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Sean Payton: 'You're always trying to find the right 53'

Coach Payton met with the media Sunday following practice

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2016 Training Camp Presented By Verizon
Sunday, August 14, 2016

Opening Statement:

"Nothing really from a roster standpoint. We had a handful of different situations introduced—short yardage, a couple of different packages that way. We had a chance to finish up, again, with some two-minute."

When you think about what you said about the run game last Thursday against New England, what have you seen in practice this week that would lend you to believe that you're into tweaking and fixing some of those things?

"There's a lot of fundamental work in regards to the technique. It's obviously the time of the year where you have full pads, you're working on the sledge, and working combination blocks. I think, regardless of this work during the week, you are cleaning up some of the fundamentals but you also want to see improvement in the next opportunity with the next opponent. It will be another pretty salty front (in Houston). These guys have historically defended the run well. But we've had some good periods. We'll continue. Tomorrow will be a little bit more goal line. We'll get that introduced and keep going."

When you've got versatile offensive linemen, does that allow you to have some roster flexibility, maybe go a little bit lighter on the line?

"You're always trying to find the right 53. You're careful not to pay as close attention to the position group numbers as the talent of the players. If you're really staying true to that, you're not afraid to be thin in one area and heavier in another because you think you have a better player in another area. The message oftentimes during training camp is when players start looking at just their line, they don't realize that it's much bigger than that. They're competing with the backup linebacker position, the backup receiver position, and those same players from every other team on the waiver wire. So there's a little bit more to it. I think that, obviously, there are some minimums you have to have, numbers wise. You're trying to protect your best roster positions."

In what ways have you seen Willie Snead grow this year?

"As a runner. For year one, it is a little bit easier to transition into a special teams role, in a niche. We felt he was a punt returner. We felt like we saw some good things. I would say that the competition at that running back position (has been an improvement for Murphy). We've seen (Daniel) Lasco and Murphy, (Travaris) Cadet, (CJ) Spiller—there are a number of guys and they all do some things differently. I think as a runner, we've seen more from him than a year ago, where he was obviously a running back, but we were more confident playing him just as a returner."

How does he handle some of that minutia (at the running back position)?

"The pass pro is still a work in progress. It's not the actual technique of blocking; it's sorting through the different protections as to whom to block. I think that he's sharp enough. I have seen growth at the running back position from him. I thought he played pretty well the other night as a returner, but he's had some good practices here. He had a stretch of two days that were probably his two best days as a runner. That was really encouraging."

What are you seeing from these linebackers as far as their ability to cover?
"The two that we signed in free agency, both run. That transitions into better coverage opportunities, better spots or landmarks. They both run pretty well. That's been the one thing. Their movement skills, which have allowed them opportunities to play well in the kicking game—both of these guys have played a number of snaps (elsewhere), and both of them are competing for snaps off of teams on defense too. I think that if you put the tape on, (Nate) Stupar had a really big fourth down play the other day in the game. That's encouraging."

What does it do for the defense behind and in front of them?

"It gives you more speed. It puts more speed on the field, guys that can run and cover. There are elements to our game, not exclusively, that are more opened up and more demanding of guys that can move."

That signal on the snap count, does that have to be the right guard?

"No, there are two schools of thought. If you're in silent snap count, the first school of thought is that the center is looking between his legs, and it's the center. If you have the right guard do it, it's so the center can keep his eyes up on who the Mike linebacker might be; he doesn't have the stress when he gets the tap or the double tap. You're doing one or the other, and we've done both. That would be the two ways you'd handle that. Either it's on the center, or you free him up and it's on the guard."

Is that something you keep an eye on with (Andrus) Peat?

"Yes. You want to be comfortable in either one because you're going to play in noisy and loud environments, so you don't want that to become problematic. The guards turning over his shoulder; the center is looking between his legs. We've done both. That's a good question. We're doing one or the other, and you've just got to get comfortable with one."

What are you looking for at that long snapper competition?

"You want consistency. There are some coverage elements to it. Justin (Drescher) had a strained calf, so we were kind of cautious. He was able to go, but we were just being smart with making sure that all of a sudden it didn't become more significant. We've had a chance now to have a week with both of these guys (Drescher and Chris Highland. So it gives you an opportunity to evaluate the younger player. For both of them, it's just that consistency, that ability to give you the same snap each time, from a punt to a field goal. It's not often you might have two long snappers in camp, but I think where Justin was at, it was important in the event that he pulls up. So, we'll take a look at both of those guys here next week. I think (Garrett) Griffin, the tight end who hasn't been practicing, he's another one that I think gives us some long snapping ability and some positional flexibility when he is healthy."

