New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Through five games have you seen a characteristic of this team that kind of stands out, whether it be perseverance or anything else? Has there been a singular characteristic that has stood out about this team?
"It's a good question. I think we've shown signs situationally. I felt last week we played better in the red area offensively and defensively. We were better on third down. In all three areas when we've needed a play or needed it, we've gotten it. I felt special team wise, especially right through the middle stretch of that five weeks, we had some game changing plays. I think defensively, our ability to pressure the quarterback, not necessarily sack the quarterback, but our pressures, I have been encouraged there. And yet there's so much when you watch the tape and look, I'm not trying to sound displeased…We're sitting here with the record we have, and yet I don't feel like we're playing near our best football and we have to work to get that corrected. I liked our energy last week. I thought that was (a) really good one."
When you look at the pre-draft evaluation, what did you see in Gardner Minshew II then last year?
"He is smart. He had that ability to make plays. You could tell he was a tremendous leader, all those intangibles."
One area you didn't mention was the run defense. How have you continued to have success with Alex Okafor, Alex Anzalone, Sheldon Rankins for a while shuffling in and out and a switch at nose tackle with Tyeler Davison for Malcom Brown this offseason. What do you think has been (responsible for) the continued success?
"I think we're deeper in the defensive line than we were a year ago. Shoot, I think we're better across the board. I think we've had some good additions. I think Ryan (Nielsen) and BY (Brian Young) have done a great job, but I think that the depth has helped us. We dressed eight defensive linemen last week, which is a high number. Then at linebacker we've had some additions, but I think overall our front is playing better."
Was there some sort of philosophical change? The last two years I think it's been about as strong in that area as I remember this team since I've covered it?
"I don't know philosophically. I think the addition Ryan coming in here and DA (Dennis Allen) and that staff. I just think that we've brought in good pieces to already help players that were there. I think that it's hard to find good defensive lineman. You have to draft them or pay a lot for them and we've been able to do that."
Just one more on this subject. Is there anyone, whether it's David Onyemata, Demario Davis for example that have played a big role with the run defense. It is so hard for us to judge that that. Has anyone been particularly exceptional in the run defense. There's no stat like sacks that really tells you.
"I think Malcom Brown and Onyemata have really gotten off to good starts and I think certainly Demario is one of those players that it's not a leaky two yards after he hits you. It's a little bit more sudden contact in him, but I think upfront our depth at defensive tackle is noticeably different."
What do you recall about Leonard Fournette at LSU and how do you feel like it his style translated to the NFL?
"I think he's doing well. He was a heck of a college player. We saw as highlights every weekend if we didn't see the game. He's strong. The thing that's dangerous about him is the speed. If you can get an edge, he's one of those backs that that can score a touchdown from anywhere on the field. He's good in protection. He knows how to block a blitz. He stays on the field. He's playing 90, 91% of their snaps."
Did you know much about Fournette just in high school? Did you get a chance to watch that?
"That is it. I wasn't real familiar with his high school, but I remember him at LSU."
At LSU he was set up for some of these crazy highlights where a player would fly off his shoulders or he'd run someone over into the end zone. I know that is harder to execute in the NFL, but how much of his physicality do you think still works at this level?
"I think a back like him who runs behind his pads, that's hard to tackle. I think that is why he has been successful and I think he has that rare combination of size and speed."
I feel like we haven't heard a lot of Eli Apple's name this year and that's probably a good thing. How would you kind of assess how he's played so far this year?
"I think he's doing well. We've had five interceptions taken away, four of them penalties and one of them time ran out on the offensive play clock. I think that certainly he's more and more confident with what we're doing having a season under his belt and I think he's doing well."