New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability Following OTA #6
Thursday, June 2, 2016
How is Michael Thomas Progressing?
"He is doing well. A lot of those young guys are receiving a lot of reps and I think watching him, he is catching it well. He is playing one positon the X, but I think he is picking up what we are doing and certainly spending a lot of time (learning). These guys, rookies particularly we'll keep longer for meetings and they are in a little bit of a catch up mode and yet he is handling it just as the team is receiving the install, he is receiving it (as well). It is new to everyone who is new here. I'd say he's progressing really well."
How has R.J. Harris been doing?
"He was here and we saw enough from him a year ago. He has good transition, so he is a guy that can separate at the top of cuts. He is smart and made a really good play down the sideline in that last team period. We saw some of that even a year ago and it's good to see a player like him in his second year showing signs of progress and obviously playing with a lot more confidence because he knows what he is doing."
What would you say is the progression from last week to this week?
"Really, situationally we are evolving. The last two days, today and yesterday the focus was third down. Last week we would have been on first and second down. Monday will be in the red area. As we change situationally what we are working on the installs change. That would be the big thing, sub, sub pressure, red zone will come Monday and Tuesday. Two minute will come next week as well and we try to create those scenarios that we are going through."
Was getting better inside the 10-yard line a priority for the team?
"Yes, two things take place down there. Obviously, your area to work with is reduced and even when it comes to a running play that might be three yards, you have to have positive plays, but yes that would be an emphasis for us. The objective is to score touchdowns when you get inside the 20 (yard line) and yet most importantly is secure the score, which would be a field goal at worst. What are the things that keep you from doing that turnovers, penalties things that take you out of an area or take you out of a position? Inside the 10 (yard line) would be no different."
Do you feel a need to be cautious with Damian Swann?
"Yes, we will be smart. It will be much like we would treat any other injured player and he has progressed well and has his weight up a little bit. He took a period of time at Georgia where he was taking summer classes or spring classes for his degree and yes to answer your question. We would treat him much like a player who is out here coming off of an injury."
Does that mean any days off?
"It could, but it would be more of just being aware of what periods he is in. The good thing about what we are doing is there is (it's) limited to no contact and it's one of the challenges of having these practices, but I think that gives him a little bit more opportunity right now."
How did Andrus Peat do at left tackle today?
"He did well. We moved him over to left tackle because a couple of our guys had the flu bug earlier in the week and typically we are working him on the right side, but the last couple days we put him over at left tackle. He has played left tackle and it's an area he is comfortable with. Our vision would be for him to be on the right side in terms of Terron (Armstead) at left tackle."
Did Terron have the flu?
"No, Zach (Strief) and a few others. Terron we sat the last two days."
When do you use your three safety package?
"First and second down and they're in a sub offense and you need to have another defensive back on the field and yet you want someone in a position to force the run defending. Sometimes the benefit might be because it's simply your best five on the field. Two corners three safeties as opposed to three corners and two safeties, but I think situationally it would depend on the down and distance and it's something we utilize and you see more teams doing. Sometimes a team may have a safety playing a linebacker position. Generally, it is for more spread sets."
How do you decide on a kicker?
"Yes, it goes a lot further than that. Right now, it's all about timing and the sequence, their rotating with the groups every other day. All of it is charted, get off is charted, location of where it was made and ultimately when you get into training camp and you get into the preseason games you keep track of all the numbers. With these two guys both of them, if you look at their stat line in the NFL and all through college and you really chart the 20-30-yard field goals, 30-40, 40-50 then you take a separate category and say game-winners, in other words clutch kicks. These two guys are almost identical all the way back to their college years. Both have experience and we feel like we have a really good opportunity to come away from training camp with good measuring sticks on someone that has kicked. We feel good about the way both of them are hitting it."
Do you see a trend moving college cornerbacks to doing a little bit more safety because of their coverage skills? Is that something that you want to experiment with?
