New Orleans Saints Quarterbacks Coach Joe Lombardi
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, June 18, 2020
What have you made of this virtual offseason and how have you handled it?
"It has been a little bit different. Obviously, having these meetings over the computer. It's been good in some ways, without the pressure of getting out to practice. But also challenging on having the guys in the room and being able to feel their body language. Just asking a simple question, like, does that make sense and they have to unmute themselves to answer. So there's been challenges and some benefits. So it's definitely been different."
How do you get a feel for the quarterback room changes this spring with these virtual meetings? Obviously, you lose Teddy Bridgewater to Carolina and add Jameis Winston.
"You can tell that he's (Winston) got a lot of personality, a charismatic guy, fun to talk to. And that's another reason I kind of wish we would've been able to get in-person (meetings and workouts with him). Because you can tell he's got a lot of energy and I think you'll feel that even more when, when you are person to person with somebody. But you can tell he works hard (and) loves football. So we're excited to have him."
How much more do you involve Taysom Hill in the process this year in the quarterback room in addition to his other duties?
"I think it'll just be where he falls in that slot as far as taking reps, you know. Even in years past, he's worked more at quarterback during training camp and offseason. So I think that'll be similar. He might get, I can't say a few more reps, because he's always gotten the full load of reps, the last couple years or however long he's been in training camp with us. So I think it'll be similar. Maybe we'll incorporate a little bit more in practice as far as some of the unique things that he does. I think it'll be similar and just look for him to keep improving like he's been doing."
Is it realistic to expect the rookie (Tommy Stevens) to be able to get a decent amount of reps or is that one of those things that you just have to see how it shakes out?
"I think we'll see how it shakes out. I think a lot of it depends on how big a load Drew (Brees) takes during training camp. If he takes days off or how many days off we decide to take with him, that'll obviously affect Tommy. I think it will be a little bit maybe like when J.T. Barrett was here during training camps and he does not get as many reps maybe, but we put them in there and the better he does, the more reps he gets. And he may work in with some of the things Taysom does on offense and H-back type mode. So we'll figure all that out as we go."
What did you guys like physically from Jameis Winston that made you want to bring him in?
"Well, what did he throw for? He threw for over 5,000 yards last year. So he is a guy that makes big plays and that is always exciting to see someone who's got that ability to get the ball downfield. I think he is probably a little more athletic than people give him credit for. So it's just fun when you see someone with those kinds of tools who puts them into play like he does, he moves the ball and scores points. He was a first round draft pick for a reason and we're real excited to have him on board."
What's it been like having him in your quarterback room after watching him for so many years?
"Great, he really is a fun guy to, I say be around. It has been virtually, but he just has got a lot of energy. Like I said, he is charismatic and the big thing is you can just tell he loves football. He has got a great enthusiasm for it. I know that I get bored listening to myself talk for two hours over a computer, but man, he has a lot of endurance for just talking football and learning about it. I had heard a lot of good things about him from (people) like Ryan Griffin, who we had here (and) has been a backup (for Winston) in Tampa. He's exceeded even those expectations and the great things that we've heard about him."
What are simple things you think that he could do better and you guys can work on pretty quickly for Jameis Winston?
"Transitioning him into our system. Obviously, we do some things, uniquely, so just him learning the offense and then learning the players around him. What they're capable, quarterback and receivers getting on the same page. Obviously, something that every quarterback has to work on, but when you get a new guy in here, just getting them up to speed for how we do it and then getting that from the classroom onto the field. And that's probably the biggest challenge, like you said, is not being able to (work on-field now), usually (at this time of the year) you do the first install, you go out and practice it, and then you do the second install. And so pouring all that offense onto them without being able to break it up with practices and go to physically do it is obviously a challenge, which we'll be able to do when training camp starts. So I just think integrating him into the offense and the way that we do business and learning how the players around him operate."
He's talked about wanting to be more patient and not forced throws. How do you teach that? How do you help him through that process?
"I don't think there's a simple magic answer for that. It's a lot of studying, understanding what we're trying to accomplish with our routes, the timing of our routes, how the footwork matches up to the routes. And we talk a lot about having your feet talk to your decision making. Like if you're at this point in your drop, you've taken one hit, your eyes should be going over here. So it's just making that second nature. I think, like I said, you can tell he's very smart and he's picked up what we've been teaching quickly. And so he understands it, but going out there and feeling it and seeing it so that you can trust it, that's going to be the race that we're all in come training camp."
Do you feel like despite the fact that you guys have had a clear starter in place, do you feel like you have been able to get some good competition in that quarterback room?
"It's an interesting question. I'm thinking about it, obviously, like you said, that clear starter (we have had in Drew Brees for so long). I think we have been fortunate with the type of guys that we have had in that room and that the competition is always just to get better. As they show up every day, whether you're talking about Taysom (Hill) or Teddy (Bridgewater) and we expect the same thing from Jameis is just man, every day, you're in a race to get better, to get more comfortable, to understand the offense. I'm sure between Teddy and Taysom, maybe there was some competition, they felt comparing themselves to each other, but it never was explicit. I always feel like that's just the way that those guys are built and wired. They're trying to win every single rep, every single day and that's competition in and of itself. Not so much comparing themselves to someone else, as far as comparing them themselves to what they did yesterday."
We saw the investment that the team made in Taysom Hill in the offseason for the next two seasons. Just from your perspective, how important was it to kind of secure a guy like that?
