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Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell, quarterback Matthew Stafford on facing the New Orleans Saints

Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell
Local Media Availability
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When you hired Joe Lombardi, what did you know about him?  What research did you do on him?

"Coming here in a situation where we knew we had an experienced quarterback that certainly had played well and we needed a guy that obviously had a good understanding of offensive football and had some diversity to it that would be able to not only direct the quarterback but also the different weapons that we had, Calvin (Johnson) and we knew we were going to go out and find another receiver.  We ended up with a tight end in the draft in (Eric) Ebron.  With Reggie Bush we have so many different types of styles that a guy that was accustomed to being around an operation that utilized their personnel accordingly and in a diverse way and obviously a guy that has been around excellence in quarterback play.  Those are the things that we are looking for and Joe (Lombardi) met all of that criteria and not only that, he is an excellent person, great teacher, and has a great presence about him.  The offense down there has been one that I think everybody in the league understands and is absolutely outstanding."

Is it overstated that the Lions offense is trying to emulate the Saints offense?

"Any time you come from a system that you have been involved with, there is obviously going to be some remnants of it.  There is a good group of guys on the offensive staff that have various backgrounds.  I think you really see a little bit of everything there."

How critical is it to put together your staff when you are coming into a new coaching situation?

"I think it is extremely important and by the way I don't think it is overlooked by the fans.  They are certainly in tune to every single thing that happens in that realm as well.  I think it is key.  I think it is very important to see how they fit and make certain that you have the right guys.  I think it is also important that you get guys that have been around championship play and that is one of the things with Joe (Lombardi) on the offensive side coordinating our offense and Teryl Austin on the defensive side.  Both guys have been to Super Bowls and won. I think that's extremely important as well.  As I said, I think there is quite a few of us on this staff that have been to various different Super Bowls and I think that it benefits the guys that teach and instruct.  They know what it takes to win and so I think it makes our job, it's not an easy job in this league, but I do think the understanding and knowing what it takes certainly paves the way a bit easier."

Have you seen anything on why the Saints have stumbled out of the gate?

"No, one of the things that we noticed is just like we've seen every year, that they have been absolutely excellent.  Their offense has a strong running game and they have been doing a great job in that area.  Everybody knows they can throw the ball with the best of them.  Drew Brees is maybe the most accurate guy in the league or one of the most if not he and maybe one to two other guys but this guy can thread the needle and make all of the great throws.  He is a great leader, a great field general and they have a defense that creates problems for you.  They are complicated for opposing offenses to get a beat on.  They have a dangerous kicking game.  That is what we see and I think our guys understand just how good of a football team they are.  They are very, very good."

What are some of the challenges of defending Jimmy Graham and how do the Saints change if he isn't playing?

"The challenge is because of the fact that he is a big guy that has an unusual skillset.  He has an outstanding catching radius.  He can outrun most of the guys who are trying to cover him.  He is a mismatch and a nightmare of a mismatch no matter where he lines up.  His ability to go up and catch the ball over the top of defenders to threaten to run away from you, spacial awareness, all of those things and you couple that with the fact that he and Drew Brees have impeccable timing it makes it very difficult to handle him."

Is he a guy just being on the field he can open things up for the rest of the offense?

"I think he is such a threat you better know where he is and you better know what you are doing in terms of your coverage responsibility because he can hurt you."

Defensively you guys had quite the turnaround.  What are some of the things that you've seen that really spurred on becoming, statistically speaking, one of the best in the league?

"One of the things that even before coming here we did see as we prepare to play them last winter when I was in Baltimore, there was a lot of talent on defense.  The guys had been playing extremely well and they were maturing and developing.  Teryl Austin came in and I think he related to the guys extremely well.  He got them in the proper place according to their abilities and thus we are on a path where we are improving.  We haven't arrived yet.  That is the thing that we certainly don't want to give you that kind of impression.  There is a long way to go.  There is so much football you have to play and every week is a brand new challenge.  We have a heck of a challenge ahead of us this weekend.  They are going to test our defense in every conceivable way.  What we have been doing is we have been improving and I think that is the thing that we have a bunch of guys that understand what it takes in terms of hard work and every week is going to be a brand new challenge and we really haven't done what we set out to do.  We have to keep battling and keep working to try to improve."

