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Coach Payton Meets the Press


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Opening Statement:

"The following players did not practice: LB Jonathan Vilma (left knee), C Olin Kreutz (left knee), T Zach Strief (right knee), LB Martez Wilson (shoulder), TE David Thomas (concussion), LB Will Herring (hamstring). These two players were limited: LB Jonathan Casillas (right foot) and WR Marques Colston (shoulder). The following players were all full: CB Tracy Porter (calf), S Roman Harper (shoulder), DT Tom Johnson (calf), WR Adrian Arringotn (left knee), DT Aubrayo Franklin (right thigh), S Jonathon Amaya (left shoulder). From a transaction standpoint, we signed LB Ramon Humber, he's in number 53, and T/G Pat McQuistan, he's in number 76. We released DT Mitch King and we placed K Garrett Hartley on Injured Reserve. From a practice squad transaction standpoint, we signed DT Mitch King and released DT Swanson Miller. We're at 53 (active) and eight (practice squad). We went outside today and basically spent most of the practice on our base first and second down."

How does the process look for David Thomas with the concussion?

"We'll see. In other words, each day we'll monitor his symptoms."

Was the decision to go outside because the next game is in Florida?

"It was probably more grass and outdoor-related as opposed to heat-related. It was warmer today that what we're going to play in on the weekend. It was just a break from going inside. We'll probably go inside tomorrow, but just getting out on the field and the grass surface."

Since you didn't place Zach Strief on IR, does that mean you hope he'll be back at some point this season?


So it's not a torn ACL or anything like that?

"No, it's not that or we would've moved him to IR."

If Charles Brown has to play, do you think his development over the last few weeks will get him ready to play?

"Absolutely. I think I was asked that the other day. He's experienced, he played well last weekend, and certainly knows our system."

With the injuries piling up, did you feel like it was necessary to put Garrett Hartley on IR?

"I think a lot of it was creating roster space. It was two-fold. Number one was creating roster space and number two is John (Kasay) has been outstanding."

Can you talk about the specific challenges Jack Del Rio's defense will present this weekend?

"Here's what we see on tape: they've improved dramatically in every area statistically, they're doing a great job of keeping the ball in front of them. They were a team last year that was giving up a lot of big plays. This season they're first in the NFL in regards to big plays allowed. They play the run very well. They're strong in their front and you see a secondary that has really done a good job with their scheme. They're playing with a lot of confidence and have played some good teams offensively already.

Can you talk about Gregg Williams' familiarity with the Jaguars having been there three years ago?

"When I'm asked these questions about someone was there and now they're here, generally it would be more personnel related. We see the scheme. In other words, it's all on tape. There's a different defensive coordinator who's calling the defense this year than in years past. Offensively, there might be some more similarities but I think it would be more of a reference to what are the strengths and weaknesses of certain players, and three years removed, you guys know how rosters are, so it only would apply to some players."

What do you see in Blaine Gabbert?

"He's a big talented guy who was real successful in college and he's making his transition after one start. The game last week is tough because of the conditions. He's a guy that through the evaluation process I think everyone saw his skill set. He's a guy that's physical, he can make all the throws, and a guy that was well-thought of by a lot of teams heading into the draft."

How challenging do you think it is for them to go through three quarterbacks within a couple of months?

"What you try to pay attention to is we know that they run the ball extremely well. They have one of the better runners in our league in Maurice Jones-Drew. He's physical, he's fast, he's elusive, and he gave us fits the last time we played them here. It starts with their ability to run the football, they're experienced on the offensive line, Mercedes Lewis is a tight end who's a threat, and then they've inserted a different quarterback and certainly there's some changes but you still see a personality or a scheme that that player's playing. But you try to watch as much tape as you can and that would be the preseason and then certainly the regular season."

It seems like you're finding ways to get the ball to Darren Sproles a lot these first three games.

"The one thing that we've been doing a good job of is in the kicking game. We put up the numbers each week and whether it's a punt return or whether it's a kick return, when you have someone like Darren you feel like you're always a play away from at least changing field position if not scoring. The thing with (Matt) Turk is he doesn't maybe have the distance that statistically comes across, but he does get exceptional hang time so we're going to have to be smart about the ones we return compared to the ones we fair catch. But like in any game, especially on the road, that battle in special teams will be important for us and a big point of emphasis."

Were you satisfied with the progress of your team after the first three games against three possible playoff teams and can you talk about the schedule getting a little bit easier the next few weeks?

"Let's start with the first question, I don't know that we're ever satisfied, but we're always looking for and working hard for our best game and it always seems to be the next week. Each week, we're looking for improvement and I really don't pay much attention to on paper the schedule seems to be getting easier. Each year, there are games where you go on the road and understand how important it is to play your best football and really focus on our own team and not the record or the statistics of the team we're playing. These guys are real good at home and their record speaks for itself. Under Jack (Del Rio's) tenure there, they've never lost to an NFC South team (at home). Their win-loss percentage is seventh best in the NFL during that time frame from '03 to now so they're a handful. That's where our focus is."

You and Drew Brees have been talking about how important it is to get off to a fast start but it seems that your team is finishing games stronger.  Can you talk about that?

"I think it was a big emphasis last week. We felt it was important to get off to a good start and obviously that didn't happen. We get back to paying attention to everything we can in regards to our openers, in regards to field position whether we're receiving or kicking off, but it is something that we've talked about and it is something that we need to get better at."

Is it hard to get Darren Sproles more carries with the amount he does?

