New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton - 2018 Training Camp Presented by Verizon - Friday, August 3, 2018
"We were (working in) red zone again from yesterday's installation. I thought we got good work in and I thought it was a competitive practice. But yet we have to be smart enough, so we don't step over the line and we will get that corrected. But I like the energy and I thought there was good competition. We will look at the film."
How much do you think teams will show in the preseason with the new rules with the kickoffs?
"That's a good question. I don't know how much we're going to show."
But at the same time, while teams wouldn't want to show too much of what they want to do, it has to be practiced?
"Yes, I think so. Yet, typically you would have two base returns and you're going to work on those. You might hold your wrinkles until you get in the regular season. The interesting thing with this though is we do not know what the wrinkles are. In other words, this is a little bit unprecedented. It is a significant rule change. So, I think from a spectator standpoint, it is going to be exciting and I think you are going to see return opportunities. I do think it's going to reduce the injury rate on that play which in the end is the ultimate goal and make it safe. So teams will have two or three returns that they want to work on and then I think you'll see throughout the early part of the season a handful of these teams paying close attention to some of the teams that are having more success. The videos (are) made available to everyone and I think we have the experience with Mike [Westhoff] and his staff that hopefully we're going to be one of those teams that are being studied."
How do you think the players handled and absorbed what the referees were telling them last night about the helmet rule?
"I think it was good. We went through it. It's a little bit easier for our group because I'm on the competition committee and so (I was) sitting in on those meetings in Florida and understanding the goal of not just the helmet rule but the goal of any of these points of emphasis or the kick off, or the catch. You have obviously a much clearer picture as to the specifics because you sat in a room. We spent a day on some of these topics. So, it is great to have the officials here. These guys do a great job. They too are all working to get ready for the season. You talked to them and they need that work in the reps and I think it's a valuable time for our team to ask questions out here. Even last night, it's an informative meeting. It's not a town hall meeting. Yet the teams that can quickly adapt and adjust will be the teams that have more success and so they did a good job."
With the first preseason game around the corner, do you see the opportunity to continue that depth with the backup defensive lineman?
"The test opportunities, if you will, the preseason games are great growth periods for all our younger players and you can say 'hey I have confidence', but it's really born out of demonstrated ability. You have a game where someone does something special and he believes that he can do that more than once. We've all seen guys grow right in front of our eyes in the preseason and that's what we're looking to see as well. I don't know if that game is right around the corner. It seems like it's a mile, two miles away. We don't play them (Jacksonville) until next Thursday, but I think it will be a great opportunity for a lot of the younger players to stand out, and they're all competing to make the team and make the roster. I think the special teams are obviously equally important, but you do get a chance to see and measure their growth and where they're at in that game."
How much did you see from Larry Warford last season?
"He played well last year and he is a great teammate. He has great respect in the locker room and in the offensive line room. Man, he comes to work every day. He was a great addition for us. He is strong, he is powerful, and he helped us a bunch in our run game and in pass protection. We felt like when we watched his tape on Detroit, those were the traits we saw. I'd say all of that and more, is what we have, and I still think he's improving."
How strong has Drew Brees and Michael Thomas' rapport gotten?
"There's a high level of confidence in the two of them. There's a lot of reps that take place away from it all, timing-wise, but I know Drew feels like a ball can go in his catch radius, which is large, and Mike's got such a good way to track the ball. He's got strong hands in traffic. Then it just becomes adding certain things to Mike's repertoire that all of a sudden, we're going to put him on this now, and those guys including Drew were playing with confidence, but I said this before, when you chart the number of receivers Brees has worked with in his 13 years here, it'd be 58 guys he spent time with if you started going through all the different receivers, and Mike has been one that it's been really good. The other thing I would say is that Mike has only got one speed, so I would consider him a great practice player. Sometimes you've got to back him off the reps or he'll just go and go. I think that's right down Drew's alley."
How long does it take you to have a belief in a player that he can take what he does in practice and then transfer it over to the games?
