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New Orleans Saints players talk about scrimmage

Curtis Lofton, Zach Strief, Jahri Evans, David Hawthorne, Marques Colston and Junior Galette

Photos from the Black and Gold Scrimmage on the eighth day of 2014 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at The Greenbrier on August 2, 2014. Photos by Richard Clark (New Orleans Saints video)

New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Marques Colston
Post-Scrimmage Media Availability
Saturday, August 2, 2014

What are your thoughts on Brandin Cooks?
"You guys got a chance to see what we have been seeing the first two weeks here. He's electric, he can run all the routes, and he's a big play guy."

It looked like Ryan Griffin really got into a rhythm today as well.
"Yeah, he's been playing well all camp. Just the chance to really put some drives together, he looked really good."

You guys sometimes had trouble getting out to a fast start last year. I know it's only a scrimmage, but how was it to get some scores early?
"It's setting the right tone. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do, and we're looking forward to making the corrections from this film and continuing to move forward and get better."

Do you have to keep Cooks grounded at all, or are you sold that he's the real deal?
"No, he's a guy that comes to work every day with the right mindset, and that's why he's able to be as productive as he's been. I don't really see a change in that coming."

Do you see a big difference in Ryan Griffin from last year to this year?
"He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. Being in that quarterback room with two vets like he is, he's definitely learning a lot from those guys and really applying it to the field."

Does he seem to have total command of the offense in the huddle?
"Yeah, like I said before, he's playing with a lot of confidence right now and I think it shows."

We saw a good mix of run and pass today.
"It's always good to get a feel for full speed and really putting some drives together. I think the mix was good and it really got us into a flow."

As you get closer to the first preseason game, what are you guys going to work on and focus on next week?
"I feel really good. I've just been able to get out here with no limitations and really get some good work in day in and day out with no setbacks. I'm looking forward to continuing that."

Does the weather and conditions today make this scrimmage a lot easier than the last few you can remember?
"I think it is something that we are not really used to that we can get used to. This weather up here has been awesome, and has really given us a chance to get more out of some of these practices."

New Orleans Saints Guard Jahri Evans
Post-Scrimmage Media Availability
Saturday, August 2, 2014

What were some of the takeaways you saw from Ryan Griffin's performance today?
"Well for one, he's got a good teacher in Drew (Brees). He did well today. I think I only had one series with Ryan if I remember correctly. It's just one of those things that as long as you continue to grow, you're going to make mistakes. I think at that position, if you don't continue to make those same mistakes, you'll be good."

How much of a difference have you seen in him from this year to last year?
"I can't really say I've paid attention to notice a lot of differences, but I think he's growing as a player. I think he's getting more comfortable with his ID-ing the defense, as the young guys tell me about him. I think he's growing."

How do you feel your camp is going?
"It's going well for me. I feel good. It's just about getting out there, getting my footwork down, getting my hand placement down, and really just getting better every day. You're going to make mistakes; I made a few early. It's just eliminating those mistakes and not repeating them."

How good did it feel to start the scrimmage with three straight scores?
"It felt good to get in the end zone. We got in the end zone against the twos; we got in the end zone against the ones, but there's still room for improvement. That's what we want to do after we take this day off is continue to get better and improve."

What did you think about Terron Armstead today?
"I think he played well out there and he's going to continue to play well. The more reps he gets, the better he's going to be. Junior (Galette) is a 12 sack guy and Cam (Jordan) is a 12 sack guy, so he's got good competition out there on the edge."

You seemed to keep the defensive line at bay for most of the day. Were you happy with that?
"Well I think we normally do that on the regular (laughter). Well, not on our defensive line, but in general. We did a good job today. We were precise in our footwork, we were aggressive in our sets, and that's how we want to play."

Can you give an assessment on Jonathan Goodwin and Tim Lelito and their performances today?
"Tim's getting better. There's a lot going on for Tim, it's the first time he's played center, especially at this level. The one thing I can say is that he's getting better. Goody is a seasoned vet, he's a pro. He's played 13-14 years in this league and Goody is just like we all remember Goody. We jell well together, we know where each other is going to be. We have those games and those reps with each other. I think both guys are working hard and the thing is that the eye in the sky doesn't lie. Go back to the film and see who's the better guy."

