Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
How different is this Saints defense than the one you guys played two years ago?
"I did not even watch the film from a couple years ago. It is not even the same. Totally different from a personnel standpoint, look standpoint. I haven't even put that film on because I know how different it is and how well they're playing now and Dennis Allen has done a great job with them."
What have you seen out of the Saints defense?
"I see all of them playing with a great motor and intensity and their corners, both of them are playing extremely well, as far as covering people. (Marshon) Lattimore and (Ken) Crawley are doing a great job. They are disrupting routes and playing great man to man when they want to play man and when they want to mix in zone (they are successful). Then they have a unique pressure package. They get three man rushes, four man pressures, some five man pressures and then some exotic double A (blitzes) and overload odd front deals. It is something that the quarterback and offensive line really have to be in tuned (too) and obviously our receivers have to do a heck of a job on these corners and tight ends on safeties and etc."
Are the pressure packages kind of the hallmark of a Dennis Allen defense?
"I would say so, but really I think when you're talking about the defense that's part of the reason they're successful. I think the other part is they are very sound in what they do and play a great technique and they all run to the ball. (There are) not a lot of huge names on their defense, obviously Cam (Jordan) is a heck of a football player and Sheldon Rankins, the first rounder, and obviously (Marshon) Lattimore was a first rounder, but they are getting these other guys to play extremely hard in what they do and that's half the battle nowadays."
What is it specifically about the Saints that makes it tough to throw against them?
"I think it is a combination (of things). When you talk about great pass defense you cannot do it without a decent pass rush and they are getting a good pass rush. Cameron Jordan is really disruptive and I think (Sheldon) Rankins is playing very good football right now and then they bring in (Trey) Hendrickson in and he's doing a heck of a job. They have a unique pressure package and like I said can blitz linebackers and safeties and make it just uncomfortable for the quarterback where he feels he has to speed it up. The defensive backs do a great job of both disrupting routes and not giving them any windows and then to make matters worse they bat more balls than anyone I have ever seen. They do a great job of getting their hands up on the defensive line."
What are your overall impressions of how the Saints have been winning?
"When you win seven games in a row everybody wants to point to the quarterback or what have you, but I think this has been a total team effort and their defense is playing extremely well and they do not get enough credit and offensively they have great balance and it showed last week. It's not all about Drew Brees and Michael Thomas and the other receivers and (Alvin) Kamara. They have great balance. They're running the ball (well). I think they ran for 298 yards at Buffalo. Their tight ends are physical, offensive linemen (Andrus) Peat, (Larry) Warford and (Max) Unger are playing extremely physical opening up holes for the backs and (Mark) Ingram's taking advantage of it and then when you get that going it's the same remedy we'd like to have is when Drew really hits you with that play action and the shots. It makes it hard to defend."
What kind of challenge does the Saints run game present to your defense?
"Well it's a challenge, especially we lost Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, two of our big interior guys and Mason Foster our interior (linebacker) guy and then Will Compton last week. We have to figure out a way to collapse holes and create a new line of scrimmage and play physical and that's going to be a great challenge and we take pride in that. We've done pretty well of late, but it's something we have to get back too because I know Sean (Payton) has had games where he has run it 45-50 times before and then you think about Drew Brees and the quick passing game and the added shots. He can also punish you with the run and we have to stop the run without a doubt."
How is Junior Galette playing for you guys?
"Junior is finding his way. He's coming off two Achilles injuries unfortunately, but I think from a playing time standpoint he wants more and more. We'll get him more, but we have (Ryan) Kerrigan and Preston Smith so he's kind of sharing time a little bit, but he's been a good teammate and he's been doing well."
What stands out about the way Zach Brown has been tallying so many tackles?
"He is fast and is the type of guy that does not have to be right with his first step of initial read, but he will find a way to make a play because he can run sideline to sideline. He makes up for any inefficiencies with the speed. He's been a great guy to have on this team and he's really helped out a lot, especially in the middle of our defense. We have to get the other guy playing well. This week it will be (Martrell) Spaight and those two together have to have a huge game not only in the run game, but also in their pass drops and their read and recognition and then when we do play man they might have to cover, obviously (Alvin) Kamara."
Why has Chris Thompson been so effective in the passing game for you guys?
"I think he is very similar to (Alvin) Kamara. We use him in different ways. We put him out empty, we can run screens and beat linebackers out of the backfield, but number one he's a total package guy and he's a guy that can run, pass protect number one and then obviously win matchups in man to man number two, which stresses out a defense because you can lock up the corners all you want to with the receivers and maybe put a double team on the tight end, but usually that back gets favorable matchups. They did good job against the back for Chicago (Jordan Howard) and they had him doubled a couple of times and they might try and take Chris (Thompson) out of the game. That is why our receivers are going to have to win some of these matchups."
