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John DeShazier: Extra reps helping Ryan Griffin's development

With Brees missing practice, backups getting more prime-time reps

White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – Competition at backup quarterback for the primary spot behind Drew Brees in New Orleans doesn't bother Ryan Griffin, and not just because he's entering his second NFL season.

Rather, it doesn't bother the former undrafted rookie from Tulane because since he's been a member of the New Orleans Saints, competing is all he has done.

"We're always competing," he said, referring to the post-practice games that are contested among the quarterbacks. "You see us out there throwing at the goal posts, or throwing at skeet, or throwing whatever we can. We're always competing.

"So coming out here (at practice) is no different. We're just going to compete and keep competing."

And if all the competing and hard work pays off, then Griffin just might wind up as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

That possibility won't be determined until later. The Saints have more training camp and four preseason games for that to be determined, with Griffin competing with veteran Luke McCown for the position. But each received a taste of what it could feel like last Saturday, when they had the opportunity to work with the No. 1 offense in Brees' absence during the Black and Gold scrimmage at The Greenbrier resort.

Brees sat out the scrimmage with a strained oblique. His status currently is day to day and it officially hasn't been determined whether he will play in Friday's preseason opener on the road against St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome.

If he doesn't, it will mean what it has meant since Brees began missing practice with the injury – extra reps with the starters for Griffin and McCown.

Photos of New Orleans Saints QB Ryan Griffin from the 2013 season (New Orleans Saints photos)

"It means a lot," Griffin said. "Working with guys that I haven't worked with all along – the Jimmy Grahams and Marques Colstons – it's important to get that timing down, just to see how they run their routes versus certain coverages.

"I've been able to learn and just kind of get their feedback, too. Those are some of the guys I haven't really talked to about what they're going to do on this route versus this coverage. Now, I'm able to do that."

It has helped educate Griffin and McCown, too. Coach Sean Payton said each performed well in the scrimmage.

"Both of those guys had good numbers, they both graded out well with regard to handling the system," Payton said. "I thought both of them graded out and handled what we were giving them pretty well. Overall, we were pleased.

"There are some things still that we've got to work on, (like) the clock in their head – if the play's not there, throwing it away is a good thing."

But the two will continue to work on that, and more, in training camp as they attempt to seize the backup quarterback spot.

"Just that consistency you look for at the quarterback position," Payton said. "I thought they handled, by and large, the scrimmage pretty well and yet there are some things when you look at the tape (that can be improved) – whether it's a Mike (middle linebacker) identification, whether it's the right run, getting in the right play, and also tempo.

"The one thing you always worry about a little bit with a change is does it slow your tempo down offensively. When we've been effective, we've been going at a fast pace.

"The good news is, we're going to get a lot of work with those guys. Both of them are handling the reps well. They're both smart, they're both quick studies. Luke's certainly more experienced so it's kind of an ongoing process. It's still real early and we've got four preseason games."

That's a lot of time for Griffin to continue to try to impress his coach.

"It's his job to evaluate me," Griffin said. "I'm just trying to get better. I'm not trying to think about that.

"I'm getting there. Just these extra reps are helping. But it's a process. I wouldn't say it's complete, I think Drew (Brees) would tell you that you're always growing. So I don't know if it ever will be."

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