"I'm guarded always in instant evaluating good or bad. In other words, we can be guilty of that and you can you can make poor decisions that way. The coach in you says, 'Hey man there is improvement, we're going in the right direction.' But I think we take the practice snaps, we take the preseason snaps. We begin to take the whole body of work and then try to factor that in a month, month and a half from now when you have to make the final cut down. So, what you're hoping to do is teach, develop these guys where they're playing their best football and make those decisions difficult. You don't want the easy decisions you want the more challenging ones."
How hard is it to find a linebacker as big as Alex Anzalone, who can do some of the things he can do in coverage?
"He's extremely athletic. He's long. I think the game's such, when we look at the college tape, you see a lot of linebackers playing in space and he was one of those guys. But he has good size and he's smart. So those instincts I think are extremely valuable."
How has Sheldon Rankins evolved as a pass rusher?
"He's doing well. He's doing really well. I'd say this camp, he's ticked up and you're starting to see him affect the pocket. He and David [Onyemata], when they're in they're on some of the sub downs do a good job of playing off each other. So, I still think he's a player that's getting better. He's kind of an old soul, so you look at him like he's been around and been in this league 10 years, but he hasn't. So, I see him as a young player that's improving."
Is there any update on Marcus Davenport or Ben Watson?
"No injury discussion, but you can ask them."
How's this week's 'Bachelor' (return competition) going?
"(I) Haven't paid attention. Oh, kick returners? [laughs]. That'll be something. They are doing a good job with the reps they're receiving in practice and yet it's always exciting because they are not live (like) when you play a preseason game to see how they do. So, we are in for a long series, how is that?"
Is it hard not to think of Darren Sproles when you see Boston Scott in uniform?
"Well, I'm not ready to put him in (that category) – look Darren was one of those amazing players. But Boston has some traits that we saw, and you see them periodically on the field. He's still learning and he's further along in the passing game. But I think he's been improving and he's going to be in that mix as a return (man) and we'll see what he can do. But he does have some of the skillsets in regard to versatility. But it'd be fantastic if he could get even in that neighborhood."
What was it like being able to spend some time with Brian Dawkins when you were an Eagles assistant?
"Man, he's something. I remember 'Dawk', I was there two years and he was a tremendous competitor. A fantastic pressure player when you talk about a safety that can get to the quarterback. Unfortunately, my memories aren't as long (positive) as they were in New York when we played against them then eight different times. He is a tremendous guy as well. But he could cover ground, he could tackle, he was physical. But the greatest thing I think he did at times was pressure the quarterback. He had a way of taking five steps and being on the quarterback. So many times, the safeties will be late with the pressure and the ball gets thrown. Brian would be on your quarterback. You had to account for him in your protection plan, you had to account for him in your running game. He was a tremendous tackler, but he'd compete and win. When you look at a lot of these guys that are going into the hall there that is a common denominator. Not only did they love playing but they love being great. And he was one of these guys. He's a great player."
How many guys have you coached in the Hall of Fame?
"I have no idea, I'll go back and look though. That's a good question, I don't know. Obviously I've coached against a lot of these players and the more and more there are guys you coached against or with, it probably means you're getting old. But I still think I'm young."
As fans or the media, we often take for granted guys like Thomas Morstead or Wil Lutz who had an off day today. How do you address that?
"There's a lot of things that factor in. You start practice today and tell them 'Hey here comes another rain practice' and you still have to play the game, there is no lightning. We're going to be in a game like that and the analogy is much like you're driving your car on the highway and every once in a while, you get one of those like complete downpours and your flashing lights are on, you're going 25 miles an hour. You still have to get to the destination. You can't say 'Well I slipped and went off the side of the road.' So, you change your plan and the same thing takes place in how we call a game and in how we handle the football and what we do because we still have to get to the end destination. It's just going to be a different journey that day. When you're kicking where we're kicking from and you're getting a lot of those conditions, it's good experience but he's a confident kicker and he's someone that we have a ton of confidence in."
When you get a guy like Josh Huff and how he's making plays, does it factor into the evaluation that he won't be available for the first two games?
"I was asked that yesterday, right now we're just trying to make sure we're trying to really improve the player and evaluate the player."