New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Press Conference
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
How do you feel the expectations are compared to last year at this time?
"I think that we probably feel like we have fewer holes. We had a good crop of young players come in last year and contribute and had some unexpected (surprises). I don't think you ever expect real heavy contributions from first-year players, like the kind that we had (last season). I think overall we've got a young team and we've got a lot of first and second-year players, along with our rookies and I'm anxious to see how those guys develop and get better and I think we feel good about that."
Does this year heading into camp seem like you've had less adversity compared to some years past?
"Well, we've had our share as we know in the past and yet, yeah, I think this year was pretty quiet. I think we've got a really high character locker room and high character in our building in general, we've got a good group of smart players, we had a pretty clean offseason and I hope it continues."
Was there a concerted effort to invest in the offensive line the last few years or has it just added up to that?
"I think one of our philosophies here is that you have to be strong on the line offensively and defensively. I think you're always trying to improve, as well as create depth and replacements for when someone like Zach (Strief) over there retires on you. I think some of that (line additions) fell to us like Ryan Ramczyk last year. He kind of fell to us at the end of the first round. Some of it's a little bit of luck and obviously conscious awareness that you're always trying to improve that area of your team and are always trying to create depth."
Was that in any way tied to the longevity of Drew Brees?
"I don't think that's the case. I think every team in the league would say the O-line is a really important part of your team. It's the basis of your team and so we've been fortunate to make some good picks and we've been fortunate to do well in that area in free agency over the years."
How important do you think this season is for Terron Armstead, who's been injured in years past?
"Terron's a really, really good player, one of the better tackles in our league and he's had some unfortunate injuries. I don't think any of them are tied to each other. I think they've just kind of been things that have happened and look we pay attention to it. We're going to pay attention to his reps in the preseason, but he's had a good offseason this year and I think he feels good about where he is physically and the comforting thing is that we know that when he's on the field, he's one of the better offensive tackles in our league and so we just have to keep him there (healthy)."
Do things feel more settled this year, compared to the last few years in that there has been limited turnover on your coaching and scouting staffs?
"They feel settled. I will say that. Yet, we're in a business where there is constant change and a lot of those changes on our staffs, both in personnel as well as coaching are because these guys, younger guys and other guys are getting opportunities to advance themselves. That's a good trait to have. Now it's hard on Sean (Payton) and myself when we have to replace people. But it's a good thing when other teams want your people and so it's just something we have to deal with. I hope it continues to be (like that to be) honest. I hope that our guys do well and they have opportunities to advance themselves, but I like our staff. I like where we're at in the personnel department, as well as our coaching staff."
Can you share any technology that you will use that's new this season such as some of the helmets players are testing?
"I can't think of anything specifically. Look we're always looking at these new things that are out there. I would say the thing that we've got this year that's a little different is we've got a new state of the art training room and at some point I'm sure you guys will see it. But we've invested a lot in that area and I think it'll impact our team some. I do."
How would you view the type of contracts that have been signed recently around the league, such as with Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley for example?
"Remember, I started 33 years ago when players were making twenty-five and thirty-thousand or forty thousand or whatever the minimum (salary) was at that time. I go 'wow' every time I see a contract for any amount, because that's my reference point. I think of it as the way our league's doing well and the players are doing well. They deserve it. They deserve their share of the pie. When the prices go up that means that the league's doing well. That is the way I look at it. Look, we have our challenges in determining how to divide up the pie. But I think the players earn their money, I really do. They deserve it.
Is there a specific position group you are looking to see how it pans out?
"I think you are always interested in the competition that exists on your team. That is what's always interesting to me, are the guys that are surprises. Last year, we had some young guys that were a little bit of a surprise. Hopefully, we will have some more this year. But I think we've got a good core of linebackers. I'm anxious to see how that sorts out. Obviously, we've got to fill in for Mark (Ingram) these first four games, so we've got some really good candidates for that as well. So that'll sort itself out in training camp and then we've got a lot of young players, the rookies and how do they develop, the second-year players and how they improve and what can we expect out of them. We know what we got out of Alvin (Kamara) and Marcus (Williams) and Ryan (Ramczyk), but there are some other players in that class too that we're excited about. How does Alex (Anzalone) come back from his injury? I think there's a lot of things to be learned during this training camp and we're anxious to get started."
How different will it be that Mr. Benson is not here for this training camp?
"Well, it will definitely be different. It will be different for me because I spent a lot of time in training camp, probably more time during training camp with Mr. B than any other time. He loved training camp, being around the team and seeing the progress and talking about it for hours sometimes. I am going to miss that interaction. Mrs. B has been fantastic. We've kind of gone along without missing a beat. She's been very supportive. I think she's kind of anxious to get this training camp going. But it'll definitely be different."
What was the thinking behind not signing any veteran running backs in the spring, then signing two after OTA's and mini-camp?
"They did not fall to us because we were aware of them, but as we get a little farther into it, these two guys, Terrance (West) and Shane (Vereen) you are talking about, we felt like they could help us. They are different running backs. I think Sean (Payton) probably spoke about it, if you asked him that, they are not the same guy. They are a little bit different. They are good players. I think we would have been interested in them whether Mark (Ingram) was facing a suspension or not. You know it happens, sometimes the price comes into your realm."
