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Sean Payton: " the expectations for us as a team are higher"

Quotes from Sean Payton's post-practice press conference on Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When you try to foster leadership as a coach is it something you target or allow to grow organically?

"I would say the latter initially. I think there are times where it's not that you can create it, (but) it begins to change each year with change. You begin to see it in younger players that are maybe in a role that is different from a year ago. There are times over the season where you might draw on something from an individual player that is a little bit more thought out. I think part of this process, not only is it with coaches getting to know the roster, the same thing with veteran players, younger players. We'll take and help something that we think is going to be of importance, (such as a) signal-caller on defense or offense, where you typically have that role to some degree based on what they are doing. Personalities and what they are doing have a lot to do with it as well. Some will lead quietly and some will lead vocally. There are different successful and healthy ways to do that. Typically it will be someone with playing time or who is going to receive significant playing time. Sometimes it comes from a veteran player who is not in the role that he used to be and he could provide it."

Have you talked to Champ Bailey about that?

"Yes, it would be really communicating in the beginning. I think it's important that the player understands the vision, whether it's a signed free agent, a veteran free agent or someone we drafted, what do we see your role as being. Specifically with someone like Champ though, (we would tell him) this is what we need, but knowing the skill set he has in regards to leadership and the level of respect for what he's accomplished, his leadership might come as a calming influence for the younger players."

Is this the earliest you have used crowd noise in practice?

"This would be the first time we have done it in minicamp. Typically it has come in training camp and the preseason games and it's what I said to these guys when we pulled up at the end of practice, it really is the reality of the game, whether it's the defense at home or offense on the road and obviously it changes a lot of the dynamics in communication on both sides of the ball. We wanted to implement it here (and) we'll do it a few times next week in the OTA's as we play with cadences and things that just help us get used to it."

Is this part of your overall plans to be better on the road?

"We put up our road statistics for our players and we talked about the front of the schedule. Certainly we want to play better than on the road a season ago and we've played pretty well in the last eight years. We're one of the top five teams. That being said we're talking about this team and when we're going on the road, we're generally dealing with crowd noise that is some kind of factor. Some places will be noisier than others. It's really more for us in a red zone or nickel situation. Working with communication there are a lot of things going on and with some of the snap things we are doing"

How important on the road is it for a running back to handle blitz pickup when they can't hear anything?

"Mentally the biggest challenge for the rookies that come into our league is the pass protection and then one step further the pass protection when it comes in third down and the nickel. You receive a lot different look and a lot more varied looks. The quicker it can slow down and the quicker they can see the protection (the better). The communication starts with the quarterback with regards to how we're treating that front, the better off we are. When you add noise to it, there's a lot going on. I think that's the biggest challenge for young running backs."

With Nick Toon, are you looking for a significant rise in his production and touches?

"Yes, I would say so. Part of that was what was ahead of him a year ago. It was hard to get him on the field. We felt like he had a real good training camp. I would expect him to play a bigger role for our offense this season. I thought he played real well in his opportunities last year in training camp. He's doing well here in this offseason. His progress is important to us. With the loss of a number of players, particularly Lance Moore, I think you'll see more snaps for him and more opportunities."

Day 2 of 2014 New Orleans Saints Minicamp presented by Verizon on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Photos by Matthew Sharpe (New Orleans Saints photos)

What do you think of Charles Hawkins?

"He's a guy that came here as a free agent and from a small school. He ran well. You saw it when we worked him out and you see it periodically in these drills. It's all the other little things you see in playing the position, formations, splits, alignments, route depths, some of those things are the key for him. He has the ability to get up the field. He can separate quickly. But it's also all the other things in playing the position."

Can he contribute on special teams too?

"We'll see. He'll have to at some point, be a gunner, be a returner."

I know you don't really look at things as having a number two receiver. Is Kenny Stills getting more of a route tree?

"Hopefully. It's easy to say they all have their various route trees. We do play Marques (Colston) inside. We did play Lance (Moore) inside a lot. Kenny can play inside. It would depend on the route, but he's someone that is pretty versatile. He can play more than one position. He is someone that can handle that, so we have to continue to get him different looks and touches. He's someone that after looking at him last year, we have to find a way to get him the ball more, so his transition, ability to stretch the field and use his hips to get in and out of cuts is something that has helped him."

