|Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen was with the Saints from 2006-2010. Roman Harper said he knew Allen was on the fast track to success. (US Presswire)|
A one-year gig as defensive coordinator in Denver helped him get the head job in Oakland.
“I think that anybody who's ever worked with DA like I have isn't surprised at all,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. “He's smart, has great people skills, is detail-oriented [and] truly understands the game. It was a matter of time before he became a head coach.”
Allen was an assistant defensive line coach from 2006-08, his first three years in New Orleans, before getting to run the secondary by himself in 2009 and 2010. The Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009 and had two defensive backs named to the Pro Bowl (Darren Sharper, Roman Harper) for the first time in team history.
His Denver defense finished 20th in the NFL in yards allowed and 24th in points allowed, but held five opponents to 13 or fewer points in their last eight games as the Broncos sneaked into the playoffs at 8-8.
The numbers did not scream out head coaching material, but Harper said he knew Allen was on the fast track to success when he was in New Orleans.
“He's great with the Xs and Os and is just really good defensively,” Harper said. “He wouldn't just tell us what to do in the back end. He would explain what the linebackers were doing, what the D-linemen were doing and how it would all kind of trickle down to us. He's so much more of a defensive guy as a whole than a DB coach.”
Because Allen coached against the Saints' offense every day in practice for five years, QB Drew Brees said the Raiders entered the week with a built-in advantage.
“I'm sure he's very familiar with us from a personnel standpoint,” Brees said. “It's a lot of the same faces from two years ago when he was [last] here. Obviously, he was here for a long stretch. I would say there's probably a lot of familiarity [with us]. We need to make sure that we're very familiar with them by the end of the week.”
More time for Vilma: Although LB Jonathan Vilma started against Atlanta, he spent plenty of time on the sideline and finished with only one tackle.
Vitt said the decreased production had nothing to do with Vilma struggling at an unfamiliar position, weakside LB, or not being 100 percent healthy.
“He is going to see more snaps,” Vitt said. “He is full health right now -- every time he plays. Situations in games, the packages we have, his rep count is going to go up.”
Nice starting debut: OT Charles Brown's first game as a starter in 2012 went so well that the Falcons cut the defensive end who faced him.
Brown replaced the injured Zach Strief on the right side. Ray Edwards, who started at right end for Atlanta, had one tackle, no pressures and no sack, prompting the Falcons to release him Monday.
“Charlie Brown played great,” Brees said. “That's a testament to him. It's difficult at times to all of a sudden just kind of get thrown in the mix. He's the swing tackle so he can play either side, but he's playing right [tackle] and just did a great job obviously in a big game when we were really counting on him.”
Looking for touchbacks: Thomas Morstead has produced touchdowns on 27 of his 49 kickoffs. Since he also leads the NFL in net punting with tremendous hang time, some coaches might consider having him kick the ball high and a little shorter, trying to trap opponents inside their 20.
Saints special teams coordinator Greg McMahon is not one of them.
“Kick that sucker out the end zone,” McMahon said. “These guys on the back end in this league are scary dudes. It's like playing with fire. If we can kick a touchback, and I think everybody else in this league feels the same way, we want to kick a touchback, certainly.”
Injury report: RB Darren Sproles was listed as a full participant in practice for the first time since breaking his left hand against Denver on Oct. 28.
WR Courtney Roby also returned to full practice after missing the last two games with a left shoulder injury.
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on Twitter @CBSSaints.