Photos from New Orleans Saints practice on Thursday, September 4, 2014. Photos taken by Alex Restrepo (New Orleans Saints photos)
New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton Post-Practice Media Availability,
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Opening Statement:"Just one roster move, linebacker Todd Davis came off the practice squad today and then we signed quarterback Ryan Griffin to the practice squad. Today's practice was much like every Thursday will be, with third down emphasis and two minute and a lot of nickel work. Any questions?"
The faces are the same with the running back group, but how are they different coming into this season?
"We feel like with the four players that we have there is some versatility. I would say both Mark (Ingram) and Khiry (Robinson) are guys that would be every down runners, and I would say this offseason for both of them has really helped them with regards to the protections, particularly Khiry. I think Mark is further along, and has been, but the ability for those guys to do multiple things is important. Pierre (Thomas) is someone that does a lot of things well. He can play in the base, he can play in the nickel. I would say Travaris (Cadet) has the unique skillset where he does a handful of things in the passing game and he's been more consistent as a runner. There is some flexibility there with those guys. Obviously the ability for some of them to play in the kicking game, like Travaris does, helps us. Trying to work those guys into a flow, there's never any set way to do it. A lot of times you have to pay attention to how a runner is doing, but I think we are pretty deep there. It has been a position that, knock on wood, fortunately through training camp we have been healthy and those guys have really done well."
How much has the running game improved since Terron Armstead started on the offensive line?
"When you have someone who's got those types of physical abilities, he is able to move, that can obviously be an asset on the backside of run schemes as far as his landmarks and what he is trying to get accomplished, no different than point of attack. He has done well. He has been very consistent. I think in his second year, with the reps he's getting now, he is really working daily on some of the things he knows he is going to see, how to set on power, how to set on speed and counter, landmarks and then the little things in regards to studying the opponent and knowing who you are playing against from base to nickel. That all can vary."
How improved is Mark Ingram in the passing game now compared to his rookie year?
"The first challenge is always just our protections. That is the one thing, how much can they learn with regards to protecting the quarterback because they become very one dimensional if they can't block the blitz. Then you have situations where you have to release him all the time and they can't be in a protection. I think Mark picked it up very quick. I think he's gotten more work in certain parts of the passing game and I think that is important. He understands, and he is physical enough and he's been a guy that we feel like blocks pressure well, matches up with linebackers well, and I think that has helped him."
It seemed like everything fell into place with all the roster moves you made the past few days. How satisfying is that?
"The one was pretty elementary and the current rule with regards to injured reserve and putting a player on that injured reserve with a designation to return, that's basically the six week time frame, can be done on Tuesday. We kind of knew the direction we were going with that and then it was just a matter of basically terminating a vested veteran that you think you have a good chance to sign back on Tuesday. Then the latter was Ryan (Griffin) and being able to bring up Robert Meachem. There is no science to it. Managing and trying to get down to 53 is always a challenge. I said this before, I like the opportunity that we have with 10 practice squad players. I think that is the best way to develop players in our league. Today was in fact the slideshow where we put up about 256 guys that have played in the NFL that were on practice squad rosters, Pro Bowl players that were on practice squad rosters and then since 2006, here are the however many practice squad players we've had, 170 or so, and of that list, here are the guys that made it to active rosters. There are a ton of players that are getting developed and going on to have really good careers that were once practice squad players. You take a name like Arian Foster, ou take a name like (Chris) Clemons in Seattle, I can go on and on and the thing that gets you excited if you are a pro scout is knowing that 32 teams have 10 players right now. I am not real good at math but I think that is 320 players. Take those 320 and I can tell you for a matter of fact there's 100 of those 320 that are going to end up on active rosters and then you take those numbers and say 20 will be Pro Bowl players. Our job is to scout and find those guys and potentially bring them from another team to your active roster. That is a little tougher said than done because you have limited exposure with regards to basically the preseason games. You don't see their practice tape, but when you look at the numbers it is a fact. We're paying attention to that, paying attention to your roster, and typically in the early part of the season you'll see a lot of movement on team's rosters and then certainly toward the latter part of the season you begin to see it as well."
But knowing the interest of other teams in Ryan Griffin, how dicey was your decision?
"There is risk involved with that absolutely. Absolutely, because, again, I was just explaining the vested veteran is terminated and he can choose wherever he wants to go. The players that aren't veterans are waived and they are all subject to claim. The claiming order starts with the team that drafted first and goes all the way back to the Seattle Seahawks, that is the order of the claim. Now at some point this season the claiming order will shift from last years to the current standing and that takes place, I think, in the middle of the season. But there is a risk involved."
Was this a plan that you all started kicking around?
"As you are looking at your roster, going into the fourth preseason game you might have 45 names up and these last eight, you have this group of practice squad candidates and then finally when you get through the last preseason game and you start looking at it and then you start looking at a player like Khairi (Fortt) who really we weren't able to get a ton of evaluation on. You begin to think about our numbers at certain positions, so it is kind of an ongoing process and then just as you get closer to the final cut down you start kind of finalizing things."
How different is it to not have to defend against Tony Gonzalez?
