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Saints starting “totally anew” on defense this year

New Orleans Saints v Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 13: Senior Defensive Assistant Dennis Allen of the New Orleans Saints on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Dennis Allen took over as the Saints’ defensive coordinator during the 2015 season, but there wasn’t much he could do to fix a bad unit on the fly.

The Saints have tried to repair things this offseason by signing sign several free agents and drafting two players in the first two rounds to add to a group that could see a couple of 2015 rookies -- Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha -- change positions. All of those changes and the absence of much of anything to build on from last year leaves Allen and company starting “totally anew” in 2016.

“First of all, there are no positions set here,” Allen said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We’re going to give an opportunity in OTAs, minicamp and training camp and then the deck kind of sorts itself out a little bit. The best 11 guys are going to play and everybody is going to have an opportunity to go out and prove what they do. Like we told the players, it’s your job to define your role within this football team and what you can do to help us. We’ll evaluate it, but you’re going to tell us where need to be based on the way you practice and based on the way you play.”

Safety Kenny Vaccaro and defensive end Cameron Jordan seem like pretty safe bets to be in the starting lineup and first-round pick Sheldon Rankins is going to play a lot on the defensive line, but there should be plenty of competition for playing time in New Orleans over the coming months.

The bar’s been set low enough that any mix has a good chance to improve on last year’s performance. How big an improvement will go a long way toward determining if the Saints can work themselves back into contention for a playoff berth this year.