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

Payton says Matt Ryan is having one of his best seasons

Check out photos of Sean Payton from the Saints win over the Buccaneers on December 24, 2016.

Snippets from the Thursday morning teleconference of New Orleans SaintsCoach Sean Payton:

  1. Today is Payton's 53rd birthday.
  1. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan(346-for-498 for 4,613 yards and 34 touchdowns, with seven interceptions) is having one of his best seasons. "He's had some phenomenal seasons and they've had some playoff teams and yet, what they're doing right now with yards per play, big-play passing, they've got balance … I think he's having, by far, if not his best, certainly one of his best seasons," Payton said. "I think he would evaluate it as one of his best with regard to the team winning. I think that's one of the first areas that we're graded at."
  1. Payton gave high marks to the play this season of right guard Senio Kelemete, who was released in February and brought back days prior to the regular-season opener. When Evans, the second-most decorated offensive lineman in franchise history, opens Sunday's game against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, it will be the first time he has started all 16 games since 2014. "I think the one thing, he looks light. He is light," Payton said. "His weight – I think the challenge, as you play longer in this league, particularly in some of those positions inside, the first thing they say to go are your legs. So, the one thing that can help that is to reduce what they're carrying. I think he's in shape. I definitely think he's having a real good year, comparing it to the last two or three. He's healthy. I know he battled some injuries here in the last couple of years with his wrist and his knee. Quietly, he's gone about his business. Knowing now what we're getting from him, if I knew that back then, he'd have been going through our minicamp, training camp. I've been impressed and excited with how he's playing."
  1. Rookie defensive lineman David Onyematahas proven that he belongs this season. The fourth-round pick (No. 120 overall) had a steep learning curve, coming from the University of Manitoba. But he has been a contributor in the defensive tackle rotation, and has been credited with 14 tackles. "I think (his progress) has been fairly rapid," Payton said. "There'll be things that happen in practice, there'll be this learning curve, it happens once, it's corrected (and) generally it doesn't repeat itself. You guys have interviewed and spoken with him. He comes across as very warm, which I think he is. He's someone that's bright. But we had a scuffle last week in practice and sometimes when they break out – it rarely happens in season – when you're a coach and you look in, you don't know who it is yet. And then all of a sudden, you pull a couple of guys apart and one of them was David, I was shocked. In a quiet way, I think he's really established himself and is gaining the respect of his teammates. I really like the draft pick. I like the prospect. I think he's only going to get better."
  1. More high marks for another couple of late roster adds: Cornerbacks Sterling Mooreand B.W. Webb, who will finish the season as the Saints' starters. Moore will start 12 of the 13 games he has played this season, and Webb will start eight of the 14 he will play. Neither was with the Saints in training camp, but injuries to P.J. Williamsand Delvin Breaux, among others, necessitated their additions. "Sterling and Webb were great acquisitions," Payton said. "Those were important signings for us. On the back end, we've done a good job getting them acclimated to what they're going to see. Sterling was someone we had some familiarity with a year ago." The Saints attempted to sign Moore as a free agent last year, but he opted to sign with Tampa Bay.
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