a midseason firing. Serving as the Saints DC the past seven seasons, Allen has overseen one of the most consistent defenses in the NFL. Entering the 2022 season, the Saints defense is expected to be the team's strongest asset, which figures to be a major factor in the organization's strategy in promoting Allen.
Matching the offensive success of Payton's era will be the toughest endeavor for Allen. It will also be the most magnified storyline for the 2022 Saints. While he has so far earned the respect of important veterans on the team, Allen is well aware of the work left to be done as he leads New Orleans into a new era.
"I look at it as, in my mind it's been a successful offseason, but it's just an offseason," Allen said. "We've got a lot of work that we've got to do between now and the beginning of the season.
"I certainly felt more comfortable in this role, in this environment, with this organization having so much experience here. I feel good about where I'm at, I feel good about where the coaching staff is at, I feel good about where our players are, but yet, not satisfied."