<span style="">Saints Monday Notebook
Saints players were back at their practice facility first thing in the morning today. The first item of business was lifting weights and running, followed by some players receiving medical treatments from the team's trainers, followed by a group meeting and individual position group meetings. Players will get their customary day off tomorrow while the coaches continue their game-plans for Sunday's game at FedEx Field against the Washington Redskins (0-1) (12:00 p.m. CT kickoff).
Quarterback Drew Brees was asked his initial take on the Redskins, who traveled to New Jersey to face the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants last Thursday night. "I think all of us in this locker room understand how difficult it is to go into the stadium of the team that is making their debut in front of their home fans following a Super Bowl victory," Brees said. "We faced it last year and it was very tough. But what I took out of watching the game the other night is how tough the Redskins were after things settled down a bit. I mean, they shut them out in the second half of the game and that obviously is an awfully good offense the Giants have. It doesn't get any easier for us, that's for sure."
Brees also spoke about the Saints' thrilling 24-20 win over the Bucs yesterday. "It was a good win. I don't think you could have drawn up a better script," Brees said. "It was a story about the city and us overcoming what we had to overcome during the week in another place, having to practice and prepare a lot of the time with our hearts and minds back here in New Orleans hoping everybody would be okay. Some guys came back here and did not have power in their homes, staying in a hotel with their family, wife and kids and then obviously showing up on gameday having to play a divisional opponent and division winner last year coming into our place, needing the win really badly and obviously the fans came out in full force with it coming down to the wire. You always wait for that game during the season, the one that's going to come down to the wire to see what you're made of to put it together as a team and come out with a victory."
Head Coach Sean Payton also met with the press around mid-day and shared some insight into the game yesterday and the team's planning this week.
Payton on the game after he and the coaching staff watched film this morning:
"After watching the tape and meeting with our guys, I think there are a lot of things to be pleased with. Obviously, it's an important win to start the season against a divisional opponent, but there are still a lot of things that we're going to have to clean up and that's much easier to do coming off of a win than a loss. Today's tape work is critical for us, especially from the first week of the regular season and into the second week where you're finally playing guys for their full allotment of time. Starting in the kicking game and then defensively and offensively, there are a lot of things that we can improve on.
"The good news is that I thought we did a pretty good job of eliminating the big plays, which was one of our big challenges going into this game. When it came to explosive plays, we won that battle clearly. I thought our guys played with poise. Even after we gave them the first touchdown we battled back and if you watched the game it was kind of a back-and-forth lead-change game, but the whole time we kept our poise and overcame some mistakes and ended up winning the game. That was encouraging.
Payton said the one injury that he was most concerned with was that of DT Antwan Lake, who injured his groin in yesterday's game.
"Antwan was the one injury that I mentioned yesterday after the game; we'll see where he's at. He's excused right now for a death in his family. He's the one player whose injury will be pretty significant I think. I don't have a timetable on how long, but we'll see."
Payton also spoke about the play of second-year running back Pierre Thomas and what he brings to the table:
"He's been a consistent player for us. He averaged five-and-a-half yards per carry for us yesterday. It's not always pretty, but he's a physical player and he's really smart; he understands what we're trying to do in the run scheme and in our protection scheme. He had a screen pass that was called back that I think was a pretty decent play. He's played that way throughout the preseason and coming off of last year. I'm encouraged with what he's doing."
Payton said he was very pleased with the play of running back Reggie Bush, who racked up 163 yards from the line of scrimmage.
"The thing I was excited about was how Reggie Bush played. Not just in space, but taking the off-tackle runs. He kept his poise. There was a lot of jawing going on he just played. Clearly he was the fastest player on the field and it looked like it. I thought he finished violently. I thought he was aggressive in his decision-making. He was a big difference for us yesterday and I was encouraged with his play. It has been something that he's worked hard at. He's had a great offseason and it was great to see him starting off with the first game of the year."
Payton was asked about the play of the Saints' defensive front four, who accounted for 10 tackles, four quarterback hurries that caused incompletions, two sacks, two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and one pass knockdown:
"I thought we had a good rotation going. I thought Charles Grant was exceptional; he played with a lot of effort and energy. Will Smith did a good job; Bobby McCray came up with a sack and Kendrick Clancy inside and Sedrick Ellis who was getting his first start. I think the key is keeping those guys fresh as best we can. That becomes a little more challenging with losing Antwan Lake as early as we did in that game and for this upcoming week. But I thought they played hard. I think they kind of go hand-in-hand with the pass rush and the pass defense and we got our hands on a lot of balls. I thought we contained Jeff Garcia for the most part; you didn't see him extending too many plays like he has before here, so that was encouraging."
The play of rookie CB Tracy Porter, who the Saints selected in the second round of the 2008 draft out of Indiana, was also something that he was pleased with after reviewing the game.