Can you talk about the way Travaris Cadet ran today?
"Travaris ran well. I think all the running backs ran well, but I think Travaris had a couple gashes in there. I think we've got a lot of good backs that can tote the ball for us. The thing is that it's hard to play them all. They're going to continue to get better and as long as we continue to put our head down and drive, we're going to be good."

How would you describe the running game today?
"I think we ran the ball well today. I think we ran real good. The defense wasn't tackling, so we were running through arm tackles. But the guys ran tough, and that's what you want to see, running tough."

New Orleans Saints Tackle Zach Strief
Post-Scrimmage Media Availability
Saturday, August 2, 2014

How good did it feel to start the scrimmage with three straight scores?
"It's always a little bit tough to look at results in a scrimmage; we're not tackling, we're trying to keep guys healthy. It's a little bit different. I know it's tough sometimes on defenders slowing down, yet playing fast. I think what's good about it is that we looked pretty sharp. I don't think there were a lot of (missed assignments), (and) guys running around. Ultimately I think there was some good ball movement and some good stops by the defense. All in all, I thought it was pretty good."

Do you think Ryan Griffin is starting to come along?
"Yeah, I was talking to him the other day (about) just feeling comfortable. Quarterbacks have a lot of information to process, and the less of it that you're processing, the more of it that just comes naturally. You come up and see a defense and you know it; you're not thinking about what it is. The more that they can do, the more comfortable they are, the easier it is for them to make a quick read or quick decision. Obviously at that position in this league, that's the whole deal. How fast can you make the right decision? I think Ryan has done a really good job in camp. I think Luke (McCown) has done a good job. What's amazing and really nice as a player is that's it's unusual for us to not be in the huddle with Drew, and yet it felt no different. The calls were the same, there was no unexpected…we didn't run into any bad looks, they got us into the right plays. The huddle was nice and clear, the calls were good, the cadences were nice and consistent. It was a lot of consistency and it really felt like we didn't miss a beat, which is good. That's real positive and really a testament to those guys."

How do you feel about the improvement in run blocking?
"I think that we're more comfortable and we talked about it with kind of what we're doing, what exactly is expected. That's from a line and a running back standpoint. I think the backs did a real good job today of pressing aiming points. I think all in all, guys are just more comfortable with it. The more comfortable you are, the more confident you are in what you're doing, the faster you're going to play. That's the key to this game, how fast you can make the right decisions. There were some good creases, I think there's some good stuff and I think it can be even better getting into live action and being able to cut on the back side and things like that we're not going to do here and risk the injury. I think there are some opportunities there for us. There's a lot of work to do, there will be tons of stuff wrong, and yet you see some tough spots and you can grow off those."

How much fun is Brandin Cooks to watch?
"He's pretty good. He's electric. I think the thing you see with Brandin is that it seems very natural. It doesn't seem like when he's running fast that he's running fast. You see some guys really get going and it looks like (it). Like Mark Ingram, when he gets to top speed it's like a freight train. You know what I mean? It looks like he's really driving. Brandin just seems to kind of smoothly go faster than everybody. It's clearly real natural to him and he's got a great burst and carries himself like a much older player. You talk about a guy you'd like to come in and have an immediate impact. A lot of that is: is it too big? Is the scene too big, is it too big to get a pass form Drew Brees? Is it too fast? He acts like an eight year vet. He really does. He's very calm, cool and collected. He's very Marques Colston-esque, personality wise. He's very quiet, just comes to work, all the things you want to see. I don't know where we keep finding these receivers that don't talk, but he's just another one that just goes out and plays well for us."

Did you get a chance to see the juke move from the outside?
"Yeah. It's a little bit jumbled up from the sideline over there, but I know that I saw him run into a crowd and come out clean, and a whole lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing. We've seen it in practice. Again, what's interesting about him is that it doesn't seem like he's doing something insane or really crazy, and yet people can't tackle him. It's really a testament to his speed, his agility. He'll keep getting better the more comfortable he is."

