The New Orleans Saints closed out their 2010 Minicamp on the outdoor fields today in front of over 2,000 fans. Following today's camp, seven OTA on-field workouts remain before the club takes a six-week break prior to the start of training camp. Below is the transcript of a post-practice media availability where head coach Sean Payton discussed, the minicamp, the upcoming OTAs as well as the progress of several veterans and rookies.
"Most of this morning's work was on third down and nickel. We'll repeat that again tomorrow and probably go inside in the a.m. practice.
"And then Tuesday, we're heading down to Plaquemines Parish. I think it was announced already. Our plan initially was to have lunch with the governor and be at the mansion with the various people up in Baton Rouge. I think the idea of switching gears and having that lunch down there is appropriate. I know the players – all of us – are looking forward to being down there and spending some time with those people that are going through so much. Our short-term schedule is that. Tomorrow we practice in the a.m. for the OTA and then Tuesday we'll head south."
What will you be doing down there?
"The plan I know right now is for us to bus down there in the morning. There's going to be a lunch we'll have. I think more than anything else, just be with them and lend our support. I know that the Saints, in conjunction with people up in Baton Rouge, are putting together the itinerary. I don't have that yet. But I do know that when we talked about it yesterday as the venue changed, it seemed to fit. Our players are excited to do it."
Will you be bringing the Lombardi Trophy with you?
"I'm sure we will. I'm sure we will. It should go there."
Are any of the tryout guys going to be back tomorrow?
"We're going to meet here this afternoon and we'll decide what we want to do, if any. Right now we'll kind of go through the depth chart and anything that comes out announcement-wise we'll make tomorrow or as it happens."
What were your overall impressions of minicamp?
"We had a lot that we put in. We're getting a lot of work done and a lot of reps. Your roster is at a high count now and so a lot of guys are getting work. That has been encouraging. We still have a good two weeks left to work and those are going to be important as we get ready to prepare for training camp."
How much does Robert Meachem being out concern you at this point?
"You'd like to have Robert and Devery get the snaps. That changes your depth at receiver. Fortunately with both injuries, we know the exactness of them and we know the timeframe we're going to be working on. Robert we'll have at the start of training camp and Devery we're hoping to get a little bit more work here in these next two weeks. They're still involved in the walkthroughs and the meetings. We just have to get the rehab done the right way"
How is Malcolm Jenkins?
"He has a bruised knee. He's day-to-day. A lot of it is dependent on the swelling. We'll see and fortunately it's just that."
You had another look at Greg Paulus this weekend. What do you think of him?
"He did well. He's someone that gets in and out of the huddle. He has quickly picked up on what we're doing. I think he's a good decision-maker. I'm glad he was back. We saw some good things in the rookie minicamp and again in this camp. He gets limited reps, but he's someone that can handle everything you're installing and take it to the field."
Why is Will Smith so effective?
"The one thing he does a real good job with is he plays with leverage. He's strong. He has the ability to rush the passer and then conversely, has the ability to hold up against the run. He's not a one-dimensional player, which means he's going to be on the field for three downs. I think with his leverage, he's tough. Those are some attributes that with his skill set, allows him to be one of the better ends in the league."
How do you see the other defensive end position shaking out right now?
"We've got a lot of guys we're rolling in there. Alex Brown. Bobby McCray. We've got to wait on (Jimmy) Wilkerson's health. Jeff Charleston is getting snaps. All those guys are going to play. You guys know we try to rotate a lot of guys in. There are a lot of different packages. It's not as clear as 10 years ago where you just said, 'Hey, this player is our left end.' There are too many packages that we're playing. The versatility of these players in what they can do we'll look closely at."
It seems that you've tried hard to get depth at that position. Are you optimistic even though you haven't had a chance to see Wilkerson yet?
"He's ahead of schedule. I've been pleased with his rehab. I think we're going to have him to start training camp. I think he's weeks ahead of schedule. That's a credit to what he has been doing here in the offseason."
Throughout your time here, there has been a lot of emphasis on the big play. But it seems like you guys are able to create big plays through check downs. What has been the key to that?
"There's that adage that you're going to try to take, sometimes, what the defense is giving you. But you do within the framework of the passing game have to understand where the underneath throws are, where the down-the-field throws are and I think Drew does a great job of selectively taking the shots and at the same time, taking some of the underneath throws when the coverage gets soft. That's something he does very well and I think our players understand the necessity of flare control as it really relates to any pattern we run."
Is that something you've developed more through getting to know Drew throughout the years or has that always been your mindset?
"I think with any good passing game it's a must. I think with Drew's experience and coming in here in'06, there were a lot of big plays and there have been throughout the years now with plays that maybe traveled only 10 yards that end up being a lot further in the gain. I think that has to be part of what you do and knowing that defensively, there are some things they can really force you to do. You just have to be prepared to do those things well."
Has Zak Keasey been here?
"Yeah. He has gotten snaps. He has got a little pec strain, but he has been able to fight through it."
How has Chase Daniel done?
"He's getting a lot of snaps with the second group. He's a smart player. He's very competitive. He has been here with us now a year and all those reps are very valuable for what he is being asked to do. You really don't get a chance to measure the growth until you start playing the preseason games. But he has handled that aspect very well."
Pierson Prioleau said yesterday that the starting corner tandem might be the best he has ever played with man-to-man in coverage. How do you feel about them as a tandem?
"We certainly have a lot of confidence in Jabari (Greer) and Tracy (Porter). We also recognize that the challenges with all the different receiver sets that we get and we understand the importance at that position of having depth. When those two guys got healthy towards the end of the season, that was a really important part of what we were doing defensively and our ability to play well in the playoffs. The game over the years has changed and that position and skill set is critical. Having the ability to cover guys and if you want to apply pressure, you've got to be able to get close to the receivers then and defend the pass and those guys can do that well."
It looks like Jabari has this closing speed where the ball is in the air and it looks like the receiver has a step and then all of a sudden he's there. Do you see that?
"His numbers a year ago, there was a point before his sports hernia, where he probably was in the top three corners in our league in regard to percentage completed against, targeted passes against and he was having that type of season. He had the setback with the injury and came back and played well for us in the latter part of the year and the postseason. He can plant and drive and he has very good transition and quickness. He can run."