ESPN2 minute read
The New Orleans Saints are expected to appoint Joe Woods as their new defensive coordinator, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Monday.
Woods, who was fired as the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator after the season, will reunite with Saints head coach Dennis Allen. Woods was a defensive backs coach with the Raiders in 2014 when Allen was the team’s head coach.
The Saints had defensive co-coordinators last season, with Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard sharing the duties. Nielsen was hired by the Atlanta Falcons as defensive coordinator on January 27; Richard and the team parted ways on February 1, a source confirmed to ESPN last week.
Allen, however, called defensive plays last season, his first as Saints head coach. Nielsen was also in charge of the defensive line while Richard ran the secondary. The Saints are also expected to sign Todd Grantham, a source told ESPN’s Chris Low. Grantham, who was a defensive analyst at Alabama last season, last worked in the NFL as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line coach from 2008-09.
Woods, 52, had been Cleveland’s defensive coordinator under coach Kevin Stefanski since 2020. In Woods’ freshman season, the Browns qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and then won their first playoff game in 26 years.
But slow starts have hampered the Browns’ defense the past two seasons. At one point in mid-October this season, Cleveland ranked 31st in defensive efficiency. A porous run defense particularly hurt the Browns. Cleveland finished second to last in the league in the defensive rush in total expected points added (minus-23.11).
Cleveland’s defense, including pass covering, improved dramatically in the second half of the season, with the Browns finishing 20th in defensive efficiency. The unit has also forced 12 turnovers in the past six weeks, including eight interceptions. It was a problem the Saints struggled with in 2022, as they finished 30th with seven interceptions and 20th with 10 forced fumbles.
But that wasn’t enough to save Woods’ job or keep Cleveland in the hunt for the playoffs. Woods was fired after a series of struggles against the run in the final four games of the season. The Browns allowed 157.5 rushing yards per game during that span.
The Saints also faded into that category late in the season, giving up 148.3 rushing yards per game over the past four games, with a standout defensive game against the Philadelphia Eagles being the Week 17 exception.
Woods also served as defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos for two seasons (2017-18).
ESPN’s Katherine Terrell and Jake Trotter contributed to this report.