What do you think about how Tim Lelito played today and his development thus far?
"Well I think Tim has done a good job. He has worked very hard and is very hard on himself. He wants to be perfect at it. It's hard to me to see, especially, centers. I'm watching the guy behind me and trying to coach up tackles and stuff like that, but I know through this camp Tim is working really hard. He's obviously developing. I think they're happy with the improvement that he's made. I know that that's still a competition, it's still a battle, and that's a good position for us to be in with two good players there."

Is he making calls at the line?
"Yeah. Again, in this offense we have a huge luxury at the quarterback position and we're not expected to do as much from a line standpoint, call-wise that some teams are. We have a group of really smart guys back there that are forced into doing more than a normal quarterback, so the calls that we do make, those guys are doing them fine. There's no issues in terms of getting us up and getting us set. It gets easier when you start game-planning a real team and not just playing every defense imaginable."

When you see quarterbacks decisively looking for Brandin Cooks, what does that say about him?
"If you are in practice every day and you're getting open, they're going to assume you're open. You hear all the time that you play how you practice, so the quarterbacks aren't above that. If you are a guy that's running routes out there in one-on-ones or in team or whatever, and you are consistently getting separation, they are going to be comfortable with you. If you are in a situation where you are not bracketed and there are not people surrounding you, they are going to have confidence (in you). They are going to look and see that break and give you opportunity. He's very similar to a guy like Marques, who has consistently shown that even when he's covered, if you put the ball in the right place he will adjust to it and you trust that. You see Jimmy Graham catching back shoulders and Marques (Colston), it's the same with Brandin, he's just more of a create separation guy. He's done it at practice and they're going to keep having confidence in him because he keeps doing it."

It seems like all the backs are running the same plays and they can all kind of do everything.
"Yeah, we have a bunch of guys back there, even the young guys. We've consistently had undrafted running backs come in and look good, and this year is no exception. Those guys are all very versatile. Pierre Thomas is one of the best screen-runners in the NFL; he has proven that time and time again. Khiry (Robinson) is kind of like a Tasmanian Devil. He's just a nightmare to tackle; he runs hard. None of those guys are Mike Tolbert types where he is 275 pounds, he's kind of a bruiser running back. Those guys are all athletic, smart, and I think all understand the system. They're just running the plays how they're meant to be run and also it's a testament to the center and guards. Those guys have done a good job of getting out and getting into it. We've got a crew back there; there's a lot of competition."

Is Mark Ingram doing a better job of waiting for holes to develop?
"I don't think it's so much impatient as much as really understanding what it is we're trying to so. There were times last year where we weren't giving him an opportunity to make a read. We were not doing the right things and so the reads get mushy. As a running back you say, 'I am going to put my head down and get what I can get.' I think things are cleaner. There are more decisions being made; there's more decisiveness in the run blocking and schemes. That's going to help these running backs. I think Mark – you really saw as the year went on – did a better and better job and part of that is being comfortable not receiving 15-20 carries per game. It can be tough to get six carries and say, 'Oh well I wasn't good.' Sometimes the seventh one might break for 40 (yards), and then you go, 'Well that was a good game!' Seven for 50 yards, you did good. I think he got more comfortable as the season went. We have a ton of confidence in those guys; we really do. There's not one of those backs – Travaris, Mark, Pierre (Thomas), Khiry (Robinson), even the young guys – that we don't feel good about. I think there's just a lot more comfortable feeling with the scheme."

Sean Payton said that Drew had the oblique so he just kind of rested today. Do you think he was on the sidelines wishing he was a part of the action today?
"I talked to Drew during it. We're not used to having Drew on the sidelines, right? What a perfect time for him to have something that's just kind of achy. Take some days off, take some time. We know what Drew can do, but I know it's hard for Drew to stand there and not be in pads and not be with his guys and not be running and not doing those things he's used to doing. It's the same for us. It's weird not having him there. We do a lot of hugging and make sure he's doing OK. I've rubbed his obliques a few times, so I'm sure that's helped. But we want him to be healthy, and we know that the great thing with Drew is that he will be in the training room twice as much as anybody and he's going to get himself right. He'll be good to go. It was good getting those guys in there. It was awesome playing with Ryan, it was awesome playing with Luke. I think we kind of enjoyed having that fresh voice in there and I know those guys were jacked up about it too."

