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

Payton talks Thomas, Brees and Vic Beasley

Check out the action on the field between the Saints and Falcons.

Short takes from New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton's Wednesday teleconference:

  1. Receiver Michael Thomasis 19 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards, and would be the first Saints rookie to post the mark since Marques Colstonhad 1,038 receiving yards in 2006. Thomas has eight touchdowns and 82 catches, and Payton said before the season that though Payton doesn't participate in fantasy football, Thomas was a player that Payton would pick if he did have a fantasy team. "I think one of his great strengths is his ability to work and focus," Payton said. "He truly loves playing and so, gamedays are that much more important. The (receiving) group in general, when you start looking at all of those guys – between (Willie) Snead(IV)*and (Brandin)Cooks and (Brandon)Coleman andTommylee (Lewis*) – these guys are all grinding and watching extra tape and preparing. And he comes in no different. He's very competitive. I think he's handled the transition very well. Very well. When you draft a player, you're certain of a few things and yet, there are some uncertainties to a number of things. Fortunately, his competitive nature and his ability to focus on just playing receiver and his ability to focus on each rep – it's hard for him to have a walkthrough. He's one of those guys, he's jogging at least half speed, if not more, through everything he's doing. I would say his run after the catch, and we thought when we drafted this player that he had that, but I think he's tough when he catches the ball in space for any defender."
  1. One of the reasons Drew Breeshas had the best career in franchise history is because he has been the most consistent player in franchise history. Entering Sunday's season finale against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome – the final regular-season game that will be played in the facility – Brees is 142 passing yards away from the fifth 5,000-yard season in his 11 years as a Saint. It will extend his NFL record of such seasons and highlights the fact that Brees remains as productive as ever (he has 11 consecutive 4,000-yard seasons, and his 35 touchdown passes are his most since he threw 39 in 2013). "His training, his work ethic and all the things that we've talked about for a long time – it's never taken for granted," Payton said. "We've changed as the years have gone by – what we've tried to do and maybe how many balls he'll throw early in the week – but he's really in tune to that as much as anyone. I think he does a great job adjusting and adapting to the schedules and getting himself both mentally and physically ready to play each week. I'm not surprised. I think that in some regards, part of what we're doing now with our running game and what we're doing now with our protections and how those guys up front are playing, are helping and allowing him to have that overall success that you're wanting to have. It's not just we're throwing the football. I think it's important that we're scoring, I think it's important that our third-down numbers are strong, our red zone numbers are strong. I think that balance that we've talked about in these last few offseasons, we've seen that more this year and that's something we've got to continue to build on."
  1. Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasleyleads the league with 14.5 sacks. He obviously has the attention of the Saints. "You see his speed on the snap. You're playing on the road, I think it's a loud venue and it's going to provide a challenge for both (offensive) tackles (Andrus Peatand Zach Strief). Vic, from Year 1 to Year 2, you see him bend and hit the edge. He has done a real good job of incorporating some power into his rushes. I think he's having a tremendous season."
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