Saints head coach Sean Payton met with the media after practice and discussed the club's installation schedule, tommorrow night's preseason opener vs. San Francisco and the emergence of running back Joique Bell. Below is a transcript:
"I'll start on the injuries. The following players remain on the failed physical list: Chris Ivory, Tracy Porter, and Greg Romeus. The guys that did not practice today due to injury were Ezra Butler (hamstring and sports hernia surgery), Marques Colston (right knee, we are going to rest him tomorrow night), Ramon Humber (right quad), Clint Ingram (hamstring), and Alex Barron had a meniscus in his knee that was operated on yesterday. The guys that were limited today: Jon Stinchcomb (he'll play, he was full), Roger Allen (he'll play), Jarred Fayson (he'll play), and we'll probably hold on Adrian Arrington with his ankle (he's close, and should be ready to come back and practice on Sunday). Our plan right now, I think, with the first-line guys is somewhere between 14 or 16 snaps, which would be pretty typical of what we've done in the past. There may or not be a few exceptions there. Generally if you say 'a quarter,' one side of the ball gets more snaps than the other in the first quarter, so we will pay attention to that and make the substitution after we hit that total. The second line guys will go into the third quarter, and we'll finish with the third wave."
Remember you said last week that you weren't going to rush the installations, you wanted to get it right and not try to squeeze anything in. How did that end up going? How far along are you?
"I would say we're – compared to the last five years – there's probably three less/two less installs that we would've had prior to this first game. We haven't had a full, thorough goal line install, nor have we had a full short-yardage install. That will begin Sunday, with practices Sunday PM, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before we get into what would be the Texans practice next Thursday. There's plenty of plays we can run in those situations, but that would be the difference from this year compared to the prior years."
When you talk about waves, would Drew Brees play the first 14 plays as the first wave quarterback?
"Yes, and he would be one where I would monitor whether he goes the whole first wave or not. A lot of it would just be dependent on the snaps he gets. There are a couple of guys like Vilma and Darren Sproles that don't have to get the whole 14 or 16, but that would be the general guideline."
You brought so many guys into the defensive front seven and you have a lot of depth there. Does that make it difficult for some guys to stand out?
"It's a good question because of our numbers. The one thing we have a chance to do is really, when you look at the down linemen, they're at full strength per say and they'll all play. The linebacker position is a little different with a few guys nicked up and I think that we will be three-deep there. I think Martez Wilson will play more than just one role, if you will, because we're two-deep at the Sam (strongside linebacker) right now. But I think in the d-line, it lends itself to a natural rotation anyway and, to give you an example, in the first wave of defensive linemen there would be a third end ready and a third tackle ready. So they're playing, whether they get 14-16 snaps, they might be light of that. But to answer your question, I think it's a good problem to have and I think we've got experience there so it will be good competition beginning tomorrow night, and we will evaluate not only the preseason games but the practice snaps they're getting."
As far as your first-wave guys, because of the shortened time of the preseason/training camp, did you think about altering your approach to this first game at all, playing time wise?
"I think from a playing time standpoint, we kind of stuck with the snap count that we felt comfortable with. The change would be what we talked about a little bit earlier as far as what was in, but I think they're in good shape. I think they're ready to handle the snaps that they're given and we'll go from there."
In the past you've brought in an extra quarterback to kind of push your backups. What's the message it sends Sean Canfield as he goes into his first preseason game that nobody was brought in this year?
"Well, we actually had a fourth at the very beginning. It's always been a challenge when the number was 80, which it has been in years prior. I think these players understand one thing, and I just told it to them as we came off the field. It's easy for them to look at their own position on the depth chart, but they're really competing against the other 31 teams and players at their position on those teams because this tape goes out to everyone in the league. Of course, we'll study and pay attention to how guys are playing in the preseason for other teams. So they're not just competing with the depth chart here in New Orleans and I think certainly you've seen us acquire a player during training camp, and that player being someone who can contribute quite a bit. I'm anxious to see, from a performance standpoint, how Sean does, how Chase (Daniel) does. Those guys will get reps and have opportunities. I think they're further along today than they were a year ago at this time."
Is there any thought, because of the time frame, touching base with the other coaching staff about how you can work together to make sure you got done what you wanted to get done for this game.
"I think occasionally that's happened. In this case I haven't talked to Jim at all, so I think we've just taken the approach there's certain things we want to do in this game and be ready to do and be ready to adjust to what we're seeing from them. The challenge always with a new staff is trying to get a beat on what you're going to get scheme wise both from the offense and from the defense. So we're going to have to make some adjustments and be ready to defend and attack certain looks maybe that they haven't seen in practice."
With the frantic free agency you had, do you think you and other head coaches, going into the first free agency game, know a little less, maybe not know all the numbers and faces yet?
"I think it was, to really define the period it was that musical chairs and all of a sudden the rosters have changed and it just happened in two weeks as opposed to two months and a whole off-season, so really quickly you're getting yourself adapted to each team, who you see as their starting unit as well as getting your own team prepared. I think really our focus has been more internal though, in regards to players that we acquired during that period of time and it happened very fast, and so becoming familiar with Aubrayo Franklin, Darren Sproles, becoming familiar with Corey Hall, becoming familiar with Shaun Rogers, all these new players that we haven't had the time with maybe that you normally would have. Fortunately those players I mentioned are healthy, we've gotten a lot of snaps already, and I think that's one area where we really wanted to pay attention to our installation to not move along so fast where all of a sudden you're not allowing these guys to play at full speed."
Was this your most active free agency period?
"Well I would say it was the most unique. I haven't gone back and counted, but certainly it was different from a time frame, you know some of these have happened while we were in training camp; practices had begun. From a number standpoint it would probably be up there with one or two of the other seasons."
You didn't have a lot of time with Joique Bell last year because he came right at the end of the season. What does he bring. What does he show you?
"On tape, from past experience when we've seen him and Ryan Pace and his staff have done a good job at really looking at players like him. He stood out, he's elusive, has speed, can run with power, I think we'll see him play quite a bit tomorrow night and he's had a good camp so far. He's picked things up, I think it's helped he's been here the last half of last season. He's a confident player. I think he can help in the kicking game, He'll have snaps tomorrow night as well in that area. He's been a good surprise to watch."
When you talk about evaluations just for this first game, are there any priorities like the guys that are playing for roster spots, making sure you don't miss out on a young guy that you haven't seen before?
"I think more than anything, we spent time in a meeting last night for quite a while of just going through how do we see every position group playing, and staying on the phase that we're in and I think the bigger challenge is how you integrate the kicking game because it's not as simple in special teams. So, certainly the discussions last night took place where we want to see player "X" make sure he gets at least ten snaps in the kicking game, he's going to get X number of snaps at linebacker, safety, or full-back. We try to cover every player that's up in a jersey and know exactly what we think he's going to get from a snap count. Now, there's no exact science to that but we want to make sure we're on the same page and there aren't any surprises, we want to make sure these guys are getting in, there's certain players we don't need to see as much of, there's other players we need to see more of. We just try to communicate that and that's a challenge during the course of the game, you know, with the size of the roster right now and I think it's important that our players understand certainly the importance of these preseason games. I know it's a preseason game that won't count on the regular season schedule, however, it's very important for guys that are competing for roster spots. So, we talk about the sideline; how we handle that from the start of the game to the finish and just the way we approach the preseason."