New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew BreesMedia Availability Following OTA #6Thursday, June 2, 2016
R.J. Harris had a nice practice today, didn't he?
"Yes, he did. He's coming along. A lot of these young receivers, I think that group is really fighting for position. They're really competing well. It's a lot to throw at the guys early on, these first six days. It's a lot of install, a lot of terminology, a lot of nuances to our offense in regards to splits, motions, where to line up, and the defenses we're seeing right now. I think the guys are doing a nice job."
You mentioned last year the number of new receivers keeps you young. So adding (Coby) Fleener and other new receivers is kind of the same difference?
"It is, because you have a chance to learn the offense all over again. Every year, you're adding little bits and pieces, nuances, off-season study projects that you feel you like and that fit your personnel. So you incorporate some new things. I think it's a constant learning and teaching process, by which it rejuvenates us all for what we feel we can accomplish with this offense."
When you look at the tight end position currently, have you ever had as many (as you do now)? It seems like (the Saints) have signed and re-signed a bunch.
"Yes. Obviously, for Coby Fleener, I'm still getting to know him. I know what he has done on tape and from what I have seen in these first six days of practice and the time that we spent before then. (Michael Hoomanawanui) did a great job for us last year after we got him in that trade from New England. I think he brings a lot of different elements to that room. Of course, Josh Hill, his progression going into his fourth year—I think the sign that we matched the Bears offer to keep him, that shows the confidence we have in him and what he's going to be able to do for us as well. Then we got some young guys that are fighting for a spot, so the competition is good."
Your timing and accuracy look like (they would in) early September. Do you feel as confident as ever?
"I feel good. I know it is a process though. I like to have fun; I like to compete; I like to win. I like to feel like I am going to one-up the defense. There's so much that's been installed, both offensively and defensively, so you know that even six days in, we have got this myriad of different looks that we can see from our defense. Each rep is like, 'What are they going to throw at us?' and 'What's our answer for it?' You're playing the game. But that's fun; that is what brings out the fire in us. I am having fun doing that right now."
Did you feel particularly locked in today? It seemed like the ball did not touch the ground at all.
"That's what we always strive for! It's never easy. From day to day, you know there's going to be different challenges. Whether it's going to be a new look from the defense—you know, they're trying to scheme (against) us just like we are trying to scheme (against) them. But you are always in a position where you are evaluating matchups. Also, you take young guys like Michael Thomas, who had a big catch today. I gave him a route that we have literally never repped before together. In fact, I don't think we'd ever even talked about it. But I was just in the moment, and he's my guy at that position, so I gave him the signal. He goes and makes the play and ran the route just like I imagined. And again, we've never talked about it, (maybe) one time. That makes you feel good too, that we're on the same page even though we haven't even talked about that yet. You know the offense; you have a feel for the game. So I like when I see that out of young guys, where you feel like there are some instincts there."
What does that do for the way you build a relationship and how quickly you develop trust?
"This game is all about trust, especially at the quarterback position. My ability to trust the guys in front of me, my ability to trust the guys I'm throwing to. Everything I do is with trust and anticipation. So, I know we are on the same page and have the confidence that that guy is going to be (in the right spot), and I know he is going to make the play. I am going to give him a chance to make it. On the flip side, he knows, 'I know that ball is going to be there, I have to get there.' When I have a chance to make that play, that's when you know you're cooking."
When you say you gave (Thomas) a signal, do you mean just in the play call or did you take him aside?
"No, I gave him a signal that he'd never seen before. We had talked about it, but we had never repped that route before. We just vaguely talked about it, weeks ago. It just came out because we're just playing ball, and the look was right for it. Normally, it might be Brandon Coleman, with whom we have repped that (route) before, but in this case Michael Thomas is in there. He hasn't seen it before, and yet he did it. It looked just the way I would have wanted it to look."
Any examples of Coby Fleener, where he's gotten in sync with you already?
"Yes. His reps have ramped up as we have gone through OTAs. But yes. There is a feel for the game, and there is fluidness to the way that he plays. From a quarterback's perspective, it is easy to read his angles, it's easy to feel what he's about to do and therefore anticipate where the ball needs to be thrown. He's got big range. Obviously, he is a big tall guy who can really cover some ground. So, he has done some good things as well."
How quickly is Michael (Thomas) picking up on the install?
"I think he is picking up well on it. I think he is in a great room with guys like Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, even though Cooks has been limited (due to injury). Being around those guys that are fiery, are hungry, they come out here with great intent and purpose—I think Michael's feeding off that too. He came from a great program at Ohio State where those guys were required to come with intensity and a competitive nature to them. So you can tell that he's used to being in that environment. He works at it. After practice ends, we are getting a lot of extra reps together, where it is just us two, focusing in on a certain concept or split or footwork or look. You can tell it is all starting to register. Once he picks it up, he gets it. His improvement over these six practices has been awesome. From day one until now, the same mistakes are not being made. He's on to the next set of challenges, and he's continuing to progress well."
How can a bigger bodied guy like (Michael Thomas) help inside the 10-yard line and in traffic?
"For obvious reasons, it's like Marques Colston. If you take a guy who's smart, tough, and has great feel for the game—he understands body position and control—then he's never really covered. There are always places where he can use his body, and there's somewhere where you can throw it where it's him or nobody (in position to catch it). Again, that gives great confidence to a quarterback, knowing that I've got this outlet, that I've got a guy who has this range and this feel."
Did you ever feel like things were difficult close to the goal line last year at all?
