New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Friday, September 27, 2013
If Lance (Moore) can't go, do you feel confident in Kenny Stills?
"Yes, we have had a lot of guys and we had a chance in the preseason to get a lot of guys repetition so we will be ready if he can or he can't. I think it is one of the areas with the younger players we were able to get them a lot of reps so we'll see how this goes as the week progresses."
Did you have any specific advice for Jimmy Graham on how to handle this year?
"I don't think there was anything specific, other than just getting ready to get started in the offseason. He is a tremendous worker. He really wants to please and it is important to him. Along with the skillset and physical ability, those are all great combinations. There wasn't any magical meeting or sit down, it was him getting healthy and getting ready for a good offseason and the work that he puts in, and a credit to him, he works and goes really hard. A day like today on third down, he is receiving a lot of reps and he handles that well. He is in very good shape."
Is there a part of you that looks back at draft day and say, I knew it with the decision to pick him?
"No, that might happen occasionally, but that wouldn't be the case with Jimmy (Graham) to our scout's credit. When you are looking at a player's workout and they are reading the player, there are a series of readings, they are reading the player (Graham) who just played his senior year. He was a basketball player. There is a part of you as a coach that is skeptical at first just because of his experience, maybe his lack of playing time and after seeing the workout and spending some more time on the read. The area scout had a strong conviction for his ability, work ethic and (the answer to the question of) does he want to be a football player, all those things. It's a challenging process. I don't know that regardless of where you select a player that you say 'I knew it.' They come in as rookies and you're hoping to see what you drafted and what you thought was what you're going to get in the player. That always starts with that first exposure in rookie minicamp and then gradually confirmed or not sometimes. I know it's easy after the fact to say that, but obviously with each selection you make you have some conviction. Some of them never play to the level that you were hoping."
When did your skepticism start to fade?
"It wasn't so much skepticism, it was just in the process of during the evaluation, within that time frame of the meeting, your first exposure, you're looking at the film and you're hearing the people who have seen him on campus and seen the workout. As a head coach or general manager, some of us don't receive that same exposure. To the scouts who evaluate the players, what you really look forward to is a strong opinion (on the player), because you get a feel of what he likes. It was during that period of the meeting that might have been (where) we might spend thirty minutes on a player where he was graded. I think we had him graded in that round, maybe in the second. We took him in the third, correct? I do remember thirty seconds after the selection, getting a phone call from (Bill) Parcells and him saying- I think they were sitting somewhere after us, I can't recall the exact number. You could tell that that was someone who he had targeted, and that makes you feel good rather than him saying, 'What did you take him for?' To Jimmy's credit, he's come in and his transition has been fairly quick with maybe the lack of experience that a lot of players would have in college."
How much of his development can be attributed to Jeremy Shockey, David Thomas, and Benjamin Watson?
"There are a lot of things that factor in. You start with what the player wants and his willingness to work and attention to detail. It's very important for the room to be players that give this young player a vision. No different than it's very important for Drew (Brees) to be involved in his development and it's hard to be one of those players in this offense and not have to work at the pace Drew is working at. There were just a lot of things that evolved, or a lot of things that took place that were important to his development, starting with the player himself."
This is a 3-4 defense, yet a vast majority of the time it has been four-man fronts, and been successful. How does that work?
"A lot of it is dictated on the personnel that the opponent is sending out on the field. Every one of these teams that are a 3-4 base will play a lot of four-man nickel fronts to passing sets, so a lot of it's dictated on the personnel that you see offensively. You have your odd package, some even looks up, you combine them, and decide how you want to deploy them each week. It might vary. Some people like to run the ball in some of those nickel looks. Other people prefer to throw the football, and so there's always that flexibility. 15 to 20 years ago, you might sit in that odd look and still play a pro set or a slot set. You didn't receive the diversity in personnel groups that you do now, and so you didn't have as many sub personnel defenses. You had a few, so that's kind of a vault."
Does some of it maybe go into where you guys got so banged up at outside linebacker so early, that you figured maybe you maybe had the guys that you could do it with?
"We had to prepare to get our best people on the field, as well. Some of that is a three-safety look. We had to be somewhat flexible with the health of our players, but also with what we were going to see."
The Dolphins are near the bottom of the league in rushing and the Saints are not ranked very high either, yet the two teams are a combined 6-0. Is that sort of the way the league has evolved a little bit?
"I don't know that that's the case. I would say this: number one, these statistical rankings after week three are like your English grade after your first quiz. We have a lot ahead of us that I'm sure Miami just as well as New Orleans hopes to improve on in those areas. I think being plus (two) in the turnover/takeaway department has been important. The third down numbers have been important. It's really been a handful of reasons that you're able to win games, but it's important to recognize, 'Hey, this is our record. But, man, there's a lot of things that we have to get better at.' I think that is the most important mindset the player has to have. We are not by any means a finished product. We've got a lot we've got to work on. Certainly the rules have adjusted to benefit elements of the passing game, and yet you watch a game or you see the film of a game last night where San Francisco did a great job rushing the football, and when you're able to do that you control the game. That's important."
Are you concerned with the running game?
"I'm concerned always. As a head coach you are always concerned. You wake up in the morning concerned; you go home at night concerned. That's part of being a teacher. I'm not an alarmist, but you're always looking at, 'Hey. What are the areas we need to improve on in all of your phases?'
With both teams off to good starts, you've got this mix of young players and old players on both sides. What role at this level does confidence play when you've had a good start like each of these teams have had?
"I think in one specific area: when you're able to come from behind. Miami did it last week against Atlanta in a late drive to score and win. (We did it) a couple of weeks ago at Tampa Bay. It's easy to point to a few years and say, 'Well, the two minute offense and the team has always been able to rally from behind.' But, this is a different team. I said this the other day: that there are a lot of players here that you think may have a message or might understand a certain history, yet it's new. I think that's something that is slowly built favorably or not favorably throughout the course of the season. After three weeks, to have a game where you're able to come from behind and win, and you're able to make a play on defense or turn the ball over. Miami has been very good, very opportunistic at getting takeaways regardless of the department that we're talking about. It could be a return unit. You can begin to build that confidence then repeat that behavior based on the outcome."