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Joe Vitt Said Darren Sproles Returned to Practice, Team Focusing on Oakland Raiders

Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt spoke with the media on Wednesday to give an injury update and talk about facing former Saints assistant coach Dennis Allen and the Oakland Raiders on Sunday


New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe VittMedia AvailabilityWednesday, November 14, 2012

Opening Statement: "Going through the injuries first, Zach Strief did not practice. He has a groin (injury). Junior Galette did not practice. He has an ankle (injury). Corey White did not practice. He's got a knee (injury). Darren Sproles had a good practice for us today. Courtney Roby had a good practice today. Courtney was full go and did everything we asked him to do. Really Darren was full go. We listed him as limited because we went out in shells today. He didn't take any kind of bang on the hand, but he really practiced well. Today we install our first and second down packages. Today was also about educating our football team on everything to expect for when we fly to Oakland to play the game on Sunday. History tells us that since 2005, any football team that has given up 55 points and they now return home (that) it's a different football team that you're going to play. History tells us that (they in the next game at home) give up 20 points a game defensively, they force three turnovers and (have) four sacks. Offensively, they score 26 points a game and have 146 yards rushing on the day. We're going to prepare as well as we can and we know we're going to get the Raiders' best effort with Dennis Allen as their head coach who knows us extremely well"

How impressed are you with how Dennis Allen has risen in the ranks?

"I think that anybody that's worked with DA as I have as a coach or anybody who's played for DA as a player in ours or Denver's system isn't surprised at all. He's smart, has great people skills, is detail-oriented (and) truly understands the game. He was a heck of a player at Texas A&M. He has a good feel for talent. He was a DB but worked with the defensive line also in two different places, in Atlanta and with us here his first two years. He understands offenses and how to beat protections and he's a good teacher. I would think that DA is implementing a lot of things out in Oakland that he learned from Sean (Payton) and this program. He's got a lot of patience. He has poise. He's going to do whatever he has to do to win with the talent level available to him at the time. It was a matter of time before he became a head coach. He's in the perfect situation there. He's with Reggie McKenzie, who's a former Raider who then worked in the Green Bay Packer organization under Ron Wolf and under Al Davis. The personnel philosophy isn't going to change much under Reggie. He and DA are just really two good guys that put their egos aside and put the team first."

Has their offense changed without Darren McFadden available to play?

"They do what they're doing. It's kind of like what we would do with next man up. Their run game is a zone-oriented run game. There's a lot of carryover from when Tom Cable was there. It's a lot like Denver's that we faced three weeks ago. It's a lot of like Philadelphia's that we faced two weeks ago, so they're going to do what they're going to do. They're going to throw a few more reverses in there because they have speed at the wide receiver position, but it's a zone blocking team. I would expect that they would try to run the ball a little bit more this week and try to get the run game going and back in their offense."

Why is Drew Brees able to extend plays so well?

"I think he has a great offensive line in front of him. Drew's got great pocket awareness and he gets a great pre-snap read of potential people coming at him. He has the ability to get us out of a bad play based on the pre-snap looks that he gets and I think there are a lot of things. I think that's why guys like Drew, (Tom) Brady and Peyton (Manning) as long as he's played, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Steve Young, Joe Montana, all those guys have great pocket awareness and the ability to get their teams out of bad plays. Those guys also had and have good offensive lines."

Did Corey White need surgery?


Is Darren Sproles' hand wrapped?

"He had a glove on today, so I didn't make him take the glove off and see under the glove. We did not hit today. We were in shells only, so he caught the ball well. He ran great. I was very encouraged with his work today."

Is there any correlation with him not playing and the running game's improved performance with him sidelined with the hand injury?


Now that you guys have won four of five, how do you prevent people on the team from looking ahead past the Raiders?

