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Q&A with New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton

Payton discusses Stephone Anthony, offensive struggles

Check out the action as the Saints battled division opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Week 14.

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Where do you think Stephone Anthony lands in the long-term, in the middle or on the outside?
"That's a good question. He played in the middle obviously this past weekend and last year. I think it's something that obviously the sooner the better we can sort out. We wanted to move him to SAM feeling like it was a chance to get our best three linebackers on the field. I don't know if we got the full evaluation of that experiment. Some of the things that are hurting this player, he's explosive, he's disruptive and yet his key and diagnose and his instincts at times are off. It's run and he's dropping back in a pass mode or it's pass and he's at the line of scrimmage. His ability to see and diagnose some very simple reads for instance are the keys for him getting better. I think he was able to do a little bit more of that the other night. That's been the thing that's kept him back and quite honestly, it's kept him back on special teams, because a player like him who is on special teams if he's covering a kick or covering a punt generally, a guy that can run and hit shows up and he's been I would say just okay in that area. I was encouraged with the other night on defense. That's what he has to keep working on."

Is Craig Robertson a guy who excels more at middle linebacker or do you think Craig can help you guys at any linebacker position?
"I think Craig has stepped in, played more than we've expected and done a real good job. He's someone who's exceptionally smart. It comes to him quickly. I think he can play a mike, I think he can play a will. He has some position flexibility. He showed in years past in Cleveland, backing up several positions while also playing in the kicking game, but he's been one of our better linebackers this season."

How do you teach a guy like Stephone to improve his instincts?
"You hope that through repetition those things are going to come. You hope that he begins to calm down a little bit. Part of it happens for a lot of these players as they play more and more, they begin to recognize two by two, three by one, run keys, slot pro, how to study tape and how to take it on the field. You hope that experience begins to slow the game down."

How do you find the balance in getting him the experience he needs without setting the team back with mistakes?
"That's the catch-22. He's going to be hopefully receiving more opportunities there. Part of them have to be earned. They're not just given. You have to be able to cover a kick and make a tackle. Generally you can do that if you're a linebacker and when you go two or three weeks in a row and you don't have a tackle or an assisted tackle, you have to look, are we not seeing how we're being blocked? What's keeping me from being involved in the play?"

On the subject of linebackers, what does Jason Trusnik bring you and what do you expect out of him in these last three games?
"We'll keep you posted on what we're planning on doing."

How does Brandon Coleman help you guys?
"Number one, he's a player typically from an inside position that gives us a large throwing target. I think he's progressed this year. Last year he's made a number of plays for us above his head. I know Drew (Brees) has confidence in him. I think his overall confidence in himself, he's receiving more snaps, last year he played ( a full season and is playing more now). I talked to him before the Tampa game last week and two years ago we went down there and we had activated at the end of the year Seantavius Jones. He had come up from the practice squad, but Brandon did not and I know he was disappointed. It was two years later, I grabbed him and said you know how much it bothered you that you weren't one of the practice squad players coming up towards the end of the season. He was able to remember that. He's one of those guys that early on followed (Marques) Colston closely, every step, how to work at your trade. He's a guy that I think this morning if you poke your head in the meeting room, he's watching tape. So he's worked at it and I think he's earned the trust and confidence the quarterback has in him."

Some of Drew Brees' results the last two weeks have been very uncharacteristic, what do you do to help him get back on track?
"It's a good question. As an offense, we have to be better, starting with me and also with him. We have to be good with our decisions, we have to understand the down and distance, understand that an incompletion is not a bad play. We have to hold onto the ball in the red area when we have some different touchdown opportunities (like) last week. (Brandin) Cooks has one and (Travaris) Cadet has one. Those are big plays and big scores and you don't get those back. I think collectively, typically, when you want that position, you're working for that position to play well. You coach everyone around that position hard to clear up the picture and make it as clean as possible."

Looking at a third consecutive non-winning season, what are the similarities and differences you see in the 2014 and 2015 teams and this team?
"This is different. This is a different type team. I'm encouraged in a lot of areas with our draft. I'm encouraged with the young guys playing. I'm encouraged with young guys we had a chance to play through injury. We've overcome some, tough, hard-fought games. We've lost some games this year I've never seen before and yet that's frustrating. This is a different team. It's going to be important that this team finishes well though."

What kind of growth have you seen from David Onyemata?
"Onyemata has been doing fantastic. That's been each game. Sheldon Rankins each game. Of course Vonn Bell and Mike Thomas have been playing earlier and more often. This group in general, we have to get (Daniel) Lasco going. He was nicked up and starting early in camp we saw some signs and all of a sudden it was a muscle pull, hamstring. Hopefully he'll be healthy and ready to give us snaps."

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