New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with Local Media
Thursday, September 10, 2015
What kind of role do you envision for Obum Gwacham? Is he a potential Jack, pass-rushing type?
"Yeah, I think the initial thought when we watched him, much like we saw in the Seattle film, is develop him as a pass rusher and develop him as someone that would plug in at the Jack position. He has real good length and I think that he has some of the traits for a young player and I would say young, new to the defensive side of the football. Those are some of the things that caught our eye."
Can you go into the decision to keep Tim Hightower?
"Well there is some flexibility with him, and history has told us to be a little deeper at that position, the running back position. I thought his training camp was very good. I thought clearly he looked healthy and I thought his numbers when we handed him the football…It was something that as the process wore on, we went from spring to training camp, you begin to know this player more and more. I also think he is a real good teammate. He has a presence about him that I think benefits all of us, our team."
Have you ever seen a case where a guy was able to sit out a year and come back the way he has? How rare is that especially on this level?
"Two seasons if I am not incorrect. Any break in our league for even a year and coming back, that happens, we see that a lot, (a) player is out for the season, he is back the next year, but I would definitely say north of a season, players who are out for two seasons, there just aren't many examples of that."
What did you think about your red zone efficiency throughout the preseason?
"It would be hard to measure with the amount of different combinations and personnel groups that were in. We will look closely at the red zone, our numbers, how we've been in the past. I think in the preseason, honestly when the stat packets come out each week we throw them in the garbage because they don't apply to any one group. It applies, maybe, overall to 90 players specifically to one statistic but I think we pay a little bit more attention as we start up the season then as to how we are doing and how is our efficiency. We found scoring efficiency in the red zone to be just as indicative to winning games as red zone efficiency. I think it is a little more difficult when you are looking at statistics in preseason games."
Is there ever situations where you will call a play to see how somebody does or to see if that play works that maybe you wouldn't call in a regular season game?
"You have so much more flexibility in a preseason game to do just what you are saying. I want to see, the first play of the Green Bay game to try and get bump and run coverage and a back shoulder throw to Brandon Coleman, it ends up being a go route down the field. There are some things that maybe you would do differently if it was the regular season, or may not be as easy to do, but in the preseason you certainly would look at certain schemes."
Do you have any update on Cam Jordan's situation?
"No. It is what I said yesterday, we are following it as a team and there is really nothing more to say about it."
If you were to need an emergency safety or if you have someone in mind could swing over to cornerback and kind of play centerfield or free safety?
"Listen, there would be a lot of candidates, none of offense. Defensively, I think what you are getting to, certainly (Damian) Swann has played free safety. We think that Kyle Wilson can play free safety, Jamarca (Sanford), there would be a number of guys, but those would be three guys specifically that would come to mind if that makes sense."
Are you calling plays this year? Have you decided that?
"Not yet. We will figure it out here as we go. Pete (Carmichael) is someone that has been real in-tune with what we are doing. It may change week by week."
I talked to Zach Strief about the conversation that (former coach) Randy Walker had with you before the draft about how he'd be a 10-year player in this league; how much did Randy Walker convince you to draft Zach and put him on your radar?
"It was 100% of why we ended up drafting Zach. Randy and I had worked (together) years prior. I was one of his assistants at Miami. I had called him about Brett Basanez, a quarterback that was in that draft. I think a late round prospect, if I am not mistaken. Randy was one of those guys where it was hard to get a glowing recommendation. That was just his nature. We were discussing the quarterback and at some point it led him to say, 'Well, what do you think about our right tackle?' Honestly, that was our first season here and I didn't know who his right tackle was. I don't mean that in a funny way. I had called on the quarterback and when he said that, I said who are you talking about and he said Zach Strief. We had grades on him that varied from late rounder to seventh round pick. He went on to tell me 'if such and such who he coached could play in that league, I know this kid can play.' You only had to know Randy to appreciate that that was like a once-in-an-eight-year recommendation. I remember hanging up the phone, going into the board, trying to locate Strief's magnet, and I probably had to get a ladder so I could reach up on the board and bring it back down and look at the information on the tag. I remember, just vividly, the conversation, and it was just solely the reason that that player was selected. We had decent grades on him but I just knew Randy well enough to know that if he felt strongly about a guy like that, I knew that he was going to be tough and have all of those other things. He passed away then that summer. That call was during the winter and we drafted Zach in April, I am going to say. That had a lot to do with his selection. It had everything to do with his selection."
We talked to Zach Hocker yesterday and he said that the pressure doesn't go away after training camp, and if anything, it is just as intense because he knows that he won the job but now he has to keep it. Is that all right?
"It seems to be more visible at the kicking position but I think, to some degree, it exists with a lot of players and coaches. It is part of what we do. For a rookie or a first-year kicker, you don't want to look down the line and see someone warming up in the bullpen here. Nonetheless, it is kind of how our league is. You'll see this weekend's games and there will be transactions because of injuries and then there will be transactions because a player struggled. I think he'll do well. I think that when you look closely at his career at Arkansas and you look at the numbers and game winning kicks; you're trying to create the situation where, 'hey, we need this to win the game or tie the game' and (see) how the player will respond. You know what, you can only go by what you see. It has been good."
What was it about Michael Mauti that you liked?
"I think he was productive. (In) the tape, and this was all of his snaps in the preseason this year and his snaps last year, he is constantly around the ball. You can see that he is physical. He likes the noise. He is someone that I think is a very good tackler. He is exceptionally smart. Most importantly, how is this player, as a backup Mike, going to help us in the kicking game? If that is a plus then we have something. We put on all of his special teams snaps and they were real good. I like this guy a lot. I like his makeup and how he is wired. After watching the tape, you kind of look around and look at each other and say, what don't we like about this player. There wasn't a whole lot."
When you have a guy that has ties to the organization, his father having played here and he is a hometown town guy, is that just a bonus?
"It is what it is. It is not like, let's start here, we're in the fraternity and his dad went here or he is a legacy so let's give him an extra look. It is really, did you realize that he played at Mandeville (High School). I remember hearing that name. Obviously it is a great story, but it doesn't impact the decision one way or the other."
Back to the kickers, do you think that you would be more inclined to turn the bottom of the roster this year than you have been in previous seasons?
"I think that, depending on what is available, it is something that we'll pay attention to. These practices give us a good chance to evaluate. Not just the key starters, but it is important for our coaches to be developing these younger guys post-practice and (see) how they are doing on the look-squad. We have to be actively involved in coaching all of them. That may or may not happen. A lot of it would be dependent on how these guys are doing."
Photos of Sean Payton during the 2015 preseason.