NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton announced the team's 2015 coaching staff additions on Wednesday.
The additions includes three former NFL players, two former Saints staff members and a former NFL head coach.
He has hired Dennis Allen as senior defensive assistant, John Morton as wide receivers coach, Joel Thomas as running backs coach, James Willis as defensive assistant/linebackers, Kyle DeVan and Greg Lewis as offensive assistants and Brendan Nugent as a coaching assistant.
Allen, who served as head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2012-14, returns to New Orleans for his second stint as a member of the coaching staff, previously spending five seasons as the team's assistant defensive line coach (2006-07) and secondary coach (2008-10). In his second season in charge of the Raiders, Allen helped guide a rush defense that improved from 18th in the NFL in 2012 to 13th in 2013 and a rushing offense that improved from 28th in 2012 to 12th in 2013, while ranking sixth in the NFL in average yards per rush. In 2013, he also helped develop a draft class in which seven-of-10 members saw action. Allen coached the first four games of the 2014 season for the Raiders, during which he helped usher in two rookies that went on to enjoy impressive campaigns in QB Derek Carr and LB Khalil Mack.
Prior to becoming a head coach, Allen spent 10 NFL seasons as an assistant, including the five in New Orleans (2006-10), four with the Atlanta Falcons (2002-05) and one as defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos (2011). In 2011, Allen led a defense that helped the Broncos win the AFC West and advance to the AFC Divisional round with a wild card playoff victory. Denver improved 12 spots over the previous year in overall defensive ranking and bettered their points allowed eight spots. In 2009 in New Orleans, the Saints secondary accounted for 20 of the club's 26 interceptions, returning a league-leading five for touchdowns during the regular season and one more in Super Bowl XLIV. In 2010, the defense ranked fourth in the NFL in net yardage surrendered (306.3 ypg.), seventh in opponent points per game (19.2 ppg.) and fourth in pass defense (193.9 ypg.).
Morton returns to New Orleans after serving on Payton's inaugural 2006 coaching staff as the club's offensive assistant/passing game coach, when they advanced to the NFC Championship. A wide receiver at Western Michigan as an undergraduate, Morton has spent the last 17 years coaching on the collegiate and professional levels. At his most recent stop with the San Francisco 49ers (2011-14), Anquan Boldin topped 1,000 yards receiving both seasons under Morton, his first 1,000-yard campaigns since 2009. Boldin caught 168 passes for 2,241 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons while working under Morton.
A native of Rochester Hills, Mich., Morton has coached 12 seasons in the NFL and five in college. Prior to joining the 49ers, he spent four seasons on the staff at the University of Southern California, holding the position of the Trojans' passing game coordinator from 2007-08 and in 2010, while serving as offensive coordinator in 2009. Morton started his coaching career with the Oakland Raiders staff from 1998-2004. In 2002, when he served as senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach, he tutored Jerry Rice, who earned Pro Bowl honors and Tim Brown, both of who have been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, on a team that earned a trip to the Super Bowl.
Thomas, a 15-year coaching veteran joins the Saints after spending the 2013 and 2014 seasons as the running backs coach at the University of Arkansas. In two seasons under his tutelage in Fayetteville, running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins both blossomed. In 2014, they were the only pair of FBS teammates to rush for 1,000-plus yards. The duo became just the second pair of Razorbacks to accomplish the feat. Collins became just the second player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
Thomas also has experience tutoring the running backs at the University of Washington (2009-12), Purdue (2006-08), Idaho (2004-05) and Louisville (2002-03). In his final year at Washington, Thomas added the title of associate head coach for offense and tutored All Pac-12 running back Bishop Sankey, who rushed for 1,439 yards with 16 touchdowns and was a first round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2014. During his stint in Idaho, he served as co-offensive coordinator in addition to tutoring the running backs. Thomas, who served a training camp internship with the Saints in 2012, lettered at Idaho from 1995-98, was a two-time first-team All-Big West selection and conference Player of the Year as a senior and still holds Vandals career records with 3,929 rushing yards, 51 rushing touchdowns and 765 rushing attempts. He was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Willis, who enjoyed a seven-year NFL playing career with three teams is a 14-year coaching veteran who joins the Saints after spending the past two seasons as defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Willis molded the Ragin' Cajuns into one of the top defensive units in the Sun Belt Conference as they captured two consecutive R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowls. Willis, who spent two years as defensive coordinator with the Virginia Destroyers in the United Football League, was the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech in 2010 and was associate head coach/linebackers coach at Alabama in 2009 as the Crimson Tide won the national championship in a 14-0 season and All-American Rolondo McClain claimed the Butkus Award. Prior to his stint in Tuscaloosa, Willis tutored linebackers at Auburn (2006-08), Temple (2005) and Rhode Island (2004-05). He started his coaching career as a student assistant at his alma mater, Auburn, in 2001 as a student assistant, serving as a defensive graduate assistant in 2003. The Huntsville, Ala. native spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers (1993-94), Philadelphia Eagles (1995-98) and Seattle Seahawks (1999). His playing career concluded in 2001 with the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the XFL where he was the league's defensive MVP.
The 29-year old DeVan, a veteran of five NFL seasons as an interior offensive lineman, spent the 2014 campaign at the University of Southern California as a graduate assistant on offense. DeVan started 26 of the 40 games he appeared in between 2009-12 with the Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans. He also opened four postseason contests with Indianapolis, including Super Bowl XLIV at right guard against the Saints. A native of Vacaville, Calif., DeVan was a four-year (2004-07) letterman at center at Oregon State where he started 38 games. He made the All Pac-10 second-team as a junior and was an honorable mention selection in 2005 and 2007. DeVan earned his bachelor's degree in business administration in 2008.
An eight-year NFL veteran with three years of coaching experience, Lewis joins New Orleans after serving as wide receivers coach at the University of Pittsburgh in 2014 following stints in the same capacity at San Jose State (2013) and the University of San Diego (2012). The Chicago native was a four-year letterman at Illinois from 1999-2002, He played eight seasons in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles (2003-08) and Minnesota Vikings (2009-10) and compiled career totals of 152 catches for 1,992 yards (13.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns.
Nugent comes to New Orleans after spending the last two seasons as an offensive quality control coach for the Chicago Bears. The Port Chester, N.Y. native came to Chicago after spending the 2012 campaign as the special teams assistant and offensive quality control coach for the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes. A former linebacker at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Nugent first joined the collegiate ranks as an offensive assistant at the University of Iowa from 2005-06 and then coached tight ends (2007, 2009), wide receivers (2008) and running backs (2010-11) at The College of William & Mary.