"No. I know we spend a lot of time on red zone studies each and every week because that's where the game is played. It's third down. It's converting third downs to put you in position to be in the red zone and then you need to score touchdowns. Certainly we can get better at, but I like the options we have down there."
Speaking of confidence, looking at a young quarterback like (Garrett) Grayson, it seems like night and day compared to even training camp last year where he is right now with his accuracy also with the ball. Do you notice that, his confidence in the huddle and just the progression through the play?
"Yeah and he is being pushed right now which is good. Any young quarterback needs that and I think Joe Lombardi has done a great job with him. Luke (McCown) and I, obviously, have been around a long time. I am going into my 16th year and Luke is going into his 13th so there is a lot of football under our belts and also mastery of this offense where there is just a way that we operate and a way that we are used to that checklist of things. You get up to the ball and you're looking at this and you're looking at that, you're alert for splits, you're alert for matchups. So I think the more Garrett (Grayson) hears us talk about that stuff, and he's able to kind of formulate his own plan within his strengths and the way that he plays, but you definitely see a confidence level. Anytime in your second year in the offense you aren't struggling to remember what concepts mean and this and that. Now you have the ability to just be a bit more comfortable and just to go out and make it happen."
With the offensive line what kind of tweaks and maybe assignment or technique have you seen under Dan Roushar this year?
"I think Dan's done a great job with the guys up front. We have a great group. Starting with Max (Unger) and (Zach) Strief, those being two of the more veteran guys who really played a lot of football, (who have) started a lot of games, obviously Terron Armstead we know what he can do, but I think it starts with the leadership in that room and those guys holding each other accountable, being on one another, but really working as a unit and as a team. There is no group that has to be more on the same page than those guys. I love the way Senio (Kelemete) played last year and just the presence that he brings and Tim Lelito as well and then we have Andrus Peat who I think is really now coming into his own too. Whereas last year, I think with any young guy, it is kind of like a deer in a headlights when they come here for the first time and it is the speed and tempo at which we practice and it's the playbook and all those things. All those guys are really coming along, and I think they're confident in what is being taught. Run game, (and) pass game, protections."
You said you saw tape of Coby Fleener. When you guys sign a guy like that, how quickly are you saying can I get some cut ups of him?
"What I remember from film is this guy is always open. How is he always open? No matter what the route is. There's nothing really flashy about him. He's just kind of smooth, steady, but here it is on that route. Oh he's got two yards of separation, how did he do that? He kind of set the guy up and made it look like something else. Everything is very fluid and very smooth. There's times where it doesn't look like he's moving very fast and yet he's covering ground, he's pulling away from people, he's getting separation. You like guys that can give you places to throw the ball."
When do you start researching a guy like that? As soon as you find out you have him do you request a tape and start studying?
"Yes. The funny thing is I feel like I've seen a lot of tape of him already but yeah. We absolutely do that. We do that with the college guys sometimes. I remember when we drafted Cooks it was like 'alright, lets pull up this guy's college tape and see what kind of weapon we've got here.' Same deal with the free agent guys although maybe there's a little more familiarity just because you've seen them play before."
How's the planner fascia? Do you feel comfortable now brushing off no residual effects from it?
"No issues. A lot of it was rest and kind of scaling up the training as we got to March and April, but no it feels good."
You gameplanned against James Laurinatis a few times in the past. What do you think he brings on the field and off the field?
"Very tough, smart, leadership, ability to adjust on the fly. You just feel like he's in command, he's in control of what's happening defensively and it's you check, I check, I'm getting guys lined up in the right position. You can tell just anticipation like I've seen this on tape before. Here I go.' There's just a level of intelligence there that is really key at that position."
When a guy like that, especially someone you've played in a game, do you ever pull him aside and ask him what (he) saw in (you)?
"Absolutely yeah. I think, obviously, he's very focused on learning the defense but, you can see that just in something that he did today that I'm not going to say cause it is kind of a gameplan thing I do not want to give (anything) away, but he did something today where I was like 'oh that was clever.' Just on the fly. I see things where it's like 'oh that is a veteran move'. It's going to be a fun camp going against him."
So that can help self-scout you to kind of move some tendencies and things of that nature with a guy like that you've played in the past?
"Oh for sure. He challenges you. Whereas maybe you're used to doing something that's just 'ah that works every time.' And then all of a sudden he's got an answer for it and you're like 'oh okay'. You move, I move."
Is it similar to what you and (Jonathan) Vilma used to do?
"That's exactly right. Chess match."
Can that be as beneficial as adding new guys? Like all the new linebackers and the fact that they've seen you getting to say 'oh maybe you we do that a little bit more often and I have tendency to do that.' and them kind of opening your eyes?
"Like I said, competition brings out the best in anybody in whether you're competing for your position against guys on your own side of the ball or you're competing against your defense everyday where they are throwing things at you that maybe you haven't seen or all of a sudden it's an adjustment that you haven't seen or haven't prepared for and yet you've got to have an answer for and so it challenges you. Iron sharpens iron. That's our philosophy with that type of competition."
I know last week you talked about it, but I have two questions. Do you have any update on your contract status and then two, New Orleanians are kind of chatty do people around town ask you about it or Brittany about it?
"No, I haven't really been asked that much about it outside of you guys or (on) Twitter. No developments, and to be honest with you, again, it's not something I even think about until I'm asked the question. I'm really not worried about it. I'm just focused on football. My approach and mindset will be the same regardless."