"The only people that I know that talk about the rear view mirror and what we accomplished are you guys. Today is about the Raiders. Today is first and second down Raiders. Tomorrow we'll introduce the third down package. We're preparing to play a game on Sunday. We're not looking in the rearview mirror and we're not looking over the fence at anything down the road. We're talking about one thing, the Oakland Raiders, in Oakland and 1 p.m. (Pacific time) on Sunday."

You tell us you make your decision week to week as to who to play, but is it a tough decision to potentially play four running backs and give them all snaps?

"We're going to activate whoever gives us the best chance to win. That changes week to week on the opponent that we're playing, the fronts that we're seeing, the potential weather we're playing in. Those things help us make a decision on a week to week basis on who will play in the game."

Do you think the recent increased production in the running game has more to do with what you are doing as a team rather than the opponents or the specific matchup each week?

"I think Aaron (Kromer) has done a great job with our offensive line in getting them back to basics, some basic things that we do. I think the games the last two weeks have been even. We haven't been in a catch-up mode offensively. We haven't had to abandon the running game early because the games have been within striking distance. The running game was out of balance a little bit early in the season because we were behind in the games and you had to catch up, so you abandon the running game. We're just doing here what we've done since '06. We're doing what this coaching staff has done since '06 and we're executing. I'll tell you what happened the first six games. We won two in a row. I came back here for game seven and we got our asses kicked."

Were there any changes you had in mind and saw in watching the running game on film?

"I'm a defensive-minded guy, so I saw that the offense was in a catch-up mode. The offense knew they had to score a lot of points, because we were giving up some points defensively and in all games, you're going to do what you have to do to win. Again, you keep looking in the rearview mirror. We're looking ahead to the next game."

What are the defensive statistics you pay the most attention to?

"Points against are the number one stat. What the scoreboard says when we're walking off the field is the number one stat. The second-most important stat is takeaways, giving our offense field position. The third most important stat on a weekly basis is pressure on the quarterback and not giving him a comfortable pocket (to work in) and then comes red zone defense."

On Monday did you discuss trap games?

"I never said trap game, did I?. You guys said that."

How tough is it to have the emotional level that you had last week every week?

"Did you listen to what I said earlier about a profile of a football team in the National Football League since 2005 (that gave up 55 points in a previous game on the road)? When a team in the National Football League is beaten and 55 points go on the board, they come home and play the next week. That (next week's record) represents 5-1. They end up having four sacks, forcing three turnovers and allowing 20 points. Offensively, they score 26 points and they rush the ball for 146 yards. That's what history tells us. What else do we need to know about the opponent we're playing this week? Number one, it's a gifted team. They've played good football this year. I don't if we're playing the Palestine Eagles or the Beirut Buffalo Bulldogs, that's the profile of a team in the National Football League when what happened to them (Raiders) happened last week. (We can expect) their A game, which is pretty good."

What has changed mindset wise for the defense to account for some of their successes closer in the red zone?

"I think we spend an awful lot of time in our OTA's and training camp in that part of the situation of our game, so defensively any other place I've been, we haven't spent the time (on it) that we've spent here in what we call the tight red zone from the 12-yard line in. At the first OTA sessions, in the summer, in training camp and we dedicate a good portion of our practices on Friday to red zone situations."

How did Darren Sproles look practicing with the glove on his hand?

"He looked real good."

How and when do you make the decision to play him or not?

"We'll evaluate. He practiced well today. You wait and see if the hand swells, all those things. He was dynamite today."

Can you talk about Oakland's passing game?

"We all know Carson Palmer (as a) big, strong quarterback who has good field vision, because of his size. Carson Palmer is on pace right now to break the all-time Raider single-season passing record. He's on pace right now to break that. You're talking about guys like Daryl Lamonica, Kenny Stabler, Rich Gannon, Jim Plunkett, so the passing game is pretty darn good. The receivers were brought into their system under the late Al Davis. They have the vertical speed. We have to contest every throw. I think that's pretty impressive by Carson Palmer at this stage in his career to be (on pace to break) the all-time Raider single-season passing record."

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