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Transcript: Coach Sean Payton Post-Practice Media Availability - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton speaks to the media after practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Post-Practice Media Availability

When you get to the last preseason game and those final decisions, how important will special teams be on Thursday?
"I think pretty significant. Oftentimes you're looking for guys that can play snaps (on special teams). You're always talking about a vision. And so if it's a young linebacker or a young tight end or running back, what's our vision if they're only a backup. I think (it's) really important."

Do you have position battles at this point where it comes down to this last game and that's pretty much it?
"Yes. There's a body of work, but you're evaluating all of it and so you would say (it's) the last test, so it matters in the grade."

This question is obviously inspired by Deonte Harris, but in general with return men, do we want the home run threat or do we want to put the guy we're going to trust to catch it properly every time?
"I want both. Yes. A returner who fumbles the ball consistently becomes someone else's returner. But we feel like he's someone that has really progressed. He's gotten healthy and we're starting to see some of the things he can do. I'm encouraged."

Were you looking for a return man when you guys signed him after the draft or was he special graded player?
"We had already signed one returner. We knew Tommy(lee Lewis) had left. I'd say in each draft, you (look to) identify (if there) is there a draftable (returner). There were a handful of draftable players that were returners. We ranked that position, who's the best returner in the country, who were draftable returners and then, he was a player that we had high grades on and ended up recruiting as a free agent."

Is the fact that he had the most combined touchdown returns in NCAA college football history, is a stat like that one hard to ignore?
"Well, it's not the stat so much because when you evaluate this position, the first thing you're going to look at is his returns. And so, if that in fact is the statistic, chances are that return reel is going to be pretty significant. It's a production position. So the level of competition wasn't maybe as high as some of the others and yet you still watch a player do it. And that is why he ended up here."

A guy like Marcus Sherels, do you need to see him in the preseason or does his tape speak for itself?
"Hopefully we can. And yet we still have a large body of work with what he has done before (in Minnesota)."

Is there a period of growing pains as the league goes through this sort of new pass interference rule?
"I would say I'm going to predict, no. The only reason I say that is already I can tell -- I challenged the play against Minnesota, they called our defender for interference and the ruling on the field stayed. And I thought, 'man, it was pretty clear, to me at least, that it was just hand swiping.' So I would say they were going to be very conservative in overturning calls and and being said, if it's consistent, then you know that as a coach, relative to using the challenge on something that's close or not. Again, the challenge amount hasn't changed. You still only have two. So, I think the thing for us that's a little different is periodically there'll be a catch or periodically there'll be an incompletion and you have to train your mind to possibly think in terms of was that an interference either offensively and defensively and then weigh where you're at in the game and the yards to begin with the challenge. I'm sure there'll be a few nuances, but I don't think it's going (to) be maybe as significant as all the discussion in the offseason."

When you go to evaluate players after this game, is there a consideration maybe between what the team needs in week one versus what the team needs for the whole season?
"You're trying to put the right 53 (players) together, certainly in preparation for your week one game and then you guys know the final cutdown happens on the weekend. And then there's some jockeying (to convince potential practice squad players), there's practice squads that are put together. And then there's even additional (players added.) Back in '06 our starting Mike (Mark Simoneau) and our starting Will (Scott Shanle) arrived after this game. Taysom Hill arrived after this game (in 2017). It's hard to prepare for that final weekend because there's an awful lot of players that hit the wire and you're trying to look at the grades and we talk about it all the time with these guys. If you're looking at just your position group and just your position depth chart, you have no idea all the other things that go into it. You're competing against the other 31 teams, receivers, running backs or players that could play in that role. Ultimately, I think, the plan is to put the best roster together and going into week one knowing there's going to be some change."

Will Compton has been here for a little bit now. What did you see when you brought him in and what have you seen from him in these first few practices?
"He's is smart and he knows what to do. I think that he'll play some (Thursday night) and I just think there's a level of experience that he brings. So, he's one of those guys competing, he's one of those guys working to make the team."

I know (Deonte) Harris has done a very good job for you, but is there a difference fielding punts in the preseason and in the regular season and as a coach, how much do you weigh that concern maybe when you put a guy back there?
"Well, sure there is. There's a difference between a regular season game and a playoff game and yet the confidence of a player comes with demonstrated accomplishments. And so, this opportunity right now is preseason. I feel like he's a player that feels like he can make a significant return on every play. I know our bench feels that way. If you watch the one the other night, you know, I think the team feels like on any return, it has been close. So, you can only go by what you see and I do not think it is too big for him. I don't think it's too big for him."

What has stood out to you the most over the past month on running back Devine Ozigbo and his performance?
"He's big. There's some really good things he does and then there's a handful of things that are developmental that are things that he is going to have to continue to work on. But so far I thought he's (been) looking pretty good in the preseason and especially in some of our practices."

You talked about waivers and cutdowns. At this point, how much is your scouting department kind of forecasting who might get let go and how much are you looking at who might be available even now?
"We'll have everyone's roster and to some degree you're predicting, you're looking at positions that are heavy. So, if I'm another team and I'm in need of a safety, I'm studying our safety depth because I feel like there's probably three teams in the league that are deep at safety. There'll be three or four teams deep at tight end. And those are the target teams you look at specifically per formation or position. I think every team in the league right now would say, 'hey, we're deep in some areas, we're a little thin here.' Then, who's deep in an area where we're thin? You'll see some trades take place before that cutdown to help fill needs, but the pro department is on top of and has watched all these preseason games, not just ours, and graded the players and look closely at young guys, guys they don't know as much about. Again, the pro department is just now getting these players. So, the minute the draft takes place, the college scouts go on to next year's class and the pro department begins to evaluate it."

They are evaluating all 31 other teams?

We've seen Dan Arnold do some really nice things in the pass game. Have you seen him develop in any other areas?
"He's an extremely hard worker. He's very conscientious. I think he's someone that has improved as a blocker. His body weight and his strength have really improved. And I think he is someone that has some versatility."

Knowing the quality of your team, in these next few days would that make you even more aggressive as far as pursuing a guy even if you had to dip into some of your future assets to do that to help you?
"If it was an area we felt could help us, yes. I think we've taken that approach each season there'll be a lot of discussion here in the next four or five days with other clubs relative to who might be available and then what's the vision that we have for them."

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