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Payton Talks About Smith's Return, Texans

Coach gives the first injury report, talks about the team's LBs and the return of DE Will Smith


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Opening Statement:

"Let me start with the injury report for today. The following players did not practice: K Garrett Hartley (right hip), CB Tracy Porter (right calf), LB Jonathan Vilma (left knee), LB Jonathan Casillas (right foot), WR Marques Colston (right shoulder), and S Roman Harper (right ankle). Limited was DT Tom Johnson (left calf). These three guys were all full: WR Lance Moore, WR Adrian Arrington and DE Junior Galette. Will Smith was reinstated to the 53-man roster. We released RB Joique Bell. Practice squad transactions: we signed WR Montez Billings and RB Tristan Davis and we released QB Sean Canfield and DT Swanson Miller from the practice squad. Today was base again as Wednesdays always are. I thought we had good work and we're kind of in the mix of it now with this games plan which is a lot different from last week's when we look at the team we're playing. It's a different type team just structurally from what they do."

Usually you guys like to keep four running backs, but what went into the decision to keep just three running backs and release Joique Bell?

"We're stuck right now with two kickers which is taking up one more spot than normal and we also know that we have three and a half to four weeks with Chris Ivory. There's no perfect decision. I think it was just paying close attention to the roster and making that decision now and we go from there."

Are you confident you may be able to get him back on the practice squad later?

"That's a good question. You're never certain. He has to clear waivers and if he's able to, I do feel like we'll be able to if he clears waivers. If he gets claimed, then it's really out of our control and out of the player's control."

What are your thoughts on Will Smith coming back after the improvements by the defense?

"I think Will had one of his better training camps prior to the suspension. He's in real good shape and anytime you get a player like Will Smith back, one of your captains and someone who's been a real steady player for us and gives us a ton of good snaps both against the run and the pass, it can only help you. We just have to be smart with these first few days practicing, but he's in good shape and I'm sure he was anxious to get back as well."

Do you have to change anything about how you attack their offensive line with their unique blocking scheme?

"This has been one of the better offenses in the last four or five years in the league. They have very good balance. Statistically, they rush the ball very efficiently. They do a great job of their play action game. It complements what they do in the running game and they take their shots down the field. They have some real talented skill players, and you certainly start with a guy like Andre Johnson who can get behind the defense on any play. They cause a lot of problems for defenses because of their balance with their ability to throw it and their ability to run it. We go through in our morning meetings the opponent kind of statistical analysis of each opponent and when you look at all the things they've accomplished offensively, they do a lot of things very well."

Do they chop block more than any other team?

"I wouldn't say that. I think when you get the zone schemes, this is a team that believes in that scheme in regards to running the football. It's often times a backside technique but it's within the rules and we'll do the same thing."

What kind of difference has Wade Phillips been able to make on their defense?

"They've implemented this 3-4 scheme. They play mostly an under front from it. The one thing you see is they're doing a good job of not giving up the big plays, they're getting off the field on third down and they're rushing the passer very well. It's a completely different look than 2010 with this team so most of the film study is off the two regular season tapes and the preseason."

How has Patrick Robinson improved from week one to week two?

"He started with a real good training camp and I think his overall knowledge of what we're doing defensively has given him the confidence to play at full speed. I think that learning curve for him has happened very rapidly and now he's not only learning but he's playing. He's sudden, doing a good job with the technique depending on the coverage called, and not afraid to support in the running game so he's improved a lot."

Has Jabari Greer continued to be a top cornerback for your team?

"Yes, he's been very consistent, he's smart, has real good ball skills and can run. I think it starts with his health. He's someone that takes care of himself and that's helped him remain on the field. (Patrick Robinson and Greer) are doing well. They played a lot of zero coverage a week ago where they were basically one-on-one without safety help. You have to have a trust level with corners to do that."

When you have two guys like Jonathan Casillas and Jonathan Vilma get hurt, how do you handle those guys with practice so they don't push themselves too hard?

"I think we start with the doctor's recommendation and the trainer, we meet in the morning to start the week and we go through each player. With Casillas, there are a handful of things he's battling and it's just being smart. There's a lot of tape study that's being done and walkthroughs and yet you don't want to too quickly have any setbacks. We feel like both those guys will be able to practice some tomorrow. We'll see how they go through the treatment today and tomorrow morning. (Marques) Colston, who technically didn't practice, got a lot of stuff done today but just wasn't in any of the team drills so he's on schedule if not ahead of schedule."

Is that the same way with Roman Harper?

"Hopefully with his ankle, what you're hoping to do is in two or three weeks have him removed from the report where it's not just lingering so we have to be smart on Wednesday and this is probably nothing unusual. It's probably more of the norm. I think tomorrow we'll get a good gauge of where they're at."

How much does has it helped to have a guy like Arian Foster go down but other running backs are stepping up in his place?

