Quick takes from New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton's Thursday teleconference:
- Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, the Saints' first-round draft pick this year, appears to be on schedule to make his NFL debut Sunday against San Francisco. Rankins broke his fibula during training camp and was placed on injured reserve prior to the regular-season opener, but he is eligible to return to the active roster for this game. "He's getting around good, and we anticipate this is the week for him," Payton said. Now, it's just a matter of making sure Rankins is 100 percent and game-ready.
- Early success apparently hasn't gone to the head of rookie receiver Michael Thomas, who leads the Saints in receptions (42) and is second in receiving yards (500) and touchdowns (three). "The great news and the good thing about Michael is, like, even this morning, I poked my head in and he's in the receiver room watching tape," Payton said. "He's eager to learn because he realizes all of the nuances from playing outside at the 'X,' coming inside in the slot, there's so much ahead of him in regards to the route tree. I would say he's picking it up and chewing it. There are days when it's in his mouth longer than you'd like, but by night time he has swallowed it. That's been encouraging."
- The pace of San Francisco's offense is similar to the pace of Philadelphia's offense when Coach Chip Kellywas there. The Saints played Kelly's Eagles twice in three years from 2013-15 and split the two games. The Saints' victory was a 26-24 decision in the 2013 Wild Card playoff game in Philadelphia, the first road playoff win in franchise history. "I can't speak for the average tempo," Payton said. "I would say yes, to some degree. It's based on, they're up there (at the line of scrimmage), and they're still able to motion. It makes the week different in preparation for the defense. It's up tempo, over to the sideline, look for a play, they try to get a peek at your defense and attack what they're seeing. We practiced that (Wednesday), when you get the scout team ready and you might have two scout teams or two groups of receivers. Replicating it is a challenge. It's always a little blurrier that first day. But the tempo is much the same."