Phoenix – New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton addressed many topics during his media session Wednesday morning at the NFL Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore.
Among them were the following:
Free agent signee Brandon Browner, who will start at cornerback: "I see him as our right corner, I see him as a bump and run player. The closer he can be to a receiver, the better. (Left cornerback) Keenan (Lewis), to some degree, I think is a press player as well. Obviously we've gotten bigger at that position. If you look at our division and you just take a team – Tampa Bay and their size, Atlanta and their size, Carolina – probably more size at the receiver position in the NFC South than any other division in football. And so, you don't want to line up with 5-foot-8 corners, bump and running and bumping their knees. So I think Brandon's comfort zone certainly would be playing up close to the line of scrimmage."
On Drew Brees in the aftermath of the Jimmy Graham trade: "I think he's handling it fine. When you go back through our history offensively and (see) who we've had at tight end, and who we've had at receiver, there's one or two constants. Drew is one of the constants. We've had six or seven different tight ends in the nine years that we've played. Running backs, guys that played that Joker position for us. Our job is to make sure that we look at this upcoming season, we get a guy like C.J. Spiller and we say, 'All right, here's a target. Here's a weapon that we can use that's unique, and we've got to be able to be flexible enough – no different than when we were able to draft Reggie Bush, and we weren't expecting that to happen – we changed a little bit what we were going to do. We'll do the same thing this year. No. 1, we feel confident in Ben Watson and Josh Hill. So we'll get our production from that position, we'll get it outside. That's the challenge about it every year."
On receiver Marques Colston: "He's smart, he's tough. He can play the inside position as well. With every decision, there's got to be some vision. So Marques Colston, the vision coming up for '15 – he's a guy that plays all three spots, there's a toughness about him, there's a size factor that is a big plus for us. The same thing would apply with a player like Josh Hill, with one of these younger receivers. We have two practice squad receivers (Seantavious Jones and Brandon Coleman) that no one would even know right now, that we think are going to be involved in this year's plan. So when you lose a target like Jimmy, there are some touches there you look at. But that's happened before, that's happened during the season with injury, that's happened with other players and the ball gets spread around."
On Hill, who caught 14 passes and five touchdowns last season: "Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot. He's not on anyone's fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he's a real good tight end. He's versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player."
On free agent running back C.J. Spiller: "His cut-up is unbelievable. Now, I'm not talking about last season because I think it became challenging. But if you go back a couple of years and start looking at a screen reel, a sweep reel, a return reel – when you watch his film, you just think of a lot of things he can do. He's physical, he's the most explosive player on the field a lot of times when you're watching. He's an exciting player that clearly, heading into free agency, there wasn't any thought about and then after that first rush, there was some interest. I think to his agent's credit, they looked at it from a how he was going to be used standpoint, the system, the offense and wanting to be a part of it. We feel the same way."
Comparisons between Spiller and Darren Sproles: "Darren's got this unique quickness – 10 steps can take place in a second. Spiller can hit the edge and all of a sudden go 80. So, you see a route tree from Darren that's pretty encompassing and from C.J. you see 'X' number of routes. So I'm anxious to see some of the things he can do in the passing game. I think he's a little bit bigger (than Sproles). They're both play-makers that are explosive, so there'd be a lot of similarities that way. How do we get him touches, uniquely in the screen game, how do we get him touches maybe in the empty packages. I would say the thing that's most apparent though, is: I know how much Darren loves playing. And you get that feel from C.J. the same way. It's everything to him. You can't put a value on that enough."
On parting with Jimmy Graham: "Those are always tough decisions. No. 1, you trust your gut and your instincts with regard to something of that magnitude. That's significant. When you're looking at, 'How do we improve as a team overall?' and you're looking at every avenue, I think having that open mind (is key). There's that skepticism that it won't come out around to a first-round pick, we won't end up with a guy like Max. So when it all came together … listen, one of the good things was that was probably eight, nine days in the works with Seattle and the Saints. And there wasn't one word of it (leaked). That's good stuff. Seriously, it's hard to do that. So you knew that we had two teams that were real interested in doing that. But there's a lot of thought that goes into that."