New Orleans Saints Inside Linebacker David Hawthorne
Post-Scrimmage Media Availability
Saturday, August 2, 2014

Your thoughts on the scrimmage today?
"I think we had our ups and downs. It's our job to just go back to the meeting room and come back out and correct the things that need to be corrected before the first preseason game."

It seemed like the offense gained a lot of yards, but the defense tightened up in the red zone.
"I don't think that was a win/loss kind of situation. We just wanted to go through a bunch of different scenarios and just see how we reacted, and we did that. Obviously there's some things we have to correct from a defensive standpoint. I'm pretty sure it's the same way on the offense. We'll go back to the drawing board and get back at it when we come back from break."

What did you see out of Brandin Cooks?
"I see that he's zero to 60 (miles per hour) real fast. That's why we took him with the first-round pick. He's a young guy with a heck of a lot of potential in our opinion. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's dangerous."

What were you and other players saying to each other on the sidelines while watching him?
"A bunch of people were saying, 'I hope I don't have to cover the guy.' The people who were covering him were saying, 'Bring me a little help.' He's a great young player, he will do well."

The offense started out scoring three times, then the defense held them three or four times.
"It was just a matter of us adjusting to how they were going to attack us. They game-planned us and we game-planned them. Their plan of attack got started fast and it was our job as a defense to get with it and kind of sight-adjust and come back and play hard."

It's kind of a strength of this defense that when they give up a score, they seem to settle down and adjust.
"Yes, but that's not what we're going for. On both sides of the ball, our goal is to come out strong. We do that through preparation out here. That's always been the goal heading into (training) camp."

Is it tough in a scrimmage like this to where you don't want to hurt the offensive players?
"It's difficult sometimes as a defensive player, because you could have tackled the guy had you left your feet. In order for the refs to stop the ball, you have to be in great position. I guess it helps us get our feet right, shuffle our feet and run through ball-carriers on both sides of the ball. Just being able to take care of your teammate and still give the effort you need to be able to compete (are what's important)."

Do you think they have an advantage?
"No advantages. We just have to bring our feet and do all of the right things with our technique."

Is it hard to adjust to rule changes?
"It's a little challenging sometimes because a rule sounds good on paper, but when you're out there and you're competing at the highest level, sometimes it's hard to adjust to your head tilt or little minute things. We've done it before with all the rule changes in the past, and we will continue to do it to make the game safe."

New Orleans Saints Inside Linebacker Curtis Lofton
Post-Scrimmage Media Availability
Saturday, August 2, 2014

Your thoughts on the scrimmage today?
"I think as a defense we didn't really put what we wanted to out there today. There's a lot of good, but we as players we really focus on the bad. That's what we want to get corrected. That's what this scrimmage is for, to get our angles, tackling, running to the ball, getting in and out of huddles, changing the calls. We did some of that today, so there's some good and some bad that we need to get corrected."

You want to stop Brandin Cooks, but were you impressed with what he was doing out there on the field?
"I'm glad he's my teammate. I never want to see him catch a ball, but when he does catch a ball it's pretty special. You can't say enough about that speed. I always say it seems like he gets shot out of rockets when he gets the ball in his hands. I'm just happy to have him as a teammate."

Did it surprise you that he's doing this well this quickly?
"I think we have great coaches here, and they get you up to speed quick. But also, I think management does a great job of getting players than can pick up systems quick and apply it daily, and that's what he does. He's been putting in extra time with Drew (Brees), he was with him in San Diego and I think that really helped him out. You see out on the football field that they have great chemistry."

Last year you guys made adjustments after giving up some early scores, but making adjustments after it. You guys bounced back today after giving up some early scores.
"I think that the number one thing for us as a defense is that you don't want to give up big plays, and you've got to tackle. We gave up a few big plays and didn't tackle too well. You're going to get that in your first live tackling and stuff, but as a defense we've just got to get better, watch the film, and see what we need corrected. We'll get it corrected."

Does it take a little longer to get where you want to be as far as tackling goes because there is not as much contact in practice as you used to have?
"I think as a defensive player, even though you're not tackling, you're still going through the same motion, (and) working your angles. We have just got to harp on that more as players, keeping your pads down and striking a guy, and thudding him up. Once we get back to practice, we'll get that corrected."