A lot of teams have specialized that position but how much value would there be in having a guy that could contribute on offense also?

"There would be a lot of value. Every team will have backup plan that currently exists on the defense or the offense but, it would be the exception if your long snapper was someone also playing another position and that would provide a lot of value. It's hard to find but, yes."

Obvious passing situation, wanting to get your four best defensive linemen on the field, could you see a defensive end rushing the inside like Bobby Richardson on (Sheldon) Rankins being off the edge as far as the mix up?

"I see this, I think Bobby (Richardson) has some flexibility, I really see (Sheldon) Rankins, I see (Nick) Fairley, those are inside rushers whether they are playing the wide three (technique) or the two-I (technique). There's a set of interior rushers and then there's a handful of guys that will rush outside. I think Bobby (Richardson) has some position flex. He is probably more suited in the nickel to come inside. (David) Onyemata will be an inside rusher. All those guys taking tackles, snaps. Occasionally we will take an edge rusher and bring him inside. Cam (Jordan) has come inside. I do not anticipate that being the case this year. Probably most of his production has come at left end and then obviously (you have Kasim) Edebali, (Davis) Tull, (and) Boom (Obum Gwacham). There's a handful of edge guys. I think it's two-fold, trying to get your best rush and then also trying to keep fresh with the rotation. It takes a lot out of you and you have to be able to rotate guys in."

Another day, another Michael Thomas one-handed catch. Is this becoming routine out here seeing this?

"I'm not anticipating a lot of one-handed catches. I want to see that one on tape. Yesterday he had a chance for a catch and kind of went up for it with one hand and was not able to come down with it and it should have been two hands. He has been productive, he competes for the ball, he has been able to high point the ball. The one thing we said when we drafted him was he is a guy that is comfortable when it is contested and very comfortable in catching it. We have kind of seen that in this camp and that has been encouraging."

How do you balance wanting to have size at that position with when you have some of these smaller guys out here that are consistently making plays?

"There has to be a redeeming trait. We prefer the bigger receivers and yet if they're not maybe at that prototypical height, weight, then they have to do something uniquely different and it's usually run. (Brandin) Cooks can run, Tommylee (Lewis) can run so there has got to be some redeeming quality if they are not big enough and then, obviously, with the size difference, you can play in this league if your time's maybe a tick off from what maybe others expect it to be. There've been a number of good players. Right now, maybe there's guys that have been a tick off on their forty times but they've got such size and leverage and they are strong players."

Do you find that those guys (Brandin) Cooks and Tommylee (Lewis) have played bigger than their size?

"It's not a matter of size. It's a matter of getting open and what's the skill set and so you're careful not to take those guys and bring them in in the heat of the traffic where the rest of the lions are. You've got to be smart but, generally there's something that they do exceptionally well."

Is it good to be able to get a longer look at Andrus (Peat) inside?

"Yes it is. Dan Roushar (and I) were just talking last night. It would be nice if we could just settle in and get a good period of time with this group the way they are lining up right now and, obviously, it's nice to have that flexibility where he can play one of the tackles but I think it's going to help him when he's just sitting at one spot for a while. Hopefully we're able to do that."

What have you seen from Tyeler Davison on film?

"He's been really good. I'd say his quickness at the snap (has been a strength), I think he's sudden, I think he's pretty instinctual, I think he's pretty smart. He's kind of a leverage player, he was a heavyweight wrestler so understands how to play off a block and can give you some good rush but, he has had a pretty good training camp. He would be our first string nose-tackle right now. He is. He's running with the ones and that's encouraging."

How do you think (Andrus) Peat has handled stunts?

"I think any of the movement is a challenge for a handful of guys. Terron (Armstead) is one guy who has had experience but when you get inside you are going to have to change direction. Senio Kelemete the same way, Senio (Kelemete), (and) Max (Unger) does a great job of cleaning up some of that but, that's just one element of time on task and we talked yesterday about a little cohesiveness. It really applies to those inside three guys when it comes to the movement except recognizing alignments and seeing what's coming and I think will just get better as he sits there because it's a much different technique outside than it would be inside with what you're getting."

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