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10 questions with New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell

Campbell enters his fifth season as assistant head coach

Take a look at assistant head coach Dan Campbell in action as we highlight the New Orleans Saints coaching staff on the sidelines.

Dan Campbell enters his fifth season as the New Orleans Saints' assistant head coach/tight ends, bringing 21 years of NFL experience, 11 as a player and 10 as a coach. In 2019, Campbell mentored Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook , who posted 43 receptions for 705 yards (career-high 16.4 avg.) and a career-high nine touchdowns, with his receiving average ranked first in the NFL at the positon and his scoring grabs ranked second. Josh Hill had a career-high 25 receptions for a career-best 226 yards and three touchdowns. This season, Campbell will be tasked with getting Saints 2020 draft pick Adam Trautman up to speed at the NFL level.

Q: What are your impressions of Adam Trautman?

Campbell: Yeah, man there were a number of things. He was a guy that I felt like popped off (on) the tape. I know that he went to a smaller school, but when you watched his film there was something about him. He's just got this twitch about him. He's got some quickness. He can beat man coverage, he did it repeatedly (in college). He's good in zone, good with the ball in his hands and then you see him line up and put his hand in the ground and get after people in the run game. I was intrigued by this guy and then you go and watch him compete at the Senior Bowl and that's where to me I got really excited. Because then you can see where and how much he learned just over the course of a week and what kind of potential he does have. I know for me personally and Coach (Sean Payton) and all of us we were high on this guy. I was high on him and to sit there and watch him just drop in the draft, I was surprised and then the next thing i know is we got him. That's all I knew at the time and I was man, so excited and I couldn't believe we got him. Listen, we're excited, I'm excited.

Q: Is it harder to find that true Y tight end with the way college offenses are operating right now?

Campbell: Yeah it is, it is becoming real hard to find and to find a guy that can do both that you feel like can be a difference-maker in the pass game, but yet be able to help you in the run game. Not just function in the run game, but really help you to where you don't feel like he's got a weakness, well we need to take him out of the game or take him out this play and we'll put him in for this. (He's) A guy that can handle multiple positions and be able to produce at all of them and honestly, probably the best thing that's happened to our league from a tight end perspective has been the (George) Kittle explosion. Because Kittle is a complete tight end and when you watch him and he and guys like (Rob) Gronkowski, those are rare guys, but when you talk to all these guys at the combine coming out now it is the new wave. Who do you see yourself as? Oh man, it is George Kittle and I think that is a good thing because you ask him why and (they say that) he can do it all. He's able to do it all and those guys help you and make you a better team.

Q: Is Adam Trautman's ceiling being somewhere around George Kittle?

Campbell: Listen, time will tell on all of that. That's not why I was bringing it up. You guys don't jump out there (and say that). I'm with you it's a valid question. Listen, I see this guy and I don't want to say that right now, but I know this we're excited about the guy and we do like his ability and his talent level and we love the fact that he is smart. This guy is a football junkie and so what we're excited about is we feel like in time we're going to have a guy that can do it all for us and be productive at it.

Q: Was his willingness to block something that attracted you to him?

Campbell: Listen, that was one of the things that caught my eye about him and honestly I went and watch the Senior Bowl first, before I watched even his season. I saw a guy and I knew he was from Dayton, but what you saw was a guy who fundamentally was a little bit raw, particularly in the run game, but man he is like throwing his body in there and he's doing whatever he can to finish blocks and he's aggressive and he's tough. I am like, my gosh man, the player that's got this ability to be able to see him do those things. The nastiness of the game, the want to and the finish and the toughness and the grit, It's like OK, I'd love to work for that guy because the sky is the limit.

Q: Have you gotten a chance to see Trautman's intelligence now that you've gotten to chat and work with him?

Campbell: Yes I have, because that has been my only exposure to him and so we've been meeting four or five times a week. Just as far as getting on, doing the virtual classroom. Doing installs with him and then looking at the tape, our old cut ups and just kind of talking him through those things, that's where I get real excited and you can find out real quick, first, does a guy really love football or talking football and then second, how much does he know and how quickly does he pick up on it. This kid is…to this point he's really shown, ok this kid is a little bit more than a level one thinker. He's an advanced thinker and he wants to know and loves talking football and from that perspective you feel pretty good about it. Because mentally you're like, man that makes me want to get to camp and see what this guy can handle. Let's throw it at him and let's see if he'll sink or swim with it. Because he can handle it mentally. So from that perspective I've been excited about him. Mentally he's been everything and more that I hoped for.

Q: Did it take Jared Cook a little while to adjust and do you think he can maybe raise the bar?

