The New Orleans Saints conducted their second practice of the week in preparation for Friday's preseason contest vs. the San Diego Chargers. Following practice, Head Coach Sean Payton, Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams and QB
Head Coach Sean Payton
“Our work this afternoon was a little bit more third down and nickel. We’re still installing defensively and offensively both. Today we were back in pads and had some good work.”
“He has some soreness in his knee, nothing serious. We just backed off of it from the game.”
Do you see giving a backup quarterback extended playing time in a preseason game as lighting a fire under him?
“I think more than anything else it’s trying to give those guys a good portion of the game rather than just a quarter. It’s harder to evaluate that position when they’re just in for one quarter of play. Sometimes in the preseason you get so regimented with how you want to roll guys in, but I think with that position it can be a little different. That was one of the reasons we gave so much work to Chase (Daniel) last week. This week when Drew (Brees) finishes, we’ll give the majority – if not all – of the reps to Patrick (Ramsey). It’s just trying to give them enough series to give them the opportunity to get comfortable with what they’re doing and the operations of a game. Sometimes if it’s just a quarter or a quarter-and-a-half, it’s harder to do that at that position.”
Keeping a third quarterback is not something you’ve traditionally done here. Could you foresee doing that this season?
“We’ll be flexible. We haven’t decided what and how many. You just try to evaluate these games and practices closely and make your decisions off that. We’ll be flexible to do either or.”
Are you getting closer to crunch time on a decision with
“Not yet. We’re still going through the process, just as we are with Clint (Ingram). We’re just evaluating the progress and the treatments.”
Were you hoping to have those guys dressing out by now?
“Certainly we were hoping that we were closer to getting them on the field and yet you still have to pay attention to the injury and the extent of it.”
Are you optimistic that they’ll be ready by next week?
“We’ll see. We just take it each day and keep seeing how the rehab goes.”
Do you think teams put too much emphasis on a quarterback’s height considering what you have here with Drew Brees and
“I think all of us have certain measureables that you look for at the position and yet there are certain characteristics that are important. My experience with that position is that good ones have come in pretty much all shapes and sizes. It’s a lot like other positions in football. Those guys – when you look specifically at those two, those guys have had success in college playing the position. Our target has really been guys that can move the team and get the team into the end zone.”
Is there a genuine competition for the #2 QB spot or is Ramsey ahead in your opinion?
“I think there’s a competition.”
When you will make that call?
“We’ll see. We’ll see just like we will with the rest of these positions that are competing for spots.”
Did what Chase did last week elevate him and make it more of a competition?
“I think what he did in that game certainly gave us more information as to what he can and can’t do, but the competition has been ongoing and those guys have handled it well.”
“He’s doing well. The more reps he gets at that position, the better off he is. He’s a quick study; he knows the defense, and he’s smart.”
Has Sharper being sidelined accelerated his progress?
“It has given him more reps; it has given all those guys at that safety position more repetitions.”
Do you allow Chase and Patrick to do the same amount of work at the line that you do Drew? Is that part of your system?
“Part of the system exists, and yet when you’re calling plays you try to do certain things that you feel are strengths of theirs. One of the things Chase can do is move and create plays with nakeds and play-actions. So you can modify a little bit of what you’re doing and yet certainly they’re responsible for the package and the offense that is installed. But like any other player, you try to put them in the best position where you think they have the best chance to be successful.”
Is that part of your evaluation of a quarterback – the ability to do that?
“You have to take into account the strengths of each player so you have to look at each one differently and recognize what they do well and what their weaknesses are.”
How much is the special teams situation keeping you up at night now?
“The evaluation more so than overall. We have a lot of guys going in and out of the game so more importantly, it’s who’s going to play in those core units. A lot of the decisions we make with the final roster are predicated on how guys play in the kicking game.”
Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams
How much do the abilities of
“I’ve said this before, and I’m not trying to say it to sound funny, but I’m a better football coach with Jabari and Tracy playing corner. The reason I say this is that I don’t have to worry about those guys. They’re proven. They’ve proven themselves to me. As a tandem, they’re about as productive and play as well together as any two corners in the league together. There are a lot of other people out there with acclaim. We’re not trying to sing the praises of all our guys. It’s a team game. We’re able to do different things and overload and do a lot of trickier things inside in the pressure game because the corners are strong. Both of those guys, we need to have another big year out of them and keep them healthy. As you saw last year, our production went up quite a bit when they are healthy.”
Is it a trust factor with them?
“It is a trust factor and with Tracy’s evolution, which I’m so proud of. You guys see how hard I am on
Is it realistic to expect such a high number of takeaways this year?
“Each year you’re out to try to better that. We kind of think we left some on the table. We had some opportunities that we call missed opportunities for big plays, mobp. We’ll see. People will work hard on trying to protect the ball. They overly protect it against us because of our reputation. When you have an offense that can score points like our offense, the other offense has to score points. As I’ve tried to preach so hard, they’re giveaways, they’re takeaways. It’s our job to make sure the ball is ours. In order to do that we need to have great ball awareness at all times.”
Do you have some tough choices defensively in terms of cuts?
“Yes, it is. I think we’ve done a really good job here of whenever you have to make a real hard decision, when you make your final 53 at all positions, then you know your organization is on the same page. You know that the scouts and personnel department, there’s unification between what coaches want and who is being brought in here. We’re going to make some difficult decisions this year with guys that are going to make other teams. They’re not going to be out of football. They’re going to make other teams. That’s good. That competition makes us all better.”
If you had to name one or two things, what did the defense not do a good job with last year?
“Everyday, I’m hard to please and hard to satisfy in everything we do anyway. We’re always going to be trying to take the ball away and a defense that plays here behind this offense is going to be judged on taking the ball away, giving the ball back to our offense and also points allowed. We led the National Football League in number of possessions in the two minute drill last year and the reason we did is our offense is ahead. Sean's not going to hit the brakes. We’re going to continue going and going and there’s going to be shots against the defense that way, so points allowed, we’re always going to have to work hard on that and can we get more opportunities to score by taking the ball away. Those are two things.”
“Yes. He responded okay. Obviously he wasn’t as much of a standout the very next week and it was because he became a marked man. But his growth is good. There’s a learning curve with all young players. I laugh and I kind of smile. You guys kind of ran with it when I talked about Patrick (Robinson). Until I can trust those young guys,
“No, there wasn’t any mental or selfish difficulties. How can we have the best 25 or 30 guys on the team. His versatility athletically benefits us defensively, because he can do so many things. He can play outside linebacker, strong or weak. He can play middle linebacker and he can do some things that a strong safety does in coverage also. We’re much more versatile when he plays and we’re better. We’re stouter when he plays.”
How is Malcolm Jenkins coming along as a free safety?
Excellent and I didn’t use his name because he took his whippings last year. I didn’t mention him even though he’s a young guy, because in my opinion guys make their biggest jump between their first and second year. That second year is usually a big jump. Now he has a position change. He’s going through some little things like landmarks on the field. He had one violation type of play that gave them (Houston) a big play. He learns. The thing I like about Malcolm is that very seldom is he a repeat mistake offender. You can live with those things. As a coach you’re going to have to try to coach all the scenarios and situations, put them through the things they’re going to see on the field in the film room. Really when it comes down to it, it’s just time after time of being on the field under that high speed repetition before it finally sinks into him.”
Are you starting to think Darren Sharper’s running out of time?
“No. I don’t know for sure about that yet. Here’s a guy who’s played for an awfully long time, so we’ll just have to wait and see for how all that comes down.”
If Malcolm’s in the lineup against Minnesota, do you expect them to go right at him?