"He got his hands on a lot of balls. When you see some young guys get out there for the first time, it's a growing experience for them. I felt like he was into the game and it wasn't too big for him. I thought he did a real good job. We got our hands on a lot of balls – Randall Gay, Aaron Glenn – so the pass break-ups were encouraging. Eliminating the deep throws was encouraging. When you look at the big plays and us being able to minimize Tampa Bay's big plays and then ourselves capitalizing against a pretty good defense that historically has made it tough to get down the field on, we came up with a bunch of them and that ended up being the difference."
Payton said that going into the game the all of the new faces on the defensive side of the ball was a positive for the Saints and that he witnessed the growth of the group throughout training camp and the preseason.
"They felt going in that they were going to be able to do that. We had a good training camp. There's a lot we have to do still to get better. When we put the tape on and show them what needs to improve – and not just on one side of the ball or in the kicking game – there's yardage that we left out there on the field. We had sequence of penalties in the first quarter that was frustrating. We had three in the kicking game and then we settled down a little bit in the second half, but we're going to have to get that stuff cleaned up."
Payton was asked how much of the credit for the Saints' three big scoring plays went to QB Drew Brees.
"The first one was Patten's play and it was kind of a high-low on the weak side. We had Lance Moore running an option route with Patten running a corner behind it and Drew took an extra hitch. He felt like Patten gained leverage on Aqib Talib – they were in quarters coverage I think – and he made a great up and down throw. Patten did a good job of getting underneath it. The second play was Devery's go route. It was a situation where a play-action pass was called initially and we used a hard count and got them to jump so it became a free play. Devery did a good job of climbing on top of Ronde Barber. He leveraged it real well and Ronde fell down and Drew knew in his mind that it was a free play and he was going to find the vertical threat which is something that he's taught to do if he gets one. Then on Bush's play, it was a little "kill", basically an audible for us, where we got him in man coverage and we got the ball in space to Bush and he made a couple real good plays and made the safety look silly."
When asked if it was easy to take Brees' consistent play for granted, Payton said he wasn't in that number.
"I don't know that we take him for granted – I certainly don't. I think he's playing at an extremely high level and he gives us a chance each week. When you watch these games each weekend – I don't want to say that there's not that much great quarterback play – but he's someone that brings a lot in regards to leadership, ball location, timing, accuracy, he's very competitive, he has good arm strength, he manages the game well. That's a good starting point."
The talk then focused on the play of RB Reggie Bush and Payton said a few factors needed to be considered when talking about the third year pro.
"I thought he finished real well physically in this game. Against a zone team, I thought he finished really well. There was some leaky yardage in our favor. I thought the backs – both of them – finished well. He was a big difference in this game. As the game wore on, he became too much for them to handle and when we watched the tape, it was evident."
Someone asked Payton if he thought that Bush was playing angry or differently than he has in the past. To which Payton replied, "No. I think he was focused though. I think he had good determination. Part of that comes from the preparation. I think he felt very confident in how he would play based on how he had prepared. He has worked extremely hard."
"I think you start by crediting the player. He did a good job with just some off-tackle runs. We ran a power scheme with him for four; we ran a mike scheme for four. Again, I consider him a running back. Drew does a good job of locating the player that's open. We try to emphasize as best we can of everyone painting the right picture for the quarterback and they were able to do that. Sometimes when Bush leverages a flat defender like he did in one of the plays, all of a sudden it's a gain of 11. There was a checkdown in the second half where Drew just dumped it down to Reggie and he just yipped outside for about 18 or 19 yards. He just looked fast. He looked faster than everyone else on the field and I thought he played physical and tough. I was encouraged."
Payton was asked about the difference in the team this year as opposed to the rough start the team experienced last year and what could be learned from the adversarial beginning.
"One of our things that we talked about was just starting off better and that would be hard not to do, considering last year's start. And I think we can play better at home. We've played pretty well on the road here over the last two years. We had a good atmosphere here yesterday. It was a hard-fought game that went back-and-forth and it was good to see us pull it out."
With Hurricane Ike steaming towards the Gulf of Mexico, Payton said the team is closely looking at the situation and how it may affect the team's preparations for the Redskins.
"I think you have to pay attention to it, no different than a citizen has to pay attention to it. Mickey (Loomis) and I will visit today a little bit about what our contingency plans are. I don't know that I'll have the location for you right now, but we would have it soon. The challenge isn't so much the plan, it's the location and the availability of the facilities. We know what we're looking for if we have to evacuate: we're looking for an indoor facility that allows us to practice regardless of the weather and a hotel with blocks away that basically we can set up a training camp type of atmosphere. This past week in Indianapolis provided that. The trick also is when. I'm not as in touch as to where Ike is right now other than it's down there somewhere and it's a threat so we have to pay attention to it and we'll go from there.
"What you don't want to have happen is that you don't want to be practicing Wednesday and Thursday here and then having to go somewhere else. I'd rather up and move ahead of time or get it all in – one or the other. In the case of Indianapolis from a timing standpoint with Gustav, we were able to take a proactive approach – which much of the state did effectively – and then deal with it. Timing is a little bit of the essence and the main concern of when is the threat and we go from there."