"Every time that we read a player coming out of college, and it happens quite a bit, a corner we read is going to be a corner, but there are a number of guys that we read that are playing college corner that we see as a pro safety. It might be because of a (speed) deficit or it might be because they have the intelligence or ball skills we want on the back end, or the tackling ability. I don't think that it is anything new. Obviously, it is more apparent because of the spread sets we're getting. When we go to the combine, they'll be guys working out at corner that, I would say two-thirds of the league see as a safety. Occasionally, but not often, it is the other way around. A guy is playing safety and is, all of a sudden, (playing corner). A guy like Jason Sehorn that the team has a vision for playing a corner. It is really evaluating a player coming out and looking closely. We have seen some players that later in their career (have switched from corner to safety). The (Charles) Woodson's of the world that have moved from a corner position to a safety position. A lot of it is just evaluating a player."
You referenced the experience of your kickers; was experience something you were looking for after last year where you had a couple inexperienced kickers?
"I don't know that we set out to look for two kickers with experience. Having Kai (Forbath) and knowing his track record and we felt real good about (it), even last year, we were able to get him. Then, it worked out where, all of a sudden, the second kicker (Connor Barth) had experience as well. Obviously, if it's production that's positive, that helps."
What has Dan Campbell brought to the staff so far?
"Of course. I've worked with Dan (Campbell) in New York when we drafted him, in Dallas when we signed him in free agency, and then for a brief stint here. I think (he's brought) a handful of things. Number one, I think he's a real good teacher. I think he's tough. I think he is extremely talented. He had an opportunity last year, midseason, to all of a sudden, step in and be the head coach at Miami. I thought he did a great job and I think that he is someone that will be a head coach in our league. I just know what type of guy he is and I know that for us he was a great fit. We were fortunate to have an opportunity to interview him. It isn't the first time that I had interest (in hiring him), and yet he was under contract prior. In this event, we were able to get him in on an interview. Just as much as I love the player, I feel the same way about him as a coach."
Does it help to have guys on the staff who have (been head coaches before)?
"Yes, certainly it does. He's been in that position, (assistant head coach/linebackers) Joe Vitt has been in that position, (and defensive coordinator) Dennis Allen's been in that position. Those are guys that having been there in staff meetings, it wouldn't be unusual for me to get their thoughts on something, or not even in a meeting."
Was the interview different having already known the concept of who he is? Did you have to figure out how he was as a coach, or was he interviewing you about what you do here?
"You send in the permission and it is granted, so you get him in on a flight. Really, it is a matter of sitting down and going through the vision. This is what we'd like you to do, this is the position and what I think you bring to the table. We had a handful of other options. Different than the player, but as a coach you're explaining their role and why you think this is a good opportunity. Often times, that interview might be longer because I might not know the candidate. In his case, it was a little bit of a recruitment. The interview would be a little different, and it can be. They are not all the same. Had he been someone that we hadn't worked with before, there might be more time spent on areas that you are unfamiliar with."
Looking at that back-shoulder catch by Willie Snead, fans always look back at how you utilized Darren Sproles; how do you view Marcus Murphy, not only as a returner but a part of the offense?
"We're still learning with him. (We're learning) what kind of a runner can he be, what can he do, and can he handle the sub-packages. Is he a guy that becomes more of a joker type of player like Darren Sproles or (Travaris) Cadet,that we view as more of a pass-route runner, or someone where we can get a matchup. He was on a linebacker, for instance, on that play. We're still learning. We knew when we drafted him that our vision immediately was as a returner. We watched his tape as a running back at Missouri and saw a handful of things. He was in a rotation where it was basically he and another back. That's part of our ongoing evaluation with him. I'd say it is still to be determined. It was a good play that he made (in practice today). I think he has a good football awareness. He'll be competing obviously in that returner role, and then obviously as a guy on game day trying to be a running back."
What have you seen from Nick Fairley? He seems to be in really good shape.
"He is. His weight is down. He's real athletic so you see real good foot quickness. He is smart so he understands leverage and he understands where to align. I think that he is moving around real well. I think that when we get to training camp and we get the pads on, I think that his presence not only in the normal downs, but it is really going to show up in the passing downs."
Were you surprised that you had to answer questions on Rob (Ryan)?
"I've said this and I'll say it again, he is a good football coach. He is a good staff guy. The focus for us is going forward. When you don't have success, starting with me, every one of us has got mud on our hands. You want to improve and you want to get on to the next season, and not find yourself in that position again. That is where our focus is right now. I haven't paid too much attention to what they are doing in Buffalo."