New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton - Post-Practice Media Availability - Saturday, December 15, 2018
How much do you continue to marvel at the way Luke Kuechly runs that defense?
"He's something. Each game, first off, there's a physical skill set and his ability to play the position. Rarely does he stay blocked and then put that with his ability to key and diagnose. He's someone that you can't help but like watching film on. (He has) A lot of passion. I'm sure (he does) a lot of tape study. I'm sure (he puts in) a lot of hard work and it forces us to be that much more mindful of our self-scout and all the things that we do so that you have some means to at least create some indecision. But he's an outstanding player."
Does anything kind of stand out about a Ron Rivera team?
"(They have) always been physical. I was just talking about this (with the team). Over the years, recently a lot of the division titles have gone through more recently these two teams so they're physical, well-coached. He's done a great job in his time there and we've got a ton of respect for him."
I know you talked about how smart he was right from the jump, but Alvin (Kamara) just year one to year two is there anything that you've seen growth wise just through his understanding?
"Yes, I think just overall understanding more of the offense. We've put him in certain roles that he's not necessarily the H. He is playing the F sometimes, the Z. But, he's someone that learns it very quickly and rarely does something on the field that you are not expecting. There's some players that that have that unique skillset mentally and he's one of them. He's very intelligent."
Did it take (Marcus) Davenport a little while to get back to where here was before that (injury)?
"He's doing well. He's playing with confidence and you just see that with each game you see (that he) plays that really encourage you and beginning to gain confidence (in him). I talk about how those things go together. You know you gain confidence when you do it and you're seeing that.
What does it mean to see Mark (Ingram) closing in on Deuce (McAllister's) touchdown record?
"When you do this long enough you don't realize the years relative to. When I came it was towards the end of his (McAllister's) career here and then Mark it feels like it's been four years (what Mark says). I know it's been longer than that. That's a pretty significant accomplishment."
You talked a lot about JT Gray on special teams. Obviously, he's on the practice squad but what is he still improving?
"He's passionate. He's a good young player. He loves football. I think he's a real good teammate. And I think he can do a number of things well. He's someone that we have a ton of confidence and I like him."
What did you guys like about Simmie Cobbs?
"He's a rookie out of Indiana. I remember him clearly. (He's)from Chicago from near where I'm from. Played basketball (and) played football. (He) was real successful at Indiana. I know Kevin Wilson who was his coach (at Indiana). We had good grades on him coming out and then recently we did an overview of different practice squad players throughout our league. He was one that we had a chance to look at not only his college grade, but then also his preseason tape. I like his size. I think he is smart. I think he blocks well. Some traits that we felt strong about."
I think when a guy practices Wednesday, Thursday and not on Friday the assumption is there might be that there's a setback, but can you provide any clarity on Terron Armstead's practice schedule?
"Each week we do what we think is best relative to his health and we'll really just go from there. We report like we do every week."
Going back to the special teams, is that something that maybe is not receiving enough credit for where you guys are?
"It has been significant. Mike (Westhoff) and his staff. Mike and Brad (Bradford Banta), Kevin (O'Dea), Deuce (Schwartz) and those guys. They are changing the game for us. They did last year and they are doing it right now. It is part of a good football team. Quietly we needed to play in Minnesota in the playoff game. We got a blocked punt. We've gotten a return. Tommy's (Tommylee Lewis) returns in Tampa were significant. We get the block (in Tampa Bay). We are kicking it well. We are punting it well. It's a field position game and it always has been. If you don't do the little things well then it ends up hurting you."
Joe Paterno used to always say that if you win two of the three phases you're probably going to win the game. Is that something that still resonates?
"I don't know that I've ever looked at it that way and yet I imagine if you did some studies (there could be some truth). There have been some nuances that have changed in the kicking game that maybe have diminished some areas or made it more challenging relative to the kick return. But I just know when it comes to the details and where you want to play a game, the hidden yardage. I know in any one phase if you're not operating well it could cost you a game."