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John DeShazier: Saints backup QB competition will continue to play out

Posted Aug 11, 2014

Luke McCown, Ryan Griffin competing to be Drew Brees' backup

White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – The competition for backup quarterback behind Drew Brees continues to progress, with veteran Luke McCown and youngster Ryan Griffin having submitted an addendum to their respective resumes last Friday in St. Louis.

They’re preparing to turn in another work sample Friday in New Orleans, when the Saints play their preseason home opener against Tennessee at 7 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Griffin was one of the offensive stars in a 26-24 victory over the Rams, completing 16 of 23 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions in five series. McCown, who started in place of Brees, completed seven of 10 passes for 49 yards and an interception in two series.

“I would say (Griffin) did some good things and there were some things we tried to clean up,” Coach Sean Payton said. “He received a good number of snaps.

“I thought Luke played well in his role. I wouldn’t say anything coming off that game in regards to the two of them (Griffin and McCown). It is just nice to get them snaps. Obviously, without Drew (Brees) taking any, it is giving those guys more (snaps). We will look at the role this week as we get ready to play Tennessee and we will make a decision later this week with regards to the snap totals.”

McCown threw an interception on a screen pass to end New Orleans’ first possession, but then led the Saints to a field goal on their second possession that pulled New Orleans to within 7-3. Griffin took on the next possession and helped the Saints score three touchdowns and a field goal in their next five drives, and exited with the Saints leading 26-17.

“There was some good and there was some bad,” Griffin said. “Every time you look at the film, there’s a lot of things I didn’t do correct, some day one stuff like getting a guy lined up, getting a shift, (getting) a guy set before I do anything else. So there were a lot of mistakes I need to fix. But there were a lot of positives too.”

Said McCown: “I felt good about it. The first preseason game, what you want to really see is tempo. You don’t want to see a sluggish huddle, you don’t want to see too much time at the line of scrimmage getting the plays in and out, you don’t want to see procedural penalties.

“So that was kind of our emphasis as an offense going in with the first 15 plays or so – let’s have good tempo, let’s get in and out of the huddle, get to the line of scrimmage, get our plays run and executed properly. We don’t want any false starts, we don’t any bad motions or mis-timed shifts. So I felt like we were good from that standpoint. As a quarterback that’s a reflection of your control and that’s a reflection of your offense and your hand on it.”

McCown understandably has a better grasp of the Saints offense than Griffin. He has played 10 NFL seasons, while Griffin has been on an active roster for 10 NFL games.

But Griffin, who was signed last year off the practice squad (the Rams attempted to sign him off the practice squad, but the Saints kept him in place with their contract offer), has been a quick study. He was aided by the fact that his coach at Tulane during his senior season, Curtis Johnson, formerly was Payton’s receivers coach and has implemented much of Payton’s offensive system at Tulane.

That gave him a foundation when he signed with the Saints as an undrafted rookie. Playing and having success last year during preseason has helped during this training camp.

“Just knowing kind of what to expect,” Griffin said. “Last year you get in there, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m playing the Kansas City Chiefs.’ But in all reality you are playing guys that are in your same position.

“You are getting out there playing a bunch of guys trying to make the team. So going out there this year, (I have the) same thought process, a bunch of guys trying to make the team. So they are in the same situation as I am.”

Griffin’s situation has been made better by the fact that he’s being mentored by Brees, who has more 5,000-yard seasons (four) than anyone in NFL history, and by McCown.

“Why hold anything back?” McCown said. “What makes each of us better is what makes our team better. When you take that approach, then you want to share your information. You want to share my experiences over 11 years to try and help him be a better player.”

It’s helping Griffin compete for the spot that McCown held last year, the No. 2 quarterback behind Brees. And it’s a competition that will be played out and completed within the next several weeks.

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