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Sean Payton on Wednesday's training camp practice

Coach Payton spoke with media following Wednesday's training camp practice in Metairie

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Opening statement:

"We kind of split (between) Pittsburgh emphasis in four of the periods and then some competition in the others."

Why did you take the two fans out of the crowd?

"It was kind of spontaneous. We knew we were going to have a little kicker competition and we just decided we were going to include two (fans) and (they) called the coin toss. We didn't make the loser do up downs. I was just sitting out here in the heat and wanted to get them involved."

Just a random act?

"Absolutely, five minutes before I was looking around thinking, alright we are going to have two people as guest captains. They did a good job."

How is the kicker competition going? Is anyone winning enough?

"You're asking the question, which means it probably is close right now. You know what I mean. We have to continue in the next two weeks, next two games to continue to try and put them in situations where something jumps out. Both of them are handling it well. Hopefully, we receive more opportunities in this game. Whether it be the field goals, PATs, but we are going to be looking at that position at kickoff more, rather than have Thomas (Morstead) do that."

Stephone (Anthony) was adjusting to a new position, now that he is back what have you seen from him?

"There are a handful of guys that came back into practice mode after Houston. He is one of them and he is moving around good and I'm encouraged with his rehab and I think he's been solid. I think there is still, obviously, some things he is working on, but it's good to have him back out here.

What are you wanting to see against Pittsburgh?

"I want to see our first offense do better. I want to see us play better in the front (offensive line). I want to see us run the ball better. The third down numbers have been solid, but I'd say that's important. There are a handful of position battles. It is still selecting that right group for the 53 and I'd say there are a number of spots, much like what we just said with the kickers. Where in deciding a player, how is he going to help us in the kicking game and how many snaps do we envision him getting, will he be active week one? (Getting to) 53 then all of a sudden, inactive is your group, with this player what's the vision. Whether it's in the backend defensively or defensive front, some of those offensive line position or running back positions. There are a handful of spots that you're hoping that in the third preseason game you can see some guys step up."

Kenny (Vaccaro) seems to be getting his hands on the ball more, what do you think of his camp?

"He is having a good camp. (Kenny) Vaccaro has been active. He's been that way in the games as well. He's picked things up with what we are doing, (as far as) some of the changes and I think he is in really good shape. I think what you're seeing, we are seeing."

Who would make the best Olympian on the team, Kenny Vaccaro maybe?

"He would be a candidate. I don't know what the event is, but he would be a candidate. Can't discount a guy like (C.J.) Spiller, just with his speed. Thinking of the events here. Terron (Armstead) I just don't know the event for him. (Brandin) Cooks looked like the Olympian today with his tights. He looked most like an Olympian. Powerlifting, there would be a few candidates there. After watching, what little we could watch, you really appreciate how good a handful of those athletes are. I mean it's unbelievable to watch."

What are some of the things that receivers can do to get better after the catch?

"First thing, it sounds as simple as (this). They have to learn how to stay out of the air when catching the ball. If you ever watch receivers, at times they will take this small jump to catch a football. When that happens there is a second where they are not moving and everyone else is. Stronger hands and the ability to pluck a ball in front of you with your feet on the ground can help dramatically. If you took the top 5 receivers in our league that have the best YAC (yards after catch) numbers, you are going to look at guys that catch the ball out in front of them with their feet on the ground and they are not in the air to catch it. That is one thing that jumps to mind. How they catch it and their feet on the ground."

Is there any vision element to improve YAC?

"Some of that is instincts and ball security, but the real good run after catch guys while they are running and they don't have that pause to secure it. They actually catch it in stride and obviously the throw matters, but they are confident in their hands away from their body."

How much of a learning curve is there for a guy like David Onyemata?

"I think quite a bit and I think going in we knew there was a limited amount of playing time, but there were a handful of things that he was able to do that we just saw (that made us say) wow. Even the East and West (game) exposure and how he played in that game, because that was the first time he was getting lined up across from a better player than maybe he would have been (up against) in Canada. He is smart and there is a learning curve that is a little steeper, but I fully expect him to continue in the direction he is going. He is very athletic, he can move his body and get on an edge and is pretty strong. I think we just have to keep working the fundamentals, pad level and him getting familiar with the amount of what we are doing. Also, us looking at a role specific early on so that it's not all encompassing."