Campbell: Yeah, he'll tell you that. It did take a little bit to get going. There's a number of reasons for that. We came in and first of all we (he) missed the back half of camp. Cook had an injury, so he missed the last part of training camp and then about the time we got him back and he and Drew (Brees) are working together for a couple weeks, we lost Drew at the Rams for multiple weeks. So that time just to get a good rapport between those two working together and Drew (asking) how can I throw this to this guy? What can I trust him to do and at the same token, Cook where does he want me? What does he see me doing with this route. All the little nuisances of the game between those two are important and I think you saw it was a little shaking at first. But just them being together, man you look at the back half of the season and that's what we're capable of doing. That's what those two players are capable of doing together. But (with) Jared Cook the sky is the limit. I can't say enough good things about him. Not only a great human being, this guy is an unbelievable person and I'm not the only one who would tell you that. Anybody, talk to people in the cafeteria and they love this guy to death. He's a damn good human being and he works at it and wants to be good. Listen, that talent level has been there, it is just a matter of (that Jon) Gruden was able to pull it out and knew exactly what to do with the guy and we are trying to do the same thing. He is a one-on-one nightmare. He's a matchup nightmare for a defense. I don't know how you cover the guy. I wouldn't know what to tell them, I know that. But yeah, we would like to think we're going to go into camp and get this rapport back again that they ended the year with and then here we go and we pick up where we left off last year.

Q: How much interaction have you had with Tommy Stevens and a guy like that who may get to play some tight end? Have you had a chance to work with him much and if so what is kind of the vision for him?

Campbell: Honestly, I have not talked to him one time. We will eventually have a discussion and, look, it's been a very general discussion about Tommy Stevens. We love the athlete, that's what we love and we feel like he's got versatility, a lot like Taysom (Hill) had, but there's things to where we feel like he can do multiple jobs or eventually he'll be able to do that. I haven't talked to him, but I know Coach (Payton) is going to want him at different things, different positions. I'm sure the plan will be to get him into camp and let's put him in my room for a little bit, let's have him in the quarterback room and maybe give him some reps there and just work him in across the board a little bit and see what he's comfortable with, see what he can do and then go from there.

Q: Just getting back to that second half of the season with Jared Cook, you kind of touched on it already, but is that the type of player that you guys were expecting just dropping him into this offense with this quarterback and with his skillset and is that the type that you're hoping or expecting to see this year?

Campbell: Yeah, I think that the back half of the season was certainly closer to what our vision was of that player and then to see those two gather a rapport and to see the confidence level with both of them, but I'm talking about (Jared) Cook, he gained a lot of confidence in himself. He realized, alright, we're going to make this work, we're both clicking now and I know what he wants. So, yeah, that was what we envisioned with the player when we signed him as a free agent to me and to him and to everybody on this offense. That's what we picture. We picture a guy that we can put out there and if you want to try to take away Mike Thomas and you are going to leave somebody one-on-one with Jared Cook then you've got a problem. We're going to hurt you if that's what you want to do. So if you want to single us and you want to single Jared Cook, there is nobody in this league that can cover him, like that is the point, that is the idea and that is the plan. We would like to come in and say we're going to pick up where we left off and that's the type of player that we have at tight end.

Q: What kind of advantages can an offense get operating with 12 personnel and do you guys think you could maybe do a little bit more of that with (Adam) Trautman in now?

Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. That's another reason why I feel like it was good for us to get a guy like him. (In the past) we were able to run the ball and throw it out of 12 personnel, two tights. Some of the best run game we had here three years ago (when) we had Michael Hoomanawanui and Josh Hill. We've still got Josh, he's a valuable part of our offense. He's the unsung hero, the guy does all the dirty work. He does all these things that nobody even sees half the time. That's just another reason why hopefully having Trautman, knock on wood, you get something, something happens, we can still be just as efficient because we have a gut that can handle multiple responsibilities. To be able to do those things, we were able to run the ball out of 12 personnel, we had a couple of tight ends (that fit) because they were able to work together, they were able to do multiple jobs, even a little just in our two tight end packages, just to be able to run it, but be able to throw out of it as well. So we're hoping that by drafting this kid that he can help us there a little bit. He's going to bring us versatility. I'd like to think before it's all said and done he's a hybrid of those two players. He's able to do the dirty work that Josh Hill does, but yet he's got receiving ability kind of like (Jared) Cook. He is somewhere in between those guys. If you've got a guy like that then you can (go into) 12 with (Trautman) and (Jared) Cook, you can go 12 with (Trautman) and Josh (Hill), you can still go 12 (with others). It opens your packages up and what you're able to do offensively, so yeah, we think he can help, we're hopeful he can help us play a little bit more in 12 personnel.

Q: I think we can assume you miss the personal interaction of being away from the team during quarantine, but the trade-off has been extended time at home. When is the last time you've been able to spend this much quality time at home, and have you developed a daily routine?

Campbell: Man, I don't know the last time. I really don't. I mean, this has been unbelievable. I mean, certainly before I was a coach. I haven't had anything close to this. So, you have to get into a rhythm, right? Set up a schedule, because if not you would go crazy. Now, mine (quarantine) has been a little different, alright? I had to get a knee replacement about a month ago, so mine has been a little bit different (laughter). I've been more in rehab mode. But look man, I cook in the evenings some. Shoot, now I bake cookies. (Laughter). You know, I do a little bit of everything just to keep my mind going. I watch tape during the day and we still have access to the server, so I can still pick up on things. And still talk to my young guy, my rookie (Adam Trautman). Which is good, he will call me every once in a while outside of meetings. He asks me questions about, 'Hey man, why won't they do this on this play?' or whatever. So it's been pretty good.

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