Take a look at senior offensive assistant coach Curtis Johnson in action as we highlight the New Orleans Saints coaching staff on the sidelines.
In his second stint with the New Orleans Saints, Curtis Johnson enters his 10th season on the staff. In 2019, Johnson and wide receivers coach Ronald Curry helped Michael Thomas shatter the NFL's receptions record and club receiving yardage records as he posted 149 receptions for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns and was selected as the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Overall, the past three seasons under Johnson's tutelage since he returned to the Saints, Thomas has posted 378 receptions for 4,375 yards and 23 touchdowns to lead the league in catches and receiving yardage. The past two seasons, he has been selected as an Associated Press first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl starter after being voted to the league's all-star game for the first time in 2017.
Q: What do you think some of the next steps are for Michael Thomas coming off a record breaking year?
Johnson: Well, he better break some more records. That's what he better be doing (laughter). I think Michael Thomas is a student of the game. He loves football, he's a football junkie, he's a smart guy. I wish he'd block a little bit better. We can put that in there, let's throw that in (laughter). But last year he really stepped up and played everywhere and did everything we asked him to do. He can also improve on catching every ball, instead of dropping like one or two.
Q: Does Michael Thomas let the coaches in on his workout secrets and how much do you work off of that, given that he wouldn't tell us specifics?
Johnson: Well, he's going by my guy Andreu Swasey (Florida International director of strength and conditioning). He and Alvin (Kamara) are there by Swasey. I'm in on it, me and RC (Ronald Curry) in on everything. He'll call us, he is like our little third son. He keeps calling us all the time, bugging us about a lot of stuff. But we know he's going to be big. We never worry about Mike. He's always going to be in great condition. He is going to catch the ball and make plays. He loves football and he's a good person.
Have you seen Michael Thomas grow in a leadership role on and off the field and I know we all saw the reports of him organizing the NFL BLM video?
Johnson: Tremendous growth, when I first saw him me and him had an experience at the Combine when I was with the Bears and he didn't like me very much. But I have seen his personality come out more and more. He is a leader by example. He does some things I still don't like, but that's OK. But this guy is a tremendous leader. He's always out there, always first in line. He's going to show everybody he's the best and I love coaching him. He's just a great guy to coach.
Q: Where does Mike (Thomas) stack up against some of the great receivers you've coached in your day just as far as pure talent?
Johnson: Well, look, he's as big as Andre Johnson and Yatil Green, probably two of the biggest guys, he has hands like Reggie Wayne, he can separate like Santana Moss. He's right there with all of them. He can make back-shoulder catches like (Marques) Colston, he's not as fast as Devery (Henderson) or (Robert) Meachem so I'm not going to give him that much, but I mean he's up there with the top. I've never seen a big guy as courageous as he is and can separate the way that he does. Colston was courageous also, but this guy separates in small areas like no one else I have ever seen do it. So he's one of the top guys.
Q: What has been the adjustment not seeing the players and not having an offseason program this year?
Johnson: I think one thing Sean (Payton), Mickey (Loomis), Jeff (Ireland) and Terry Fontenot do every year is they go out and get the smartest guys you can and RC (Ronald Curry) is being modest. He's done a fantastic job this offseason. He and D.J. (Williams) just getting those guys together, getting them to meetings on time and getting the offense taught to be ahead of the game. We have a veteran quarterback and a veteran (offensive) unit. I think it's significant, but think about 2011, we didn't even have those meetings and I think our offense finished (number) one in the league.
Q: What are your thoughts about Marquez Callaway?
Johnson: Marquez was a guy that was coached by one of my guys at Tulane, David Johnson, and I think he's a heck of a player, good kid, comes from a great family. Dave has been telling me about Marquez for years. He's big, he's fast, he's a tough kid, very, very smart. I like him, but sometimes I get on him about his haircut because I see that haircut and I can't grow hair like him so I'm (jealous).
Q: What about Juwan Johnson, how do you see him fitting in with you guys?
Johnson: I like him also, my nephew had him at Penn State. He is a special teams guy, he's a very tough guy, big, physical, athletic. You cannot get enough of these guys in a season like this. We like big guys, like R.C. always says, we like big guys because of Drew (Brees') situation (where) he is a little bit shorter than everybody else, but this guy has made some plays at Oregon. And these guys are tremendously smart. I am telling you, D.J. (Williams) and R.C. did a phenomenal job with those kids this year. I can't wait to be a part of this.
Q: How is Krishawn Hogan developing and what's the vision for him moving on?
Johnson: Krishawn is another good players that is in the mix. We like his intelligence. (He's a) very, very intelligent guy. He can line up in a variety of different positions, he's a tremendous blocker, he can separate. So he's another guy that we're going to look at to increase his role in the fall and hopefully he's not injured. He was injured at the end of the season last year (so hopefully) he's protecting his body and doing those things. He's another guy that's definitely in the mix that's going to help us this year.
Q: Even though he's listed at running back, what do you see in a guy like Ty Montgomery who brings a lot of versatility and can play multiple positons?
Johnson: I think he's just another weapon. He's another weapon that we're going to use. Sean's (Payton) going to use him to the best of our ability. He can play multiple positons and would be great for our roster. We've looked at some of the things that he's done at Green Bay and other places. I think this guy is just an added addition to what we're doing. As many weapons as we can get to put in front of our quarterback. I just love the addition.
Q: How has your preparation changed if at all leading into training camp this year as opposed to years past?
Johnson: I think this, like I said before we have a veteran group. The one guy we have to get (up to speed's) Emmanuel Sanders .We have to get him going a little bit. I think he's a smart guy. I've probably talked to him probably more than anyone. I know he likes to play golf (joking), but that's really all I know about him. But he's tremendous on film and we were talking the other day, myself, RC and Pete Carmichael putting plays together for him to use his strengths and doing some different things with Tre'Quan (Smith) also. We talked about how Tre'Quan's a guy. He's a tremendous blocker and always leading us to the ball. We have to get him somewhere else, different positions. And one thing about those guys is they are very, very smart guys. I think we can put more on them. We put more responsibility on guys like Tre'Quan and Emmanuel (Butler) and (LJ) (Li'l Jordan) Humphrey. When those guys come along, I think Deonte (Harris) as RC (Ronald Curry) said, is going to do a phenomenal job.