Is it fair to say that he has so far exceeded your expectations in what you have seen so far?

"I don't know that I would use that but he is what we were hoping to draft. The early impressions of this draft have been real positive. Start with Sheldon Rankins and go all the way to (Daniel) Lasco. You guys are watching him. He made a kick coverage tackle each week, which is what we saw (on tape). He is tough, he can run (and) he is explosive. All of these guys have done some things that have really been encouraging. That is a good thing."

How much do you actually game plan for the third preseason game?

"I would say more in this game than any of the other three. We have been on Pittsburgh already film-wise (and) scouting report-wise. Now the unique thing when you practice with someone is you get an exposure that you can't replicate. So today, we're doing Pittsburgh periods like last week we were working with Houston, and then the week before, we were working with New England. That is the exception. But from a film study, a handout, a game plan book and a personnel report, more this week, trying to put everyone in that mindset as to how it will be when we get going here and start playing against Oakland."

Can you teach receivers to be tough over the middle? Is it something they either have or don't?

"Well, they come with that being a strength or a weakness. I feel like you can improve that. It still gets back to strength of hands, confidence in hands and their ability to catch it in stride with their feet on the ground. Obviously, if there is confidence in their hands, then they are better prepared to catch the ball and get in a football position. The courage element that I think you are referencing to, I think some of that comes with confidence."

What do you want to see from Drew (Brees) on Friday?

"Typically, in that position, there are a lot of things that have to function well for him to function well. One of the challenges of evaluating the quarterback during preseason is sometimes you're trying to receive a good evaluation. In the second half, maybe there's a guy that's struggling in protection, and yet you receive an incomplete evaluation. I think we're expecting to play guys a good half. I see our first group on both sides of the ball playing this first half. How many snaps we receive at that point, we'll make some decisions on. Just that overall efficient operation. His tempo that he's used to others have to quickly get up-to-speed with, and moving the ball and scoring. Those are the important things. I know that he is looking forward to this game and for good reason."

How do you think (Drew Brees) has handled new faces on this offense?

"I think good. Here he is right now and there are a handful of young guys that are on a race to get on the same page. That is not different any year. As you have newer receivers, newer tight ends or guys that maybe haven't had the experience with some of the subtleties of the coverages or what we are seeing. I think the key is that those players need to paint the right picture for the quarterback. They need to be where they are supposed to be, their timing – all of that."

As you guys start looking at roster cuts, how do you weigh potential versus proven veteran players?

"A lot of it is, (with) the proven player, where is he at today. Then, the (player with) potential, where is he at today. At some point, you have to see it on film from either group. The young player needs to demonstrate this is what he can do and he's showing you he can do it. The veteran player, now it may not happen every day in practice, but he still needs to demonstrate that he still has it. I think we look at that closely."

Can a younger player make a couple of egregious mistakes that outweigh everything else on the field?

"I think you have to be smart (and) really have to look at the body of work. A guy like (Marcus) Murphy for instance, I think he is a good punt returner. Now he had a fumble and he is as disappointed as anyone. I expect him to bounce back this week and play well. He played well the week before. You look at each of those situations and you really want to be smart in your decision."

Have you identified that blocking receiver that can be used in the jumbo sets?

"I think we have a few guys that I know. (Willie) Snead is a guy that is physical. I think Michael Thomas is physical. I think that Brandon Coleman is a guy. If you're just looking at size. (Brandin) Cooks is a willing blocker. The trick is what is the scheme and who is he blocking. I think we should be fine in that area. I think we should be physical in that area. If we're going to run the ball well, generally, somebody is blocking the perimeter well."

With you guys breaking after this game, what did you think about everything that went on over the past month?

"Good. We're healthier maybe than we have been in a while. I said last night in the meeting that it seems as if this year, there are less hamstrings than I can ever remember. There have been some camps where it kept guys from practicing. We got a couple of guys back after Houston. That is one impression. We weren't rained out at all, whether it was on the road against one of those teams or up in West Virginia. We have had some good heat here and yet guys have worked through it. Overall good, real good."

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