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Sean Payton talks running backs

Sean Payton met with the media after practice on Tuesday

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Opening Statement: "We had an installation, which was prominently more third down. Most of, if not all of practice was nickel and dime and third down until the very end when we did a little team red zone. I thought we fought through it pretty well, especially as the practice went on we got better. This afternoon we've got meetings and then just a walkthrough in the PM. We're pretty much going to be working against each other until the end of the week when we'll switch gears to the Texans."

What excites you about your secondary, a mix of younger and older guys?

"I think we do have experience, and then you add a first round draft pick (Kenny Vaccaro) who's doing very well. You add Keenan Lewis, you add a few of those pieces (and) I think we have good competition. We have some young guys that have really stepped up. (Rod) Sweeting has done a good job, Jabari (Greer) is healthy right now (and) I think Patrick Robinson probably had one of his better practices today. I would say (today was) the first time where you saw him getting a lot of team work, he was very active and moved around pretty well. There's a combination of some young guys and veteran guys, but I think that gives us a chance. Of course Roman (Harper) and Malcolm (Jenkins) are guys that are experienced and are playing pretty well right now. I think there's a combination of both."

Has Rod Sweeting surprised you?

"We have a handful of college free agents that are competing for a spot on this roster. He's one of them. That's always a good thing."

How do you improve tackling without actually doing it at practice?

"One of the first things is being in the correct position. If you're in the correct position then you have a chance at teaching and executing all the fundamentals these guys have practiced, being in position as opposed to out of position. Another thing I would say is your overall pursuit to the ball. Any real good defense has had, on every snap, 11 guys flying to the football without hesitation. I think that's one of the number one allies and I think it really reduces angles and options for the ball carriers, whether it's the receivers, running backs, or a tight end. Pursuit and being in the right position."

How has Drew Brees been able to maintain such a high level and what has he done this camp to really make sure that that's the same?

"Well he's a unique athlete in that he's very driven, he's motivated by winning (and) he's very competitive. He's also someone who is extremely diligent in his preparation, his work ethic, and his diet. Everything that goes into being successful, he's interested in. That, along with his physical ability and his athleticism, makes for a pretty good combination."

What have you seen from him in the first two preseason games from Brees?

"The one thing I'd say is that he's working with some younger players that he does not have the snap reference to that he would with a Lance Moore or Marques Colston. I think that it's imperative that those guys paint a clean picture for the quarterback. In the passing game, the tight end, the running backs, then receivers have to be at their landmarks and they have to be there one time with the right depth. They have to create separation if it's man to man and he's someone that's going to equally distribute the football based on the coverage looks. That's something that they're finding out and out there learning (about). I think their growth is party attributed to what he pushes and demands as well."

Are you seeing what you want to see as far as Will Smith's transition from defensive end to outside linebacker?

"Absolutely. There's enough defense and enough packages where outside, just the 3-4 where he's playing one of the outside linebacker positions, he ends in an end positions in of the sub packages. He plays the point of attack well. For the handful of snaps that he ends up in space, I think he's becoming more comfortable with that."

Is he a hybrid right now?

"I think if you take any one of these teams that are in a 3-4 front, the minute you get into your sub packages, these outside linebackers generally become ends in the pass rush. I think they would all be considered that. Their base position, if we're in a 3-4 front, would be at that Sam or Will. The minute we break out of that front, most all of them are trained to be at that end position in the set."

Do you have any kind of feel on Jonathan Vilma?

"Nothing yet. I'll keep you posted. We're rehabbing him; everything is going well. We're just being smart and we're optimistic. We're just going to keep working the rehabs and go from there."

Can you talk about Will Herring?

"He's had a good camp. He's someone that obviously we feel like can play in the special teams, but I think he's played well defensively in this camp and in the games. He's one of those guys competing for a roster spot and I think the other thing about him is that he knows exactly who he is, but he's been very consistent."

Is he (Herring) injured or was he just resting today?

"There's a handful of guys that we sat today. We'll do the same tomorrow based on where they're at."

What does a Jerico Nelson, a long shot, need to do to make the team?

"I don't think he's a long shot. I think more than anything else, it's the kicking game. nut I'm anxious to see him. He's receiving some snaps in the kicking game and for those safeties who may not be on the initial starting lineup or in the initial defensive package, if we're bringing them to a game they're going to have to be playing on all the kicking game snaps. He is somebody I think can do that."

Cameron Jordan's attitude seems to be very good for someone who has had to change positions. Your thoughts?

"I think he's in a real good spot with his stature and his weight right now. He's in great shape. He came in in great shape to the conditioning test. He has very good stamina and is a tough player. I think he was one of the bright spots a year ago and he's handled this transition really well. He's going to be on the field a lot, not only on the base. He rushes the passer well, he's physical, and he's provided good leadership. He has worked hard."

Have you put more emphasis on conditioning this preseason than in years past?

"I don't know. I think we've tried to get three in a week in years past. Today was a day where we didn't do as much, but we still got some in. Each day we kind of just see where we're at with practice, but we'll try to get at least three in each week for the first month of training camp and preseason."

Is that the idea behind that to prepare for the fourth quarter?

"What's getting ready to happen is, these guys that have started off playing twelve snaps and eighteen snaps and thirty snaps are very shortly going to be playing more than that. It's just really preparing your body to have that staying power to play the whole game."

Does this Texans team present a good challenge for you?

"Absolutely. They are one of the top teams in the league right now. It was a team I saw a lot of last year. They run the ball extremely well, they're very good defensively, they take it away, they're very good with their pass rush, and they've built themselves an outstanding program. We've had a chance to kind of see it first hand with the amount of work that we've had with them, be it training camp, practice, or preseason games. Rick (Smith) and Gary (Kubiak) and those guys have done a great job. We always look forward to the opportunity. We've played them quite a bit in the preseason, but this will be a good test for our young team and a lot of our guys."

J.J. Watt has become kind of the gold standard for a 3-4 end. Would there be any similarities between he and Cameron Jordan and how you want to use him?

"They're going to be aligned in a similar position. They both probably are going to play not only in the base, but in the nickel. How they're used, there will be some similarities. With Watt, he's around the ball, he's relentless, very athletic, and he's very powerful. He's someone that plays a lot of snaps and is a challenge for whoever is matched up against him."

3-4 end is kind of an underappreciated position. How impressive is it that Watt is so revered?

"That's a credit to him. A lot of 3-4 ends may or may not come off the field in sub situations, but he's good enough (to stay in for three downs). He excels in rushing the passer and you see him on all the downs."

Do you see Cameron Jordan in that same way?

"I'm not making a comparison between the two players, but Cam is somebody for us that is going to play more than just in the base."

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