“I don’t think it will be anything to do with, just because he’s there. It’s always harder to go after a safety. How do you get to him? How do they manipulate to get a guy on him? Plus I like my chances with him. The thing I said earlier in camp was when I went up there in camp and personally worked him out and personally did the research on him and signed off on him, I believed he would move into safety at some point in his career and be really good. I’ve had a lot of success if you look back on guys that have been corners early in their careers for me, that have toughness about them. You need toughness if you’re going to play safety. There’s probably eight to ten satieties that have played throughout the years for me, that were corners. That’s the same with him. It’s hard to get a matchup problem on Malcolm, because he’s played corner. He should be able to cover the tight ends and the slots that get on him.”
How long have you been thinking about Minnesota?
I really haven’t. We spend time doing that, but when we come to camp, we’re kind of a workaholic staff, so we spend time in the offseason getting things ready that we needed to go. What we’ve been focusing is on the details of improvement at training camp. I love training camp. I’d just assume still be back at the hotel, so you just go upstairs to your room at night and just come down in the morning and don’t lose the drive time. Every second is working on training camp skills that you need the whole year. We really haven’t done anything practice wise or anything on them, because we’re going to have time when it comes.”
Do you like the criticisms you’re starting to get for cheap shots?
“A defense has to be respected. They’ll be respected when they’re feared. None of the things we’re trying to do is cheap. They’re aggressive. What we’re going to do is play hard. We’re not going to apologize. I’m not going to apologize for how my guys play and I’m not going to apologize. When the other team is worried about protecting themselves or protecting the ball, we all like that a lot better. Maybe there will be more than 39 takeaways this year. We have to do that. Some of the best defenses of all time. I remember growing up and looking at that steel curtain defense, guys that didn’t teeth, guys that we’re playing there. You look at the way Jack Tatum played and the way he played when he was with the Oakland Raiders. You look at the way Buddy Ryan played with all those great defenses had an intimidation factor about them. There are some things we’ve done here. That’s what we’re trying to build here, but I don’t think we’ve played tough enough or aggressive enough yet.
Would you like them to be more aggressive?
We’d like them to be more. One of the things that I said when I got here was that all your like you’ve been looking for a coach that will turn you loose. I’ll be there when you get over the edge and our mottos been live on the edge, play on the edge, don’t hurt the team. We’re trying to live on the edge and play on the edge. All my life I’ve been trying to speed up players, make them more aggressive, make them tougher, nastier and I’m not going to back them off. I’m not going to look to back them off in any way.
Head Coach Sean Payton
What does playing for an aggressive coach like Sean Payton do for you guys?
“It gives you a lot of confidence because you know you are going to take some risks and take some chances. He is calling those plays, like the onside kick, the deep balls or whatever it might be because he has confidence in you to make to play and he will put you in a great position to succeed. What that does is it breeds confidence. We practice all those things and we talk about them so we know it’s coming. It is no surprise or shock when stuff like that gets dialed up. It may be a shock to everyone else but not to us.”
After winning a Super Bowl, can a coach like Payton be more aggressive?
“Here is the thing, it is calculated risk. You take chances that you feel are necessary for the situation in a game whatever it might be. You have practiced it enough and you feel like it is a big play opportunity. We work on those things and we talk about it a lot. We know that he is not afraid to call it. You know that when you have a coach like that it breeds confidence amongst the players.”
The third preseason game is typically the game that the starters play the most. Are you looking forward to getting more reps?
“Definitely, this is really the final dress rehearsal before the first game of the season where the first team will get the majority of the playing time. Just like any preseason game, especially this one, we want to come out, look sharp and score some points. We want to get everybody involved. We want to continue to work on the things that we are trying to improve upon and continue to get better.”
You have been in New Orleans for a while but is it still fun to play against your old team the Chargers?
“It has been a long time. This is my fifth year in New Orleans so I am far removed from there but then again I still know a lot of those guys and it makes it fun.”
How did you feel at this point a year ago?
