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John DeShazier: Takeaways from Coach Sean Payton's Monday teleconference

Still room for improvement on special teams

Check out the Saints vs. Rams action at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

A few short takes from New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton's Monday teleconference:

  1. There remained some areas of concern on special teams for Payton during Sunday's 49-21 victory over the Rams in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, mostly regarding the return teams. "There were some noticeable plays," Payton said. "Obviously, Tommylee(Lewis') muff on the punt (in the third quarter). We've got to get that corrected and get him up to speed and ready to field the ball cleanly. Fortunately, we were able to recover it. And the big return we give up (Benny Cunningham's 61-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter). I think there were some individuals that jumped out – (linebacker Nate) Stuparplayed well, (tight end) Josh Hillplayed well, I thought (punter Thomas) Morsteadwas solid. We had a couple of opportunities to pin them back and we ended up with touchbacks. We didn't punt but four times. From a kickoff standpoint, we had one 'rocket' kick – if you looked at their alignment, the one kick that was noticeably short to the right, the location needed to be further to the right. We felt we had a chance to actually recover a different form of an onside kick. It's something with (kicker) Wil(Lutz) we have to work on. He mis-hit a couple of kickoffs. It's still a work in progress and we'll have to continue to improve there."
  1. "Will" linebacker Dannell Ellerbe(five tackles, a sack for minus-10 yards, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry Sunday) continues to exhibit his versatility and show why the Saints have been patient during his recovery from a quadriceps injury. He has a sack in three consecutive games (those three are good for third-most on the team behind Cam Jordan'sfive and Nick Fairley's4.5) and has been credited with five hurries during that span. "He's athletic, so when you make a call he's generally someone that can make the adjustments," Payton said. "I think ('Mike' linebacker) Craig(Robertson) is doing a great job in there directing the defense. He's got the communication mic in the helmet. Dannell is someone that can play to that open side or that weak side. I think he's a very good pressure player; some of his better snaps come when he's rushing the passer or in a 'dog' form. But he can cover the back, he can cover a tight end, he can run, and that's a good thing."
  1. Payton also addressed the near-three-week-old report that safety Kenny Vaccarowas going to be suspended for four games, and whether it has been frustrating to have the rumor lingering and no resolution. "I don't think it's been frustrating, really," he said. "You really don't have any control over it. When we discuss the game coming up, we discuss injuries, availability, and one of the challenges is trying to gauge who your 46 is going to be and that discussion begins as early as today. After our first staff meeting, we go through the injuries, we discuss who may or may not be out or questionable, because you don't want to be practicing on Wednesday, not really knowing who those final two or three players might be, whether you're carrying the extra offensive lineman, it really affects special teams. So with regard to Kenny, much like you would an injury, you deal with the short term and not so much the long term."
  1. Receiver Brandin Cooks(51 catches for 736 yards and six touchdowns) wasn't targeted Sunday. It was Cook's first NFL game in which he didn't catch a pass. "I think part of it was a result of some of the coverages," Payton said. "There were certainly calls with his name and number on it and periodically, once in a while, that can happen."
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