Payton talked about the versatility that CB Randall Gay gives the Saints, as the fifth-year man lined up in a variety of different spots yesterday.
"He's someone that gives us flexibility. Here's a case where we deactivated Mike McKenzie so Randall started in the base and came inside in the nickel. He's comfortable outside. We actually matched him with Joey Galloway early on and then in any of the nickel situations brought him inside and put Aaron Glenn on Galloway. The versatility that he provides is a big plus. He seems to find the football and his hands get on it quite a bit. He's a pretty smart player. That's a little bit of a luxury for us. I was pleased with how he played."
Payton also discussed the debut of TE Jeremy Shockey and what be brought to the table besides his six receptions for 54 yards.
"In the second half, he came alive and really made some big plays for us and I was encouraged with that. Looking back, him not playing in those preseason games, maybe that allowed him to be 100 percent healthy or close enough to it for him to play and I was as anxious and he's very anxious to get in and play. He's not very patient, so it's hard for him to say I have to wait another week and he had to wait two weeks in a row, but keeping in mind the main objective and that is being ready for the opening game of the regular season, we were able to do that and I think he brings something to the table. He's emotional. I like his competitive nature. I think he does a great job in the run game as well. I think you're going to see him continue to play better. You're going to see him with more stamina and more shape, because right now those are some of the little things he's behind in."
"I think he had fortysomething snaps yesterday. I think he's still probably not as far along as some of the other players on this team, so that really is probably typical of an injured player in training camp or somebody that doesn't get all the work or in the preseason games. I think there's a little catching up for him to do and he knows that."
Payton also discussed Deuce McAllister and where he is along the comeback trail from his serious knee injury just over a year ago.
"I just think that right now we're a little bit further along with Pierre (Thomas) and I think he's (McAllister) continuing to improve and I called him last night at about nine and told him to just understand that he's in the plans here and I think that anytime you have a serious injury like he and Mike (McKenzie) have had, it's ongoing, slow improvement. We'll measure that each week. We'll know when that time's right. I think from a team standpoint, we were a little further ahead with Pierre and possibly with Aaron (Stecker) at that time. Aaron had the hamstring at the end of the week and was deactivated. I don't want to say it's a luxury, but I don't want to take it for granted that he provides a big part of our team and I think you're going to continue to see him getting stronger."
The play of newcomer Jonathan Vilma was also a subject that Payton addressed, as Vilma had a team-high nine tackles and two quarterback pressures.
"He takes good angles. I thought he did tackle well. We tackled fairly decent yesterday. One of the areas Gary (Gibbs) brought up in a meeting that I think we can point to is that if you look at the tape and see their runs of over ten yards, you're going to see one or two missed tackles. I thought Vilma played solid. Part of that is just getting the plays called. It's the first time through the helmet, getting the group organized and we'll continue to work in that area. He had close to 70 snaps. That was encouraging."
Lastly the head coach discussed life in the competitive NFC South.
"I saw the highlights of what you guys saw. I did have a chance to catch the end of the Carolina game and I wasn't able to see how it unfolded in the beginning. It seemed to me that they played pretty well throughout the game and somewhere late in the game they lost their lead, but I saw the final drive and it was a great play. That's a tough team. I have a ton of respect for John Fox. I think he's one of the better coaches in our league. I know it's a division opponent, but I was kind of happy to see his reaction after the game because they've gone through a lot there with the loss of their receiver for the first two weeks. I know that we're not one of the teams that will take that club lightly. They've gone through some adversity and that was a huge win for that team to go on the road in San Diego and really outplay them and have to drive the ball late in the two minute offense and make a play. (Jake) Delhomme did a great job. I don't know how he pumped the ball like he did without losing it, because the camera went with the pump fake. When he threw it the second time, my immediate reaction was that someone was going to be open based on how well he faked the first pump. They made a play at the end and won the game. In Atlanta's case, I just saw some of the highlights. They ran the ball effectively. They look to have things turned around. It's so hard in our league to map things out. We all try to. I know it's part of your job to sort through what you think will transpire, but be it through injuries or added players, I think each season brings a lot of new intrigue to it. I turned to my wife after the Carolina play and the Falcons score and said it's week one, we'll worry about where we are and start trying to count your division games . We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go still. You don't know. You watch the results yesterday and there are some things and surprises. It still comes down to the turnovers and trying to get better. There was an interview briefly yesterday with (Tony) Romo and they're talking about his team's success. I think he hit a point pretty good just about the only thing we can do right now is work to improve, not pay attention to the score, but work to improve during these next three critical practice days so that some of the mistakes that were made or some of the plays that weren't made can now be made and your team improves. I think that's our position. It's easier to do that coming off of a win that off of a loss. It's easier to criticize and critique coming off of a win."