"Gary (Kubiak) with his experience in Denver, they're prided themselves in their efficiency and ability to run and recognize that it's a position that you have to have depth at and you'd like to feel like there's not going to be a drop-off in your production when you have to make a change or there's a change made from a health standpoint. Certainly with Foster, he's a guy that had an outstanding season a year ago. They have a good group of backs though and we saw them in the preseason and they have a lot of confidence in what they're doing."

What can you do to improve the red zone efficiency?

"I think more than anything is practice it, focus on it and generally you want to pay close attention to the looks you're getting defensively. Sometimes it changes when you get into that tight area of the field, but more than anything else it's practicing and really covering all the details. I think that's where it starts."

Did you get a chance to take a look at special teams with Houston?  It looks like that's where they've had a big advantage the first two weeks.

"They started off real strong. They have two very good returners and it's a sign that they have a good young team as well. You see a lot of these players that are either playing on their defense or playing significant roles or backup roles contributing. They've had two good wins and it's been complete team efforts, not just on one side of the ball but on both sides. Again, that field position battle will be critical in this game and very important."

Does the familiarity with playing the Texans so often in the preseason or regular season over the past few years help?

"To some degree there's familiarity with personnel with some players that have been on that team in the last few years, but it's no different than us. This year because of the lockout we didn't have a practice or series of practices like we normally have, but I think on those odd years, those every third or fourth years with the AFC team, it is somewhat unique having practiced against them for a fairly decent amount of times. But again, it's a fairly different team. They've gotten off to a real good start and are playing with a lot of confidence and deservedly so. We have to make sure we have a good week with our schedule. We have to go a real good job with our tape study and our preparation. We're kind of into our second week here routine-wise and we're looking forward to it."

Every game is important of course, but can you talk about the importance of this game with three road games coming up?

"I think you hit on it to begin with, each game is important. I know it's a cliché and yet it's accurate, we try to really just focus on one objective this week. I think we're a good road team so not really paying attention to the next three games or the next games after, there's really only one focal point and that's playing our best this weekend. It's probably easier for us to do that because we kind of disappear here for five days in a row, putting together game plans with the players and meeting and the focus is really all about the Texans game. It's easy not to get ahead because there's so much that you have in that week and you're really working to be efficient and then you're on to tonight's planning of third down so you really don't allow yourself that much time to even think about the next weeks opponent or the fact that we travel for three weeks after that. To really answer your question properly, it's important that we play well at home, it's important that we take advantage of the crowd noise and it's important that we play our best football at home. That's where we're at with it. We had a good turnout last week. I thought the noise helped us a bunch. I've heard it louder, but when Chicago became one-dimensional later in the game, that's a challenge for any team when you're on the road to have to throw the football in a loud environment. That's a tough task."

What would you say about Drew Brees' play right now?

"I'd say he's playing at a very high level. You start with protecting the ball and he's doing that very well. His long ball has been outstanding. Just in two weeks statistically, the yards per completion and all those things, third down percentages, he's playing at a real high level. He's had a great offseason and real good training camp so he's comfortable and certainly familiar with each week's plan but he's playing very well."

The pass he threw to Devery Henderson looked like he couldn't place it any better.

"The key to it was the location obviously and we talked about that play, it's designed for that long yardage situation and the thought behind it is it's complete or incomplete and if that pass is intercepted it probably results in a similar field position as a punt would. The idea is trying to get Devery between those safeties with a clean release and sometimes in that Tampa-two style of defense the inside receivers don't get re-routed. If in cover two all of your receivers are getting a jam before they can get into those seams, that helps buy the safety some time; but if one of those receivers gets a clean release or possibly two, then there's more stress on those safeties so it starts with the protection and it's going to take longer and it was a one hitch, two hitch throw and the throw was right on target. Devery made a big play with keeping his feet afterwards. Certainly when you can score on a long play like that, that's a big plus."

Was cutting down on interceptions a big emphasis for him?

"Probably what's been a bigger point of emphasis is working on our run game and knowing that the more effective and more efficient we're able to run the ball, that takes some pressure off of quarterback play. Certainly that's a statistic that he's mindful of and that he prides himself in and I'm sure, as an individual, he wants to cut that in more than half. All of us, in a normal offseason, would look at all these reels, the sack reels, the interception reels, the things we would want to do to self-scout and look at ourselves no different than us as coaches - how can we help with the design of what we're doing reduce the turnover rates. He's handled it well and gotten off to a real good start with that area. I think statistically it's pretty clear now, your first five years you have some clear analysis that points to wins and losses in regards to how we play and how we protect the football or how we take it away. That being said, it's something you're still always working on."

Roman Harper was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.  How much improvement did he make from week one to week two?

"He made a lot.  It was a different type team, but he came up big in the game against Chicago in a lot of ways.  He's instinctive.  When he's getting pressure on the quarterback, I think he's very good at rushing the passer from the safety position.  It was a big game for us.  Obviously he was one of the players for us defensively that got a game ball.  It was good to see him play that way and defensively as a unit have that success and now this is a completely different challenge with the next team, a different type of style of offense and one that we have to really be ready for."

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