How have you been using Reggie Bush and how have you seen him evolve at this stage of his career?

"Obviously one of the things you notice is that he stills has that extra gear.  You've had a chance to see him run away from the pack during the preseason.  He can still run.  He takes great care of his body.  He can still catch the ball.  He can throw it out of the backfield obviously in so many different dimensions.  He is a breakaway threat and not much different from his early years.  He probably feels a little differently physically but the fact of the matter is he's still a game breaker and he can certainly flip the field or put it in the end zone at any point in time."

What are the challenges for you guys not having Calvin Johnson?

"You have to look at the things and adjust them according to the guys who are playing for you.  Often times we have different packages that we have to continue with and deal with. When Calvin is in there we may have to move a little differently to try and highlight his abilities.  When he is not in there we adjust and that is the thing about this league, you have to be able to adapt and adjust because there are going to be injuries, there are going to be setbacks and our challenge is to make certain that we are well prepared just in case we don't have a guy or two."

With Calvin Johnson's injury, is it something that you have to be conservative about and rest him until he is 100 percent?

"No, here is the thing that we do, that is in the province of the medical professionals.  I stay out of the province and so they will tell us when he is ready to go and what he is capable of doing.  But he is making progress."

Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What's it been like working with Joe Lombardi? What's he like personality wise and how has your relationship developed over the last several months?

"It's been good. Obviously we've spent a lot of time together trying to figure out each other's strengths and weaknesses and put together an offense that will be successful. He's a very intelligent and smart guy who loves the game of football and has been great to work with."

How much did you know about him before he was hired and how much research did you do into his background and what did you know about what he did with the Saints?

"I knew. Once they (Jim Caldwell) decided that's who they were bringing in, his work kind of speaks for itself, being a part of that system and how much success they have had over there in New Orleans on offense. I kind of knew what we were getting going in and he's been great."

Where do you think the Lions offense through six games has the most opportunity for growth and what do you think has to happen to get it to where you guys want it to be?

"I think we just have to continue to get better. We're doing certain things in games better each week and there are things we have to continue to work on, but that's every team in the league throughout the season and there's a lot of football left. We're just trying to take it week by week."

Has your offense changed at all since last year? It seems like you guys are trying to be a little bit safer with the ball and mistakes are minimized.

"Obviously the entire offense is entirely different from verbiage to routes to progressions to protections, all of it. It was quite a bit of learning. Just forgetting what you had known for five years and learning something  brand new, but we'll continue to get better."

There's been a lot said and written about the similarities of the Lions offense to the Saints offense. Is that overstated?

"I think there are some things schematically that are similar, but we have a lot of different offensive minds coming in here. We have some of the stuff left over from the past here. We obviously have some influences from the old Indy and Denver teams with Coach Caldwell and Coach (Jim Bob) Cooter. There's a lot of different minds going into this and it's a blend."

Have the amount of sacks you've taken this year a byproduct of holding onto the football to avoid turnovers?

"It hasn't been a conscious decision to try to take sacks. For one reason or another, we've had more than we've had in the past. It's something we're going to continue to work and try to be as good as we can be at."

The Saints defense has struggled at times this year. What have you seen out of them?

"I think they're talented. They have great players at each level. Obviously up front they have (Junior) Galette) and Cameron (Jordan) 94. They're playing great. Obviously in the back end you have (Keenan) Lewis, (Kenny) Vaccaro was a high pick. Those guys are running around making plays. 50 (Curtis Lofton) at the linebacker spot, they have playmakers at every position, everywhere through the lineup. We'll have our work cut out for us."

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