"The thing that he was so great at is, even in tight coverages he could find a way to put himself almost in a rebounding position where the throw comes away from the squeeze and if the throw is right and the body position is right, it is really hard to defend the play. He was very good at that, and for a long period of time. His threat in the red zone, his size, it is problematic just like Jimmy (Graham) creates problems, he is a guy that has done it forever it seems like. We sent him his retirement card, and now Julio Jones is someone that obviously will help them and someone that, and I said it yesterday to their media, you have to be aware of where he is at on the field every play."
What impresses you the most about Julio Jones?
"He has great size, great athleticism. He can run. He has fabulous hands. He is the type of player that on draft day, and you see all of these different things happening in a team like Atlanta moving up, he is the type of player that merits that. It can appear from the outside as 'man, they are giving up a lot' but I think everyone who was involved in the process of scouting him, you recognize what kind of player he was."
Can you talk about Junior Galette's extension?
"I think it is significant. It speaks volumes for him as a player. His path traveled, you guys have already written about it, was not easy. We talk about occasionally a player coming in on a taut leash, his was like real taut. His competitiveness, and I think his love for the game and his willingness to conform and excel. He is just one of those guys that seems to have energy at every practice. I think that is contagious, and I think that he has not only grown up off the field, but you see him on the field becoming a better player every year. He is excited, I know that we are. It is good when you are able to take either a draft pick or players that have come up in your program and secure them like that."
How important is it for the organization to have other players see how he has completely bought into this team?
"I think the players see the work ethic and the commitment and also the results. He had a real good season last year. I know we expect him to have another good season this year, but his energy level, it brings a lot to the defense. He is an important part of what we do."
You guys made light of the road record in some ways last year. Going into this offseason when you do your self-scouting, how much more self-scouting did you do on things that could affect road performance?
"I don't know that we looked at it any differently. I think we just paid close attention to finishing games. In a couple of those games, you obviously get into the fourth quarter with some tough loses. We typically go through the self-scout by categories. You look closely at things you want to do. You want to talk about the turnovers on defense, I think the emphasis points were (to) finish and secure the game. There were times where you get into the four-minute and you need a first down; we need to do a better job of that. That category would apply to being at home or on the road, but it just so happens that a couple of those times they were on the road. Outside of that, it would be pretty much the norm."
How much do you lean on Drew as a teacher to the others? Are there times that he can articulate things to the other players that you might not be able to?
"I think that happens daily. If you just followed him around for a day, watching in practice, you would see him occasionally talk to a receiver about a depth. It happens in the film study. Look, those guys are an extension of the coaching staff. A quarterback like Drew or Matt (Ryan), you forget that they have seen so many different receivers and so many different tight ends and so many different running backs that they get used to a certain area or location of a play. They absolutely are part of what we're doing in regards to the development…I would say probably as important of a role as any."
Is your level of teaching higher? You seem to be more hands-on during practice.
"It's a little bit more manageable and easier with the roster at 53. Look, it's game week now and as coaches we are always teaching. When you get into a limited amount of reps that we have, the challenge during the work week is to get what you need covered but not be out here for three hours and wear your team down. Wednesdays we go pretty hard, and as the week progresses we're installing other elements to the game plan but yet we are being careful about how we practice it. The thought being is one little thing left without a comment on or a detail that maybe you see needs to be cleaned up, might be the one single thing in a game. I think that drives you a little bit, all of us as coaches."
Have you decided who's going to call the plays yet?
"We'll figure that out. We'll probably see how the coin toss goes."
Who would your emergency quarterback be if both Drew and Luke McCown went down?
"Ryan (Griffin), potentially if he was on the active roster. Lance Moore was it last year. We took out stats and did a study here last week, and the two guys that have played the most amount of quarterback would be Travaris Cadet and Jairus Byrd. Now, Jairus Byrd's numbers were better, but Travaris played in college. Travaris would probably be someone to handle that role. We just recently did that and talked about it, same thing with the snapper, the punter and the kicker. We'll have a period tomorrow, just an 'Are you ready?' period where hypothetically the center is out, the long snapper is down, hypothetically the punter is down, hypothetically the kicker is down, and just take a snap. You hope you go through the season and it doesn't come up, you just have to be prepared if it does."
Thomas Morstead said he kicked 75 percent in college, would you be comfortable with him?
"If you're kicking with someone other than your game day kicker, 75 percent looks pretty good."
Is Julio Jones a guy you have to specifically game plan for? When healthy, does he change the dynamic of that offense?
"Absolutely. I don't know that he changes the dynamics of the offense, but it would certainly be an understatement to say that he enhances it or makes it better. When you have a player with his ability on the field healthy, that's a big plus for them. He's got strong hands in traffic, he's got exceptional speed and size, and the other thing is that he's a load to tackle when he has the ball in his hands. Yards after the reception are difficult…not difficult for him, but difficult to defend. Yeah, it adds a dimension to your game plan. Different than Tony Gonzalez maybe a year ago, now it's a receiver…where is he at and what is the plan with each play?"
Keenan Lewis said he's looking forward to playing him. What do you see in that matchup?
"There will be times where it will vary how we cover him. The great thing about corners in any good secondary is that they look forward to the challenge. On the road against an offense like they have and the quarterback that they have, there will be these ebb and flows. You've got to get on to the next play. Keenan has good size, he had a really good season for us, and this will be a good test, especially week one with the uncertainty of formations and where guys line up."