Saints fill vacancies with new defensive coordinator Joe Woods, veteran assistant Todd Grantham
Perhaps a defensive staff transition not what you expected coming into the 2023 New Orleans Saints season, but the team was tasked with undergoing exactly that.
After former co-defensive coordinators Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richards vacated the defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and secondary coach positions, New Orleans had a lot of work to rebuild its staff on the defensive side of the ball. Nielsen was hired by the Atlanta Falcons as their defensive coordinator with Richard and the Saints parted ways over “philosophical differences” per neworelans.football’s Nick Underhill.
The first moves towards rebuilding head coach Dennis Allen’s staff have now taken place.
Per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Saints have hired former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods to serve the same role on Allen’s staff.
Woods and Allen worked together in Oakland during Allen’s first head coaching stint. Woods’ defense in Cleveland finished No. 5 in both passing yards and touchdowns surrendered, but No. 25 in rushing yards allowed and No. 29 in rushing touchdowns given up to opposing teams. Each set of rankings finished below the Saints defensive rankings in 2022. But that might not be as much of a concern when the full context of what Woods will be in New Orleans.
While in Cleveland, he was the coordinator and play caller for the Browns defense. Here in New Orleans, the defense will continue to be led by Allen, who has led it successfully since taking over as defensive coordinator in 2015. Allen will remain the play caller and architect of the defense while Woods will be his right-hand man.
The Saints’ new hire also has years of experience as a defensive backs coach in the NFL as well. Woods has worked with cornerbacks and safeties like Antoine Winfield, Harrison Smith, Charles Woodson, Aqib Talib, and Chris Harris Jr.
Woods also served as the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers in 2019, the passing defense ranked No. 1 in yards allowed across the league. While his stint in Cleveland may not have ended in fanfare by any means, his long history as a successful assistant is encouraging.
While Allen will remain in control of the defense, having someone on his side that he is familiar with but will bring new ideas to the table is a plus. It is likely also that Woods will have a lot of involvement in the Saints’ secondary as assistant secondary coach Cory Robinson reportedly let his contract expire and will likely have a new home in 2023.
The moves don’t stop there. The Saints also brought in former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as a defensive assistant.
While there has not yet been an announcement of his official position with the team, defensive line coach makes a lot of sense for him. After speaking with one of his former defenders about what he brings to New Orleans while at the Senior Bowl, Grantham was referred to as a “defensive line specialist”.
With Woods in as the defensive coordinator while also likely working closely with the secondary and Grantham having an extensive background with defensive linemen, the Saints staff is taking shape for 2023.
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Ross Jackson has been the host of the daily Locked On Saints podcast, covering the New Orleans Saints since 2018. Since then, his host role has expanded to include co-hosting Locked On NFL on Tuesdays with a focus on in-depth analysis on the biggest stories across the NFL and fantasy football. Ross is also a contributor for Saints Wire, part…