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Saints Coach Sean Payton on Terron Armstead: 'He wasn't going to let his teammates down'

Star left tackle fought through injuries most of season

Photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals game at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, September 14, 2015. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, December 15, 2016

Is this one of the deeper pass rushes you guys have faced all year?
"You certainly look at their third down numbers, pressures and sack totals. They're right up there. You've got a handful of different guys you're having to deal with. You are dealing with power; you're dealing with speed. I think the addition of Chandler Jones there has been a big help. Calais Campbell is obviously someone that is a force inside. I think this (Markus) Golden's rushing and playing well. You see him receiving edge snaps, you see him get out of trouble pretty well get back into the rush when the pocket steps up and there are a handful of these guys that are doing a good job with the rotation and the second part of the challenge is there is a lot of man coverage behind it so typically the quarterbacks holding onto the ball for a half second longer."

How difficult was it for you to put Terron Armstead on IR after he was in and out?
"I think challenging. Number one, the one thing about him is his toughness and you can't say enough as a coach how much you appreciate a guy who may not be able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday. If he had a chance to be ready he was going to go. He wasn't going to let his teammates down and that is not the case all the time with some players, but he is one of those guys that was going to do everything to be on the field and it got to a point where we're at right now on where he's at right now. Where I don't think we're looking at any type of surgery, but I think he's needing some rest and we need time from that thing to recover and then build the strength back up, but he's a fantastic player. But I am sure he's frustrated with the back and forth of it."

How have you seen Thomas Morstead grow into being a holder and gotten better in that role?
"It is night and day. When he was drafted as a punter (in 2009), we had one weakness (rated) on him. We thought we had a real good leg. We thought he had the hang time. We thought he was athletic. The only concern on film we'd seen him drop two or three snaps as a punter so there was a question about his hands just in regards to catching the long snap to punt the ball, which isn't a good thing. Certainly, doesn't lend itself to think that (thought process) oh we're going to make him a holder, but I think he's been exceptional in that role. The challenge with the holder is you go four years of holding and no news is good news and every once in a while you're going to get that low in the dirt or that high one and you're going to be forced to try and find that spot and he does not panic when that happens. He is pretty good I think solving problems there, but if you would have asked me in his rookie year you see him ever holding for you I would have just kind of stared at you like ahh we're going to work on him catching these snaps so he can punt it."

What are some of the challenges in trying to scheme for a guy like David Johnson?
"He's very versatile. When we studied him coming out the one thing you saw at Northern Iowa, you saw certainly someone who caught passes in space, in seams and so I think you saw what kind of receiver he was going to have a chance to be. What you didn't get enough film on or enough if you would evidence of how good a runner he's turned into and that combination for him. He is an outstanding receiver out of the backfield and obviously is playing extremely well carrying the football. Part of it is probably that football tradition in that conference back there. That is the old Gateway conference Northern Iowa, Eastern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Indiana (State). There is a lot of football history back there and I think he's having an amazing season."

Bruce Arians compared David Johnson to a transformer, if you've watched transformers which one would he be?
"I don't want to use a comparison, but the runner in Pittsburgh gives you the same problems, alright and so when you look at (Le'Veon) Bell. When a runner can get into a pattern and run routes the receivers run like outs and corners and sluggos and those type of things. We're on third down today and who do you think the first target is? Larry Fitzgerald. Who's number two? David Johnson, the runner that's it. When you see those numbers you're seeing a transformer type player in that he's a ballcarrier, he's out in space it is third down now he is out in the route. I think he is right when he talks about him (like that). He is second in their third down receptions and conversions and all those numbers and then it is who is getting him. Are you putting a linebacker or safety on him? That creates some problems."

How much is a player like that something you have tried to find here between Reggie (Bush) and (Darren) Sproles?
"Every year you are looking for that joker. Now I would say this in fairness to him, and this is the thing that is uniquely different – he is having success just in carrying the football, besides getting into becoming that joker. His position-flexibility is pretty amazing considering what he is doing. They've had some injuries, guys get nicked up and they're looking to find ways to get the football in their play-maker's hands. I think you are always in the business of looking for someone like that. I think it just creates problems for the defense and it gives the quarterback – when you have a sure-handed matchup that's generally running routes between the numbers, there's a comfort level in that."

You used Roman Harper a lot more with Kenny (Vaccaro) out; what did you see out of him last week?
"I thought he did well. I told him he was fresh and rested. He should have. What he does a good job with is that he anticipates, watches and helps himself with his knowledge of the game. He's able to be a step ahead of where he needs to be based on a formation or a key. Rarely does he get out of position. It's amazing what that does for you when you know exactly what defense you are in and then where you need to be to play the proper leverage."

Is yesterday the first time that you have given Drew Brees that veteran rest time?
"No, we have done it probably five or six times. We've done it a couple of times, I think, this year. I'd have to go back and look. It's never because of an injury so it might be the first time that we have put it on the report officially. There have been some times where he was just limited and so we put it there. Earlier in the year, I want to say on a few of the Wednesdays, he'd still work practice but we'd just reduce or eliminate the throwing."

Why would you want to do something like that?
"Just to keep a pitch count at this stage of the season and where he is at. We have done that before. You're typically doing that with players that have experience or have been in the league long enough. I think they did the same thing with Carson (Palmer) yesterday."

The game against the Bucs was another example of the defense limiting the yards but you guys are 1-4 in games where you hold teams to 340 (yards) or less; why is it so hard sometimes to find that complementary football and balance on both sides that you need?
"I think the good teams, you're always looking for that perfect game. That comes up once in a while where you have the ball, you win the time of possession, the third downs, the points, all of that, on both sides of the ball. I think generally the consistency of execution, the ability to take advantage of some of the opportunities the defense is giving you or vice versa, I think that is what you are trying to build. That is what is necessary week in and week out, to have a chance to succeed. With that all being said, even when you are not scoring at times, if you're not turning the football over, you're in a low scoring field position game, and there is nothing wrong with that. In other words, there is nothing wrong with that if it moves in that direction. You want to score points and you want to be able to take advantage of your red zone trips but I think the key is winning the game."

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