What have you seen from Michael Thomas on tape?
"Michael's a good kid man and he has a great ability to adjust his body to different types of throws and Drew (Brees) does an excellent job of giving him opportunity balls when he looks covered, Drew throws him uncovered and Drew has the ability to adjust to any type of throw and that's important. They have great chemistry already and have only been together a couple years and he can run and obviously he's a threat anywhere. (Brandon) Coleman does a good job, Ted Ginn Jr. takes the top off and Willie Snead's an all-around, all purpose, tough blocking, catching guy. They have a good group of receivers you have to deal with."
What do you make of the Saints passing game with the relative drop in overall yardage and attempts from previous seasons?
"Sometimes that is better. A lot of people worry about stats and fantasy football numbers and I get this question every week with opposing reporters it seems like, but when you have balance I think it makes it easier on the entire offense, the play-caller and the quarterback, the receivers, everybody. Effective passing game doesn't mean it has to lead the league in yardage. It just means it has to be effective getting the ball down the field and in the end zone. That's what they're doing right now."
Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins
What do you see out of this Saints defense this year?
"They're doing a great job, (they're) well-coached, they're playing together, they have great coaches, they have a great scheme, they pressure well, they do a good job of deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage and they've just played at a very high level now for several weeks in a row."
Is it remarkable to see how far the Saints defense has come from the one you blew out a couple of years ago?
"I know in the NFL things change quickly. I don't really believe in year to year and things just being able to be expected. I do think it's week to week and year to year. As well-coached as the Saints are and how much good leadership they have there, I fully expected them to be back quickly and they've played at a very high level this year."
How much does the Saints' tipping passes at the line of scrimmage stand out on film and how do you account for that?
"It stands out quite a bit. You don't see it that often and yet it's showing up over and over and over. I think it starts with offensive linemen doing their best job to get their hands down to not allow push. When a d-lineman gets really, really close to the quarterback it gives him a much greater likelihood that he'll be able to bat the ball down. Clearly it's something that they do well. It wouldn't happen as consistently as it does if they weren't naturally good at it, but hopefully (we can) get the ball out quickly, have a high release point, not stare down receivers and that can help, but if they're good at it. They're probably going to get their fair share."
What have you seen from the Saints cornerbacks on tape?
"I see corners and safeties playing with a great deal of confidence, making plays, doing a great job of sticking with their receivers and covering them. Playing well in both man coverage and zone coverage and making plays and they do a great job of playing together, where the pass rush and tipped passes by the d-line are turning into interceptions and the good coverage by the DBs are helping the line get sacks. That is the way a great defense operates is everybody's working together, helping one another and you see that time and again with them on film."
What's made Chris Thompson so effective in the passing game for you guys?
"I think first of all, Chris is a great player and I think every year in the league he's taken another step to improve his game or widen his scope of what he can do. This year he's done it again, become more of a receiver. In the past, he was more of your usual check down receiver and a really, really good pass protector, identifying blitzes. I think he's changed his game to be more of a true receiver. That's what good players do. There's continuous improvement at all times and I think coaches have done a great job of creating schemes and plays where he's involved and has a role. It's been good to see that added element to our offense."
How tough has it been for you with all the injuries your offense has experienced?
"I think that's been a big narrative for us this season, has been the number of guys out at the same time. It's one thing to lose one offensive lineman and then you're able to play a backup. But to lose so many where you're playing the backup to the backup at several different positions, that's a challenge. Injuries are so common in this league and a big part of everybody's season in terms of how you continue to find ways to play at a high level despite the injuries. That's certainly been our challenge the last few weeks."
The Saints defense this season has been really good against opposing quarterbacks in this winning streak they are on. Is there one thing you can pinpoint that's led them to be so effective?
"That is the thing I have been trying to say is it is not any one thing. When you have a great pass rush, when you're batting balls at the line of scrimmage, when you're bringing pressures that are well-disguised, when you're playing a variety of coverages and you're playing them sound, when your draft picks are contributing well and playing like seasoned veterans, all those things combine to be what has made them a great defense. I think the other thing is it's truly a team defense. I don't think you'd say it's just one guy that's a wrecking ball, while I agree that Cameron Jordan's really good, (Marshon) Lattimore's really good and they have some Pro Bowl type players I do think they're playing well as a unit and that's what you want."