METAIRIE, La. — It took nearly three-and-a-half months for first-year Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to speak with media.
It took him 30 seconds to crack a joke and lighten the mood after New Orleans’ third day of organized team activities.
“I have no comment,” Ryan joked, mockingly walking away from the throng of media crowded around a microphone podium at the Saints’ Metairie facility.
One thing is definite – Ryan is a throwback to the pre-Spagnuolo years, when the man calling the defensive shots did so with personality and bravado.
That means a return to aggressive football, something that was missing from the Saints in 2012 when they allowed a league-record 7,042 yards on defense.
"It fits better for what our players and our personnel does best,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We've got a lot of corners that can play man-to-man. We've got safeties that can blitz. We've got linebackers that can match up and also rush the passer.
“… I think the defense that Rob is installing is - we're fit for that. We're made for those kind of plays, so it works well."
And there’s as much optimism emanating from Ryan as there is from anyone else.
“I’m fortunate enough to be with great program like the Saints led by Sean Payton,” Ryan said. “I haven’t felt this way since I was in New England with Bill Belichick.”
Payton, for what it’s worth, is equally as impressed with Ryan thus far.
“I like his passion,” Payton said. “You know he’s someone that I spent a lot of time researching and arriving at that decision, guys that I know very well that have worked with him. I like the way players respond and I think he’s a perfect fit for what we’re looking for.”
Ryan was fired in January following two years in Dallas after the Cowboys missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. His defense finished No. 19 in the NFL in 2012.
His marriage with New Orleans came after newly-reinstated coach Sean Payton let go of Steve Spagnuolo after one season, one in which the Saints set an NFL record for most yards allowed.
Ryan thinks both his firing and last year’s debacle on defense will serve the Saints well in 2013.
“These guys have been well-coached before,” Ryan said. “They’re smart. They’re just ready to win. I think we all have a chip on our shoulder after last season. I don’t like getting fired. I know I had a job in five minutes so it was no big deal. I know I got my feelings hurt and so did our players. We’re looking to do something about it.”
Thursday marked the Saints’ third of a possible 15 organized team activities and immediately changes were obvious.
From Will Smith lining up at outside linebacker to cornerback Jabari Greer working with the backups from Keenan Lewis being with the first team at left cornerback from things as simple of fumble pickup drills, New Orleans’ defense will look different.
Ryan has been impressed with how quickly the players have picked up on what’s going on.
“I’ve got to push these guys mentally to the limit, see what they can and can’t do,” he said. “And I’ve been so impressed by these guys. I haven’t taken over a defense like that – this is my 10th year coordinating in this league – one that’s picked up things as fast as these guys have on the board.”