New concepts and techniques are being taught as well, along with the philosophy behind them. It’s all a process that will ramp up to full speed in training camp and through the preseason games to get to Week 1.
What exactly it’ll look like won’t really be known until then, but every area is likely to feature a combination of similarities and subtle changes.
Montgomery said there will be times his defensive linemen will be asked to be more aggressive. Barry suggested he’ll “get creative” with his top three outside linebackers (Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, plus Rashan Gary), who were on the field together a fair amount last season but could see that increase in the new scheme.
Barry also has referenced the importance of his “star” position, or nickel cornerback who must execute a multi-faceted role within the run defense, coverage and pressure packages.
Without naming specific players, Gray noted there are a handful of candidates the coaches are examining for the star, a list that’ll get whittled down as the regular season approaches. Some possibilities would be corners Jaire Alexander and Chandon Sullivan, along with safety Darnell Savage. Rookie corners Eric Stokes and Shemar Jean-Charles might be in the mix as well.
“We’ve got some good players here and that’s going to give us a chance to see how many guys can actually dominate at that position,” Gray said.
It’s still early, but the hope is to make enough progress this spring to limit the bumps in the road later in the summer. Head Coach Matt LaFleur said Barry has “a clear vision” of what he wants his defense to be, and every step in the process is helping it come into focus.
“As far as his defense … we want to disguise, we want to be aggressive,” veteran safety Adrian Amos said. “The thing that he’s harping on is details, getting to the ball, being great with fundamentals.
“That’s what we have to be. Be great and sound with fundamentals, communication, all those little things that make a great defense.”