New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Opening Statement: "Jed Collins did not practice today with a toe and knee. Zach Strief did not practice today. Chris Ivory was limited. Patrick Robinson was limited with a groin. We had a couple of roster moves today: Corey White went to the IR; (we) added Saalim Hakim who was on the practice squad to our 53; Ryan Lee who was on our practice squad is now on IR, he had surgery today on his groin; now on our practice squad is Phillip Thomas from Syracuse, Wayne Tribue G from Temple, Jarred Fayson WR from Illinois who we have had here before, Ryan Steed DB from Furman. Today we worked on first and second down. I think you can make the argument that Dallas is playing, right now, as good as anybody in the National Football League. Offensively, I think this is the best Tony Romo has ever played, his accuracy, his command of the offense, getting the good plays. Bill Callahan is doing a great job with the offensive line. I think they have really cut down on their play selection of the run game, but they really execute. The wide receivers are making really big plays; if you don't tackle them they are going the distance. I can't say enough about this running back DeMarco Murray. He will have a one-yard gain, a two-yard gain, and all of a sudden he has a 60-yard gain. Defensively you got to admire what they have done. They have had some injuries and some things happen to them, but they are playing fast, physical. They made a big play last week to really win the game for them, so we have our work cut out for us. We had good work today and we will continue tomorrow.
There seems to be a bigger emphasis on the running game since you've been back, is that on purpose?
"I think the situations dictated what we had to do in those first early games and our coaching staff has done a great job putting together a run package formationally and personnelwise to come back. Listen, I can't even remember those first seven games, it feels like three years ago. My hats off to our offense, to our players for their execution and our coaches for the gameplan that they put in."
Is Mark Ingram playing his best football?
"I think we are finding out a lot about Mark and Mark is finding out a lot about himself. It's funny; I think he is one of those backs that he gets stronger as the game goes on. I think he gets a better feel for where the cut holes are. I think he has done a real good job of his ball security and is gaining confidence. I think it's really a win-win. If you take a look at the backs we have here, I think it's a great situation. I hand it to Mark, he has worked hard and things have come to him. As far as I know this is the healthiest he has been. He had some nicks in OTAs and he was a little banged up, but he has worked hard and I think he is one of those backs the more you feed him, the more he is comfortable."
Do you marvel at Drew Brees' numbers even though he had a rough patch?
"Look, I've said this to you on Sunday night, if you want to jump off that bandwagon do it at your own expense. What he has meant to this organization and what he has meant to our football team, hey listen, how many times have we seen these kinds of performances? He is a phenomenal player, he's a great leader, he's great in the locker room, and he's a great person."
But do you marvel at Brees' chance at 5,000 yards a third time?
"Like I've said this before, I've been lucky. In the National Football League, I start in 1979 with a kid from LSU named Bert Jones. Then I was with David Krieg who really finished in the top five with a quarterback rating after 17 years when he retires. I've been able to be around guys like Trent Green, Mark Bulger, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, and Drew is the best I've ever seen. He is the best I've ever been around, from the preparation, (to) production, and he is steady all the time. He critiques himself all the time. He is his worst critic and his resiliency and resolve are just amazing,"
Have you followed Devon Walker from Tulane?
"Yes, I went to visit him also. It was a special night. I had the opportunity to talk to that football team twice, once in the spring and once before their opener against Rutgers because I'm close with Curtis and I got to know him a little bit. It was great to see him when we went to Atlanta. His spirits are just unbelievable. He has an unbelievable support system around him and his family. It was special."
Can you talk about Jason Witten?
"He has historical numbers this year. That is the challenge when you play this football team. You have two wide receivers that are skilled, big, catch the ball, and finish passes. So if you roll up on the outside receivers you are leaving the middle of the field, your defense with Jason Witten. I think he is running and playing as well as he has played in a long time. I think he is the healthiest he has ever been. His pitch count is 97 catches. His ability to run option routes, his ability to read defenses pre-snap, what we would call a 'hot-read', him and he quarterback have been playing together a long time. They are always on the same page. He is certainly having a great year and I have a lot of respect for him."
