New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams met with the New Orleans media on Friday following the club's final practice prior to their matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. Among topics he discussed was the progress of DT Sedrick Ellis and the defensive backfield rotation for this weekend. Below is a transcript:
It seems like Sedrick Ellis is having a good start to the season. What are your observations?
"Before I got here I was really excited about coming here and getting a chance to coach him because I really liked him coming out and I had him rated as the top tackle coming out (of college). I've had a chance to catch up with him. I mentioned back in training camp that if he stays healthy I thought you all would see a tremendously productive there; a guy that has a chance to be a Pro Bowl player. When you get drafted that high, that's what you hope your talent equates to and I think he's having that kind of a season. I think he's having a very impactful season. He's in the trenches so he's going to get chances to get rolled up on and all that kind of stuff and really the only thing that has set him back in his first two years is health. When he stays healthy and can stay on the field, I know we're a better defense when he stays on the field. He's played well. In fact with that article from today that had him real lean and everything, I think I'm going to play him at corner this week in place of Tracy Porter."
Speaking of who's going to play corner in place of Tracy Porter, what are your thoughts on that?
"We're going to have several packages. We're going to share it with all of our guys. Like I've said before we have a multitude of ways to do things. One of the things that you saw last week is that we have a multitude of ways in that we went from Roman (Harper) to Pierson (Prioleau), Pierson to Chris (Reis), and Chris to Usama (Young). I think the big picture teaching and coaching that we do – I have a really good staff here and we do a lot of coaching on the what ifs. We do a lot of coaching on making sure that you have a couple of guys groomed up to fit. We always say that with all the packages we have, we want to make sure that until it gets to two injuries at a position before you go out of a package. We don't want to have one injury take you out of a package. In order to do that, you have to cross-train. I've been on record before here saying that I like guys that can do more than one thing – an end that can play tackle; a tackle that can play end; a linebacker that can play all three; a safety that can play corner; a corer that can play safety. With all that being said and done, that's how we'll handle this particular week and we do that every week. One of the things that we try to do too – and I think Sean (Payton) does a great job of it offensively here, in all the years I've gone against him he did this well – and we've been kind recognized as doing this defensively in that we change what we're doing defensively according to who we're playing. Certain guys can't do certain things. Certain guys can play certain ways. So our style of play changes depending on who's in the ballgame at what time of the ballgame and all that kind of stuff because we're going to try to put them in a situation. Now you can't always protect all of them – at some point in time they may all be on an island – but for the most part, we adapt and change as coaches. I'm not the kind of guy that says you have to play this way. I'm supposed to have some flexibility too and we recognize that. That's why we have culture; we have good attitudes in our room because our guys like that. They like that they have some say too."
How is Patrick Robinson coming along?
"I said last week or two weeks ago that he's really coming on and he has been. He's been coming on and he's been improving. He'll be in some packages. Athletically, he's as talented as last year I said Malcolm (Jenkins) was. Malcolm had a process that he had to grow through and it's the same thing. I jumped on Patrick pretty good early on here and that was for a reason. It's because the other things that were going unnoticed were going unlistened to behind the scenes. My job is to affect change. Sometimes mom and dad and sometimes college coaches create habits that are acceptable that aren't in pro football so we had to change some habits. The young man has done a great job, he really has. He's done a great job of falling into line here and doing what we want to do. I've had a lot of DBs like that – Nate Clements, Sean Taylor, Carlos Rogers, Antoine Winfield, Samari Rolle, LaRon Landry; you go on down the list of first-round DBs that took a while. I think the hardest position to play in this league right now – outside of quarterback – is a corner matching up with the talented wide receivers that are in this league, and also matching up with the wide-open passing game in this league because the rules are set that they want to see the ball thrown through the air. Fans want that. So it takes a while; it does. And he's done well. I'm pleased with his progress."
What are your thoughts about facing another rookie quarterback for the second week in a row?
"When we scout an opponent, we don't just look at one or two games, we look at lots of things. Because we played them in the playoffs last year, we had looked at every single game of the season last year. What we're doing this year is we've taken all of that information from the 2009 season and combined it also, or separated or juggled it into this season. When you look at it different ways, what you see is that we're going to have to play the Cardinals offense. It's really not about that quarterback, especially since the quarterback that really made it click is in the broadcaster's booth this week. Kurt (Warner) is doing the game out there. I've gone against him at the Rams, at the Giants, at the Cardinals and I think he's – in my opinion – a first-ballot Hall of Famer. So they're doing similar things to when he played that quarterback position. They're going to ask (Max Hall) to manage the game. As you take a look at the quarterback position, does because you're young mean that all of a sudden that the running game becomes all the more important? Does it mean that (Larry) Fitzgerald becomes more important that you have to play? You have a veteran that Coach Whisenhunt has stood up and said has to protect that quarterback. We can't get focused in on just playing the young quarterback; we have to play the Cardinal offense. That's what we have to do and we've done a good job of that other times. It was similar to that last week; we had to play the Carolina Panther offense. We had to play the New York Jet offense last year when Sanchez came in, or any young quarterback. They do a lot of things that limit what he has to do. The opportunities that he'll get maybe will be to make a tight throw and he's done well. We've gone back and taken a look at every preseason game; we've taken a look at the games in the regular season when he's been in; we've take a look at some college film that he's been in to try to get mannerisms. We're pretty thorough when we go back and look at an opponent."
You have coached with Jeff Fisher. This past week, Josh McDaniels claimed that the Titans played dirty. Can you answer that?
"I'll say this and I'm not putting words into Jeff's mouth, but the two best guys that I've ever worked for – ever – are Sean and Jeff. And with the fact that Jeff and I are best friends, what I would say to Josh is to be careful what you say and be careful what you wish for because there are other coaches in this league also and Jeff Fisher's not that way. You have to coach your own team. I'd be worried about coaching my own team before I talked about somebody else's team."
What are your options if Will Smith weren't able to play on Sunday?
"We have flexibility there. Alex (Brown) played right end his whole career before I made him play left end. Jeff Charleston – as I said last week – I think is one of the most improved players we have on this football team and he'll get some reps. Jimmy Wilkerson was brought in here to be able to play both sides there too. Again, because of that position flexibility and what we attracted in here to start with, we have pieces. Will practiced today and I'm anxious to see how he felt after the practice. Our offense vs. defense – which is my favorite period of the week – my favorite period of the week is when we go 1s vs. 1s against the offense in the red zone on Fridays. That's the only period where we get after it just like training camp. He was in that period and was rocking and rolling in that period so I'm anxious to see how he felt afterwards. We have to be smart. Just like we were last week with Roman (Harper), we have to be smart. When their body is talking to them, they trust me in knowing that they don't have to impress me. Let's be smart in knowing where we're at in the season. But he did go today and that was a positive thing to see him out there competing in the red zone against Drew Brees and the guys."
Is Junior Galette an option?
"Yes. He's another guy. Here's another guy that's on the team for a reason. Could he get in the game? Sure he could. He's been deactive and we've been grooming him for a particular spot there. With Junior, he has some position flexibility. Here's one of those guys like (Anthony) Hargrove and like (Jeff) Charleston who also can play in the special teams. So is he a guy? Yes, to answer your question. He could get up and get some time. And if we dress them, we're playing them."