“Well, we weren’t the defending world champs but I think the feeling was very much the same in regards to our approach every day. We are still very much in training camp mentality even though this week has been more of a game-week-like schedule as opposed to two-a-days. We still are grinding through the offense and still installing parts of the playbook that we hadn’t gotten to yet. Slowly but surely we are going back through and analyzing what we have been good at and what we continue to work on.”
Do you see a lot of focus out of your teammates?
“Absolutely. We haven’t been down this road before as defending champs but the fact of the matter is we all know this is a new season and everybody has the same hopes and aspirations. There are 32 teams that believe this can be their year. Certainly, after all we have been through, especially last year, we have a lot confidence and swagger among this group. That is not to say we feel entitled and we are going to step on the field and everybody is going to be intimidated. We know that we are going to get everybody’s best shot. We know we have to put our best foot forward every time we step on the field.”
Knowing what you guys are capable of, is it frustrating when you aren’t as sharp as you are use to being even though it is still the preseason?
“That’s frustrating if that is the case. There are always times where you say ‘man, I would have hit that pass or wish I would have made a better throw there.’ Whatever it might have been. That is what the preseason is for – to work out the kinks. The thing about the preseason is that everybody is playing pretty basic stuff. You are not doing anything real elaborate. The amount of time you spend game planning is so minimal compared to what you do during the season. In that case it is a lot different then preparing for the game in the season. Then again, it doesn’t matter because every time you step on the field you want to look sharp and play well.”
It looked like you were simulating a game with what you were doing after practice?
“Yeah, I was just visualizing some stuff. I will do that from time to time if there is something I want to work on - a situation I want to visualize or a route concept I want to think about.”
You said you sometimes “penalize” yourself with running sprints on your own after practice. Do you do that from time to time?
“I punish myself from time to time with conditioning or whatever. When you feel like you don’t have something down and it needs some work and time. You spend the extra time to get it done and make sure you feel comfortable and confident with it.”
How do you impose that on yourself?
“I usually pick a number and it means something. If I throw a pick, I might say ‘for every pick I throw, I will run two extra gassers or for every incompletion or bad decision I am going to do this.’ If I ran a two-minute drill that I am not happy with, I might go back through it again and visualize the defense I saw and run the through the routes that I wish I would have done or the throws I wish I would have made.”
How long have you been doing that?
“Since about 2004. I will do it from time to time if I feel like I need it. I am constantly visualizing whether it is out on the field or in the film room. I can sit there and pause the tape and think for 10 or 15 minutes. I might stand up and go through the motions of a pass play. I might draw something on the board. There is a lot of that goes on during the game plan process.”
Some critics doubted both you and Chase Daniel’s ability to be an NFL quarterback when you guys were coming out of college. Do you feel scouts put too much emphasis on height for NFL prospects?
“I feel like they do. I feel like so much about playing the quarterback position is in your head. It’s head and heart. It is so much of the intangibles - things that you can’t measure with a 40-time or just by watching a guy throw and looking at his arm strength or anything like that. I think in a lot of cases you look at a guy and say ‘is this guy a winner? Does he win football games?’
“You look at Chase Daniel’s situation, going back to high school. I think he was 31-1 as a starter at high school (Carroll High School). Then he goes to Missouri, where you wouldn’t say Missouri was a football powerhouse before he got there, and they almost make it to a national championship. He won a lot of games for them. Now, he is making the most of his opportunity. I am happy for him. I have watched him work. He works hard and he has a lot of that ‘it’ factor is what you would call it. He can step in to a huddle and demand respect, he can give you confidence that whatever play we call it is going to work and he is going to make it work.”
How do you handle seeing over the tall defenders that you face?
“That is just simple physics. If a six-foot-eight guy is standing in front of me then no I would not be able to see through him but if I know my offense well enough and my defense well enough then I just can anticipate where guys are going to be or where they should be. You don’t throw over guys a lot of times. You throw in-between them and you find passing lanes.”