He (Stills) averages 20 yards a catch but that is not necessarily the type of receiver he is in general?

"He can run.  I would not begin to say that he is a possession inside receiver.  He has really, really good outside speed.  It is just mixing up the route compliments and expanding his role."

Can you talk about having service men and women out to practice?

"I think that for us, I just like our players being around them.  Obviously they are fans and any time we have someone visiting they are always welcome to come out and we get a lot of correspondence from overseas.  I think it's the appreciation we have and the rest of our area has for what they do.  That is an easy one.  It is good to see them out.  I like our players being around them."

How much has Rafael Bush improved?

"I would say quite a bit.  I would say to start with, his confidence as to where he's going be.  He has an outstanding range.  He can run.  I think he has good instincts which is usually a key ingredient to a good safety.  Those first two or three steps are generally right with him.   You see his confidence and you see it coming from the classroom onto the field.  He is very instinctive.  I would say a lot."

Are you surprised at all about how well the three safeties system worked last year?

"With regards to last year, obviously it was a little bit of a result as to trying to get our best players on the field.  It wasn't necessarily hey, well it was in part to the loss of the outside linebackers, but it was also in part to hey, these are three guys that we felt like we needed to play.  We try to take that approach in every area of our game, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game.  I think Rob (Ryan) and his staff as they begin to get familiar with last year's personnel and who was healthy and who was going to be playing, he was really looking at your best 11.  I don't know if I have been somewhere where it has been that predominant or at least that much a part of your base as it was for us a year ago."

Do you view Akiem Hicks more of the edge now?

"I would say that I see him more of an inside tackle.  Now, he is listed as an end, depending on the scheme that we are in.  I think his strength, explosion and power is best for us when it is inside.  He has the flexibility to come inside but I think when you are talking about our nickel rush or our four man rush I would envision him being an inside guy.  When we get into our base personnel then there is some variances that could put him in different places."

When you talk about Mark Ingram, you always talk about you don't care how you got here, but there is a reality to that right?  Do you talk to them about that at all?

"Yeah absolutely.  No, there are times last year and even prior to that where there will be a chance to visit with them and encourage them and let them know hey, obviously that attention comes with a high pick, different than a later or middle round pick.  He gets that.  The thing with Mark, he has been in a program that is very similar to the attention that we get and the fanfare, the criticism and the compliments when you are doing well.  He understands that and if you are not careful how it can affect your play.  To his credit, a year ago, he did a good job tuning out some of the noise and then when the opportunities came when he got healthy you saw him play a lot better.  I think that comes with those early picks, especially those first round picks."

Do you ever see a guy trying too hard?

"I think the word would be pressing.  In other words, when he gets comfortable and he's playing and trusting his instincts as a running back he does a very good job.  I think it would be a term that we are all familiar with in sports and it wouldn't just be football, you don't want the athlete to be pressing and that is every play looking to…the big plays will come and trust the technique and the path and he did that and then all of a sudden his play and once he was healthy and his foot was better, you saw that.  You saw him begin to put together good football games and he knows that."

Is the defense expect more out of itself this year?

"Yeah, I think the expectations for us as a team are higher.  We go into each season, we look at a tough loss in the Divisional round of the playoffs.  Those are always tough pills to swallow when your season ends like that.  But I think on defense, yeah, I think they are looking to perform better than they did a year ago and correct some of the things that hurt us a year ago offensively the same way.  This is another team.  There are a handful of new faces that weren't here a year ago.  Obviously we are at 9o right now, so we have a long ways to go before the final roster is formulated.  But our goals are set high."

When you look at young linebackers, how hard is it to evaluate them now or is it almost something you have to do in preseason games?

"I think it is hard.  You get the assignment part of it, you get how they are fitting, their ability to react and get align, their ability to fit the right gaps, the mental element is a little easier right now and ultimately when the season starts how do they tackle, how are they playing in the kicking game, all of those things are questions that will get answered in July and August, early September, than right now."

Do you think you guys match up better against San Francisco and Seattle than you did a year ago?

"It's kind of early right now.  We are at 90 players and we are in minicamp.  Hopefully, we will see.  We will get a chance to see when the season starts.  It is a great thing about our league, it goes by wins and losses and you advance and put yourself in a position if you are good enough to get to the playoffs, but all of that is ahead of us right now.  We will get a chance.  That is why we are working."

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