New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, November 30, 2017
*When you look at the offensive third down numbers what sticks out? *"Well certainly they're not. We're close to middle of the pack this season relative to where we've been in other years and yet this is a different team and it's something we have to work on. It's an area that's going to be important in this game. I think the other thing is looking closely (at) where the receptions and play is not coming from that came a year ago. I think, we just finished meeting last night until pretty late. It's something that has to be better. It's just a standard we're used to. It affords you more opportunities in the game, more plays. (There are) Other times where you may be playing a certain type game where you might be playing a certain type game and you decide, hey I'm going to throw a screen or hand it off here and punt, which there's nothing wrong with that depending on where you're at field position wise. But overall, I think it's an area that hasn't been as good."
How has Sheldon Rankins*' versatility and ability to play multiple spots helped you guys out? *"He's athletic and he's smart and I think those are two good traits. He has good movement skills so he can come over and play on the strong end. He does a good job in that area. But again (his) base position would be inside."
*How did you guys think he did this week? *"Not bad. I thought he played pretty well, for the snaps he played over there on the strong side. I just finished watching it again last night."
*You guys have always valued that versatile back, the third down back. But is that something you think the league is valuing and using more, the versatility backs on all downs? Obviously Carolina drafted one in the top 10 this year. *"I think as we have seen the rules change in a fashion that benefit the passing game, we have seen those investments made in backs that can help you in the passing game. Throwing the ball to the running back is nothing new from an evolution standpoint. In fact, you go way back and teams were in brown and blue, your backs were primary pattern runners. I think everyone is looking for a matchup. Everyone is looking for a tight end that can create the matchup. And then the other joker position that can create the matchup is the runner. You get a great receiver, he is a great receiver. He is going to have arguably the best corner on the team (covering him). But as the passing game's evolved and as teams have spread things out offensively, you begin to look for the matchup players at the tight end or running back position. But I don't think that is new recently. Marshall Faulk in St. Louis, that to me was the standard. His ability to do a lot of things well (is well-known), but as a receiver he's outstanding, amazing. If you keep going back, teams that have had third down backs, obviously the more you can do at the position, when you can run and do some of those other things, it just helps you in regards to your role in the game."
*You had compared Alvin's (Kamara) intelligence to Marshall this summer. Are there other comparisons that you've seen? *"Stop. Marshall Faulk's a first ballot Hall of Famer. We're not doing that to a rookie running back. This kid has got really, really good football intelligence. He has good transitional speed. But even when I made the comparison back in training camp it was prefaced with, hey, not making a comparison to Marshall, I'm just saying he's a guy that learns very quickly and that's how Marshall was. I just don't want to see Marshall Faulk headlined with Alvin Kamara, that's all."
What do you think changed for Ted Ginn over his career, where he became more productive here and in Carolina later in his career?"Well I tell him he's like wine. I would say I don't know that anything 's changed. I think he found himself in offenses that have had a vision more correctly (for him) as opposed to certain offenses that haven't had the same. I think he's a pretty savvy player and he understands coverages and he understands leverage. I would say, I think at Carolina Mike Shula and their offensive staff did a good job and they had a vision for, (what) here are the things that he does well. Then let's do those things and keep mixing up where he's at and I think hopefully when this year's done, we can say the same thing. So I can't speak to the prior years, whether it was in Arizona or Miami. I haven't studied that film or paid much attention to it. I was aware of the player obviously when he came out (of Ohio State) but I know he's played well at Carolina and I know what he's capable of doing for us."
How much Michael Thomas*' touchdown production is down this year. What, if anything, are teams' defenses doing differently to limit him in the red zone? *"I don't know that we're seeing anything differently. Take last week for instance, I don't know that we had any true red zone (plays). I think we had one sequence in the red zone and so it was just bang, bang and then here's the play. I know back against New England, we saw some field coverage. Obviously if the team is going to match, if they are choosing to do that Mike would draw a corner and he very well could draw (James) Bradberry this week from Carolina. A lot of that kind of comes, all of a sudden he has a game at San Francisco (in 2016) and he has two scores. I couldn't even tell you today where his touchdowns are productionwise. And yet every time we sit down and do a third down or red zone play, clearly he's one of the targets that we have to keep looking to get the ball to."
*It seems like Cam Newton is running more for them, how does that change from how you saw him in week three? And what are some of the challenges that brings up now that he's being more mobile? *"That's a whole different dimension. I think it's really improved a few areas and let me hit it. Number one, it's improved their time of possession. I would say the one thing you see with this offense is they're getting into favorable third downs. Let's say third and five or less as opposed to third and six or more. Secondly, with the offense now the way they're playing, they lead the league in third down rushing attempts. They lead the league in third down conversions rushing the football. Conversely their time of possession numbers have gone up in the last month and a half. Their time of possession's first in the league. Their defense isn't on the field as long. It's the same formula that we always talk about to win games. I think you're seeing that and I think that when the quarterback can run there's the equalizer, if you will, offensively. There is the 11th person when you're blocking schemes and the quarterback can be the runner as well. You kind of get your number back."
*Based on what you're saying there, how much has this offense changed without Kelvin Benjamin? *"I haven't seen any change in regards to scheme, if that's what you're asking. It's not like they said, all right Kelvin is gone we are now going to go to these plays. I think (Devin) Funchess has become more of a targeted player in that role. I think that from a design standpoint I don't think any of it has changed."