Dennis Allen’s message to the Saints to start the 2024 offseason was simple and straightforward.

Tune out the noise.

Forget expectations.

Just put your head down and go to work.

“Really, the message was, let’s don’t worry about what the results are gonna be; let’s just worry about the process, because the results take care of themselves if you put the work in,” Allen said. “That’s really where our focus has been.”

The mission statement was straight out of Bill Walsh’s playbook. The Hall of Fame coach’s famous leadership book “The Score Takes Care of Itself” emphasized process over results. And Allen has tried to establish a similar mindset with his third Saints team, which starts its minicamp Tuesday morning.

A former safety at Texas A&M, Allen will be the first to admit he’s not much for fire-and-brimstone rhetoric. He appreciates a good motivational speech but also firmly believes that actions speak louder than words.

In preparation for what figures to be a make-or-break season for many Saints players and coaches, Allen wants his team to focus on making progress, not headlines. The rest, he says, is ancillary noise, unworthy of their attention.

“I could care less about what the outside expectations are (for the Saints),” Allen said.

Allen’s hear-no-evil, see-no-evil approach might be a good thing. Because the NFL cognoscenti are, at best, lukewarm on the Saints.

Most power rankings list the Saints in the bottom third of the league.

Pro Football Focus recently rated the roster No. 24 in the NFL. The only players ranked among the top 20 at their positions are linebacker Demario Davis (No. 3) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (No. 10).

Las Vegas oddsmakers are equally dubious. They have projected the Saints’ over-under win total at 7.5, two wins lower than a year ago. The last time the Saints opened a season with such a low win total was 2016, when their over/under was seven wins, albeit with one less regular-season game than they play now.

You could look at the low profile in one of two ways.

The Saints are flying under the radar and poised to ambush the league.

Or ... they're just not very good.

It all depends upon your perspective.

Are they overlooked? Or overmatched?

Underrated? Or underwhelming?

Time will tell.

One thing is certain: The Saints don’t care what the rest of the world thinks.

“Our motto this year is just keep our head down and work,” Mathieu said recently on the Ross Tucker Football podcast. “Don’t even cater to expectations, if there are any. … We don’t even need anybody to talk about us. We just need to work hard. We have the players.”

Added quarterback Derek Carr about outside expectations: “It literally doesn’t matter. Our mindset is, we’re just trying to do more (work), so when we get back out there on the field, we can make our fans proud.”

It’s tempting to buy in. Talk to Saints players and coaches, and you can sense a quiet confidence brewing among the troops. No one is saying it publicly, but you can tell the Saints feel like the rest of the NFL is sleeping on them.

In a league where a team or two rises from obscurity almost annually to make the playoffs, you don’t have to squint that hard to see the Saints being one of those teams, especially in the mediocre NFC South.

Then again, the Saints have several questions to answer over the next few months:

Can Klint Kubiak bolster the Saints offense the way Gregg Williams did the defense in 2009?

Will Alvin Kamara rediscover his explosive playmaking ability in the new rushing scheme?

Are Taliese Fuaga, Nick Saldiveri and a reimagined Trevor Penning capable of solidifying the offensive line the way Malcolm Jenkins, Jabari Greer and Darren Sharper turned the Saints secondary from a weakness to a strength in one offseason?

Can a motivated Chase Young, a healthy Payton Turner and a more experienced Isaiah Foskey ignite the pass rush?

A lot has to come together for the Saints to change the national perception of them, but the same was true of the 2006, 2009 and 2017 teams, and they managed to surprise everyone.

“You don’t really control anything that goes on outside this building,” Allen said. “We’re just going to keep going to work every day. I like our process, and I like what we’re doing right now.”

The Saints have the right mindset. After falling short of expectations the previous two seasons, they're wise to walk softly. Whether they have the stuff to wield the big stick remains to be seen.

Until proven otherwise, count me among the skeptics.

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