New Orleans Saints Outside Linebacker Junior Galette
Post-Scrimmage Media Availability
Saturday, August 2, 2014

Your thoughts on the scrimmage today?
"I think we started out a little slow, a little sluggish. I think at the end we bode up and showed what we do best which is get after the quarterback, increase the pressure. Overall I think there's a lot of room for improvement."

How many sacks do you think you got today?
"All that counts are the ones that they counted. I could say I thought I had about three or four, but they only counted one or two. I don't even remember."

Is there a guy whose attitude's the pulse of this defense?
"I think everyone has a say. If everybody's down, I feel like Akiem (Hicks) gets fired up and everybody will feed off of his energy. Whether it's Keenan (Lewis), we all respect each other and our ability. It's a unity thing."

How's Terron Armstead doing out there?
"He's a beast. I'm giving him everything I've got. Obviously, I think he did pretty well today. He's upset about the one he gave up on me, but hey I do what I do, too."

Marcus Ball had a solid game today. What are your thoughts on him?
"I think he's pretty disappointed with how he came out in OTAs, and since day one in camp he's been stepping up and becoming one of those guys on the back end who's stepping up and making plays. He obviously made the biggest play of the day today with an interception, possibly a touchdown. He's doing real good and solid for us on the back end."

Tyrunn Walker seemed to have a big day today as well.
"Oh yeah. Since his rookie year, we knew this guy was really explosive on the inside and has a lot of pass-rush qualities. He just brought that out there and showed it like he always does. Obviously last year he was hurt, so we didn't get to see him as much. I think this year he will help us a lot with Cam and I just off the edge. Having Akiem and Tyrunn on the inside, they give a lot of push as he did in the beginning of the year."

You said there is room for improvement, but is a scrimmage a good way to change up the monotony of camp?
"I feel like any type of change is good for us, just not being repetitive and doing the same thing over and over, just kind of getting a game flow. It was good for us, regardless of how we expected to do. We didn't quite match that, but made progress. We didn't go backwards today."

As you get closer to the first preseason game, what are you guys going to work on and focus on next week?
"Just finishing. Finishing and taking the ball away. We've just got to force turnovers. That's the biggest thing. I don't think the ones are going to play a lot, but just overall as a unit, we need to finish and create turnovers."

A lot of emphasis on the offensive side has been running the football. How do you think they did today?
"I think you saw more running than you usually do in a scrimmage. The guys Mark (Ingram), Khiry (Robinson), (and) Pierre (Thomas), they did well. As far as the screen game, you can include that as running too. These guys are exceptional backs in the league and I feel like we have three real good backs and you've got (Travaris) Cadet in there who can change things with his speed."

Were you kind of vanilla on defense, not doing too too much?
"It's preseason, you can never show everything you've got. I feel like the scrimmage was we played a lot of man to show what our corners have got and just kind of press on them. We never show too much in the preseason."

Do you ever think about rejecting Jimmy Graham when he goes up for one of those dunks on the goal post?
"He's on my team, so if he's doing that I'm just happy."

How much fun was Brandin Cooks to watch today?
"Obviously, today we were going against our offense, so I was quite upset. But it's an amazing thing to watch. He's everything we expected him to be so far."

What were the defensive highlights today?
"The takeaway was the biggest play of the game. I feel like that play and those that are not on the stat sheet, like the holdings that they called against me all the time, that they miss a bunch of those calls. But a lot of the stats that are not in the stat book like guys finishing and running to the ball thirty yards down the field, and forcing turnovers."

How has the matchup between you and Terron Armstead in practice changed from last year to this year?
"He's always been one of the better tackles I've gone up against. I feel like, in my humble opinion, he has the best feet out of any tackle. He had the fastest 40-yard dash (time) at the (2013 NFL Scouting) combine. Going into my fifth year in the league, he has the best feet by far. Obviously he still has a lot of room for improvement and so do (also) I, but man it's iron sharpening iron. If I feel like I had a rough day, I could say, 'Hey, this guy is pretty good too. He's one of the better tackles.' I can look at that in a positive light."

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