What about Dez Bryant?
"He is a big play wide receiver. Anytime that you have somebody that is that big and has that kind of length and combines it with game breaking speed and can smell the end zone, he is becoming better and better as a route runner. I think Tony Romo has gained a lot of confidence in him. Like I said, offensively they are playing better than anyone in the league right now, and that starts with the quarterback and goes to the skill, and then it goes to the running game."
Can you talk a little bit about DeMarco Murray?
"When I look at players I ask myself who does he remind me of? Murray reminds me of Charlie Garner. He reminds me of a guy that can crease you and take it the distance. He's a guy from tackle to tackle that has great balance so when you think you have him down, all of a sudden he's out and once he's out he can finish the run. I think they have done a good job, (and) Bill Callahan has done a good job offensively with their offensive line with their play selection and playing to his strength. They become more of a zone team now, they still are going to run the power but this kid knows where to go with the ball to finish runs and he's tough."
Did you see the Dallas offense try to do different things against Pittsburgh that you haven't seen before?
"No, I think what they are doing now, is that they have limited what they are doing and they have done a great job executing. They are doing what they do best and they are not showing a lot of different wrinkles, formations, shifts, and personnel groupings. They are doing what they do best and they are executing. (Tony) Romo is getting a great pre-snap read, he's going the right place with the ball. I've said this earlier in the week, he is one of those guys from the far hash, he can throw it deep out to the other side of the field and someone is going to tell me with one-on-one coverage, how you are going to defend that, because you really can't defend a perfectly thrown ball. He is putting the ball in locations where only his receiver can catch it and my hat's off to him. With a guy like Romo the play action passes are your best deal. I just watched the last five games, they aren't in my division so I can't speak for them like I can for Atlanta and Carolina. His escapability is as good as it's ever been. So the play action pass along with the downfield throws and the way they run the ball now, really compliments each other. If your eyes are not in the right place, you can get burned on the play action, you can get burned from the naked, you can get burned from the quarterback keeper with him because he is a live threat with his legs."
Have you seen Rafael Bush and Isa Abdul-Quddus do what they have done in the games in practice?
"Yes, I think this about both of those guys. I have never seen a good defensive player become a really good defensive player until they made their bones on special teams. I think when you have a young defensive player and all of a sudden you see him on the coverage teams, you see him on the return teams, you see the courage, you see the play making in space, now it is the natural evolution to go play defense or offense. I think there is a progression, especially with a safety or a linebacker, that if you are a really good special teams player and all of a sudden you are put in the role of playing defense, it's not that big of a deal. You've made plays in space, you've made tackles in space, you've tracked the ball, the ball carrier, the proper angles, I think that's what those guys have done. They have played excellent special teams for us and they have evolved now to the next step."
How much pressure does it put on defensive backs with Tony Romo's escapability
"It's huge. Once he breaks the pocket you have to understand what their scramble pattern is now. Is the front side receiver coming back for the ball? Is the backside receiver going deep? And what is the middle receiver doing? That is something, number one, that you are going to work as hard as you can not to let him out of the pocket and to know exactly where he is going and know exactly where his escape lanes are. And then once he does break the pocket you have got to get a defender on him and make sure you are defending the scramble pattern down the field."
Do you care much about Pro Bowl for some of your guys?
"No I don't. I care about wins around here. I really don't. I think there are some guys that have had a really good year, but we will see how that plays out. I hope Thomas Morstead makes it. He has had a great year. He worked hard. He is fun to watch, his evolution of a punter and a leader and to see what he does for kickoffs for us. I hope so, it'll be great for him."
Would you put Tony Romo in the elite class of quarterbacks?
"I would. I think everybody, again, this is an opponent we play every couple of years, we played them two years ago on Thanksgiving, so our defensive players have to do more film study. Our defensive staff has to have more study. I think to a man, he has Brett Favre like characteristics. He has the same arm action. The ball comes out flat and he has a low trajectory. He buys time, has pocket awareness, can make the impromptu play and has his A-game going right now. I know that's some special company that we are putting him in but that's kind of the skill he reminds you of when he is hot."