Will you give your thoughts to the league office regarding the Anthem process?
"Yes, I think at this point, we're waiting to see what comes out of the NFL and the NFLPA meeting. We'll see where they land and then we'll act accordingly."
Can (Daniel) Lasco return and play for the Saints this season after being put on the Reserve/PUP list?
"He can't return to play for us the season."
Would you compare the NFC to the Western Conference of the NBA in terms of the competitiveness?
"I do not know that I see it like that. We have a tough conference and a lot of good teams and a tough division. It is just the way it falls and we are going to face it. We have for the last couple of years, obviously three teams in our division making the playoffs last year. They are all going to be good. They all improved, Tampa is improved. So we have an uphill battle and everything that was done last year's just behind us. We are not going to be able to rely on that. We have to establish our identity and we'll see what happens."
Why was Kurt Coleman someone you guys got before free agency actually began when the safety market has been slow?
"That's a guy that Sean (Payton) has talked about in the past with me, the kind of characteristics he had, the traits that he had. He's smart. He plays tough. He's a team guy just all the qualities that you want on your team and so he comes available and we jump on the chance to get him and I think he's excited to be here number one and obviously we're excited to have him. I think he'll help a young group back there. I know he will.
Is it different when a division guy comes up in free agency that you have the opportunity to sign and are maybe more familiar with?
"Well, I think you just have more to go on. You see him play more, but particularly you know the coaching staff, when they're evaluating and advancing a team that we're going to play, they get to see him more than you would somebody outside your division. It is a guy that Sean (Payton) in particular was very familiar with and excited about when we had the opportunity to get him."
Marcus Williams didn't get the accolades of Marshon Lattimore and Alvin Kamara, maybe not even Ryan Ramczyk last year, but what was your internal scouting review of how good he was?
"It was very positive, very positive and excited to have him too, another player that is really smart, a team guy. We couldn't be more excited to have him.
With Lattimore he covers number one receivers we can all see that; was it really important for you guys to land on a free safety on the backend of that defense? Was that a position you have been trying to hit for a couple years?
"We drafted Marcus (Williams) last year so obviously it's an important position. It's an important position for any team to fill. You want a guy that has a lot of range and a guy that can be the quarterback to your defense at some point. I think Marcus can do both of those things for us.
This could be another year that you start to see something different at linebacker? Any reason you think that's been a hard position to fill?
"Well, we'll see how that shakes out. We're going to put the best guys on the field, the best three guys on the field and I think the good news here is we've got a lot to choose from and they're all good players, good leaders, smart and tough. I'm excited about the group, probably most excited about the group that we've been in quite a while."
Since you have been here, you look at all the positions, one position that has never been a weak link is the center position. When you look at Brian De La Puente who played in 2011, the offense was unbelievable, number one by far, and breaking records. Now with Max Unger you continue to have success. How important is it to have that stability there?
"Max is one of these guys that is a little bit of an unsung hero for our club. The guy next to you (Zach Strief) can speak to it better than I can, but I think Max is a really good leader in that room and he's a smart player, a tough player and he's seen a lot of things. There's not many things that he hadn't seen. He can communicate that and settle the group down, and that's been an important piece of that trade for us. He's been a really good player, a really good guy for our team since we've gotten him, and I'm excited about Max, plus he went to Oregon (laughter) so I'm double-excited."
In addition to Drew Brees getting the receivers out to San Diego last week, it seems there has been a bunch of Saints guys that have gotten together, working out in the off season. How much do you pay attention to that and how much do you think that helps?
"I definitely think it helps. Look, I think that's part of building a team chemistry and I think that is as important to winning as the talent that you have. You need to have guys who trust each other and are confident that each guy is going to do his job and the more time that they can spend together on the field enough, I feel that contributes to that. So that's a good thing."
What made you all confident in Cam Meredith coming off that injury?
"That's the medical evaluation. We know the player. and so it becomes a question of the medical and the reports that we got from our medical staff were positive and he's done a good job of rehabbing and we like where he's at right now."
Is it because of the amount of young players on the roster that you wanted to go out and sign a number of veterans like Kurt Coleman and bring a guy like Benjamin Watson back?
"I don't know that it was specifically tied to that. Look, you can sign what's available in free agency and what you can fit in your cap and how the requirements you have on your team and so some of that is just circumstantial. But I think we're looking again for smart players. We're looking for guys that are team guys, that understand how to win and as much as their talent. So I think all of these guys fit the bill."
You mentioned earlier you like seeing the surprises. Does it feel like there's less room for surprises this year than maybe other years?
"Yeah that's kind of what I was referencing. I think there is less room for surprises which is kind of a good thing but I'd like a surprise or two as well."
What about at defensive end on the other side from Cam Jordan. To what extent do you feel you know exactly what you have there?
"Obviously, we made the trade for Marcus (Davenport) and we are anxious to see the development of him, but I think Alex (Okafor) has done a good job rehabbing from that injury and he was having a really good season for us a year ago and I am anxious to see that he can get back to that. I think he will. I feel pretty good about that. Trey Hendrickson and has done a good job for (us), so I think we've got candidates there, as well as some guys that have proven they can do it."
Are you looking forward to being grilled by the new radio play-by- play announcer Zach Strief?
"Yeah I don't know if I'm looking forward to it, but I know what's going to happen."