"I think more than anything it's the flow of the game and each game is uniquely different. Last week that last portion of the game which was pretty much the quarter we were throwing it. A lot of it depends on how the game unfolds. What's most important is, are we getting him quality plays? Are we doing the things that he does well? Last week was a great example with the 2nd and 1 run that he gets eight yards on and the very next play he scores. So we just keep finding ways for him to be a threat in space and he's someone that doesn't have to just operate outside. He's someone that we feel is very good inside."

Has Sproles exceeded your expectations?

"I would say he's a better pure runner than maybe we had given him credit for not having been with him and just having seen it on film. He's someone that can handle the off-tackle and the outside. He's very smart. In a quick amount of time, he makes good decisions and those instincts really serve him well. The other thing is I think he loves football and you can see that."

How much time do you spend during the week on a no-huddle?

"Probably not as much as you would think. What we do occasionally is during our walkthrough, we'll take maybe the last six plays of walkthrough and maybe just kind of walk through the mechanics of getting on the ball and calling plays, and then later in the week we do more of a two-minute sequence and it would be really dependent on game plan. In some weeks, it might be more of a feature and other weeks less of a feature. Generally just in the walkthroughs."

How fun is it to watch a guy like Drew Brees operate that?

"The one aspect that goes unnoticed that we watch initially is when the formation breaks and he's taking a peak at the defense and finding out who or if anybody is coming and how can we get the protection right. In other words, that's all happening prior to him catching the shotgun snap, reading the defense and making a great throw. So there's a lot going on in eight seconds and now the balls snapped and he's into his routine. He's extremely smart and works extremely hard at try to by game day go through all these things in his mind so it comes easier and appears slower than maybe it would be. When he got going last weekend and you look at the ball distribution, it went to a lot of different players. It was something."

Can you tell us what Jimmy Graham brings to the table?

"I think we're all seeing someone grow right in front of us and it began at the end of last season, the last four or five weeks of last year. Certainly into this training camp and into this season, there's a confidence level he has. He recognizes a lot of the nuances that we do throwing the ball, he's improved as a blocker, and I think he's driven. I think it's important to him to be a real good football player. I've said this before, in 2006 after that season we coached in the Pro Bowl and the one thing that struck me was you had all these good athletes but you also had all these intangibles that really maybe separated them from others who were maybe just as talented but you had guys with intelligence, you had guys that were competitive that is was important to, all the things that go into really being a special player and I think that early on he's working at his craft and working to improve each week. He takes coaching and applies it to the field and each week does something that impresses you or encourages you more."

Your offensive line has been intact for a long time and now you're possibly going to be out there with a center and right tackle who don't have a lot of NFL experience.  Can that change the way you approach the game?

"Maybe to some degree we've been a little spoiled with the health and the experience we've had. I do think starting with Charles Brown and Brian de la Puente, they're experienced players to some degree. They're not first year guys. Both are uniquely different in that obviously one's a pure tackle and the other is an inside player but they're highly driven, they've gotten a lot of snaps through our training camp and through really the period of our program, and I think they're surrounded by good players and they're surrounded by a quarterback and they understand like most of our guys do that they need to focus on their jobs and as coaches let's make sure they're doing the things we think they do well."

Can being in a good rhythm on offense help an offensive line play well?

"I think there's probably a tie to a lot of things. I think a play-caller feels like he's in good rhythm when he's throwing and they're defending run or he's running and they're defending pass or he's blocking when they're pressuring. There are some games when it comes, but I think the magic isn't in the play call. I think the magic is in the scheme that the players have confidence in and they know and they've repped a hundred times and they're very comfortable with. It's karaoke and you either know the words or you don't and if you don't know the words you're in trouble. Our job is to make sure that they know certain plays and then chances are execution efficiency goes up and generally the ones that are the new inventions that maybe we don't have as much practice at or the ones that aren't as good in the game and still we work each week to look at what we can do. The rhythm is important. I think our tempo is important, that's outside anything else. In and out of the huddle, up and down, on and off we do with a lot of personnel. That can get boring if we don't pay attention to it. In other words, that's something that I think can help us if we do a good job with it."

Are there any trends that you've noticed taking place in the NFL that are leading to higher passing numbers?

"I think we're seeing more shotgun. We probably have the last three or four years. We're seeing more shotgun in college so those quarterbacks transitioning into our league are familiar with it. We're seeing more shotgun running game and you see that in college. I think it's really based on the team. It's what the team's identity is. I still get back to what's important for us, but there is a spike in passing and I think the quarterback play in our league is as god as it has ever been. There was a stretch in the 90s or the early 2000s where there was concern about where all the great quarterbacks were. I think it's good as it's ever been right now. To some degree, I think the rules favor throwing the football and make it more challenging. All those things are things that have happened in the last 20 years where one adjustment isn't a big thing but then another one and another one, and it's tough to play pass defense if you can't hurry the passer and you can't affect them."

Can creating those individuals matchups with receivers and defensive players like you like to do make it more advanced?

"I think our league studies tape. It all goes to the main system so we all have access to everyone's games every week and we have a whole offseason to study and look and what we try to do is see if there are similarities or if there's a fit but there usually aren't many secrets. It's really down to what fits your talent and I think that's important."

Reggie Bush was quoted as saying that faking injuries occurred here.  Did you read the report?

"No, someone mentioned something to me last week and we don't fake injuries and I don't think you can find a situation where a team has been in a hurry up and all of a sudden guys are just falling down.  If you went back, it would be pretty easy to do.  That's probably more frustration on a player's part there."

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