"I think he's proven his worth on the field outside of the position of quarterback. And we have seen his growth as a quarterback and it's exciting. Because even maybe earlier in his career where, maybe we didn't think he was playing the position well, he was still making plays. Like I used to say, he can't help but make plays. And then every year he's been making improvement. Last year, we felt in training camp he made a huge jump where he was playing the position better. And you add that to all the physical skills that he has. We're very excited to have him. I think we're excited about his future. We are definitely excited about his future. And so, yeah, I think getting that commitment to him, him feeling that commitment from the team and knowing that we have him around for a couple more years, yeah, it makes us sleep a lot better."
Can you help us understand that growth a little bit more?
"A lot of it is just timing of plays, like when you're in the pocket and you're so used to seeing how Drew (Brees) plays. We get spoiled with that. Like when the ball comes out of his hand and there's an anticipation level and there's a trust level. And I think he went a long time where it was always like, man, you could have gotten rid of it, a hitch earlier, let's say. And he's got such a strong arm you often would catch up to it. Or maybe the ball arrived at the same time that it would have (similar timing to when) Drew threw it because he just threw it faster, but he was later. And maybe his eyes stuck there a little bit too long, which may give a defensive back time to break on it. And on some point that ball started coming out of hitch earlier. So for me the biggest jump and there's a number of things, but if you wanted to highlight one thing, it was that ball was coming out of his hand earlier with consistency. And so it's an anticipation, it's a trust. It's a recognizing the defense. A lot of things go into that and at some point during training camp to my memory right now, it really took off the week when we played the (Los Angeles) Chargers in the preseason. And I just felt like, man, he has kind of figured some things out right here. And that carried on through the rest of the preseason."
He had a touchdown pass against the Chargers that week and I remember Austin Carr crediting him since he wasn't the primary target. Can you speak about that?
"Yeah, it's a play and you kind of are always like, hey, confirm the flat defender runs with (him). Because there is going to be another route that kind of chases what Austin was doing, if that makes sense. We are trying to pull someone out of there and fill in that spot with the route that the, I think the tight end in that case was running. And he had his eyes there and that guy really dropped, Austin. And if I remember correctly, it was not so much where he was, as far as his body language and he could see, hey, he is going to come off this guy. And he recognized it and threw the touchdown. So it was one of those things that you say, you know, hey, confirm this guy runs with them, but he almost always does. So a lot of quarterbacks just assume and man, he looked, saw, anticipated and got that ball out quickly."
Do you think to yourself be careful when Taysom is playing all the positions except quarterback?
"Yeah, sometimes we have him coming back across the offensive line and cutting 280-pound defensive ends. So yeah, sometimes I think let's make sure we do not hurt this guy. I would tell him always lead with your left shoulder whenever you're hitting somebody (laughter). But it's tough because he does so many things so well and I think sometimes you're like, well, we're not going to put him in those situations. Well, we're trying to win every game and sometimes it's hard to do what we said we're going to do. It's really incredible how quickly he picks up different skills that guys have been working on all through high school and college and it takes a couple of reps at it and all of a sudden he's doing a great job at the NFL level. It's probably underappreciated, as much as he is appreciated. I think sometimes it's underappreciated how well he does so many different things."
Did Drew's (Brees) thumb factor in when he returned from the injury as far as the deep passes are concerned?
"I don't know. I don't recall that being a huge factor, maybe when he first came back, but I wouldn't say it was a huge factor. I think maybe it's just the way the cards fell. I don't think it's (that)…he makes such quick decisions and he's so accurate and it's so easy to just call these plays and you know, like man, 90% of the time we're getting an eight-yard gain here or five-yard gain. I just think he's so good at getting the ball out quickly and we've got guys that get open quickly, it was successful and we stuck with it."
With Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill being free agents and Drew Brees deciding whether to play or not this offseason, was it nice to see the room come together like it did?
"Yeah. I mean, man, I think so highly at Teddy (Bridgwater) and man that was tough to see him leave. And like you said, uncertainty with Drew (Brees), but I think we knew that and I think we were pretty confident Taysom (Hill) was going to be around. So there was some security there, but there was definitely some (uncertainty), a little different feel to the offseason as it started out and to have it all come together as it did and to get Jameis (Winston) in the fold who we have a ton of respect for. Yeah, it worked out pretty well, from a moment of uncertainty to where we are now."
Were you a little frustrated to see that Teddy Bridgewater landed in Carolina so you get to see him twice a year?
"Yes, I wish he would've gone to the AFC somewhere (laughter), but I'm happy for him. I have so much respect for him and just even a lot of things on a personal level, what I feel about that guy. So It'll be harder to root for him, but man I wish good things for him."
How big a factor does Drew Brees play in that the reduced number of turnovers the last few years, specifically with his interception numbers being way down and was that an emphasis for you guys to improve there?
"Yeah, I think I want to say maybe the last three years, his interceptions have really taken a dramatic fall maybe even than what they were before that. I think it's one of the things we say, like the most important job of a quarterback is to be available and the second most important thing is to make sure bad things don't happen. And I think in his mind he made a renewed emphasis on that. It's always been one, but I think he just decided I'm done throwing interceptions like before the (20)17 season. And like most things, he puts his mind to it and he finds a way to get it done. Yeah, I mean it's always an emphasis, I think maybe before the (20)17 season is when he was like, hey, we're just not doing it anymore and he's Superman so he made it happen."
What are your impressions of the rookie Tommy Stevens, just from what you've been able to?
"Yeah, enthusiastic. I think he's smart. He asks good questions. He's got an obvious, intriguing skillset when you see the size, arm strength and his athleticism. So there's just a smart kid, likable kid, hard worker, with an intriguing skillset. He just hasn't had a chance to play much quarterback yet and we're kind of excited to see how he works in."
From a quarterback perspective, what's the acclimation process when there is a new center, you went through it last year, possibly this year with Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz both working at the position, what kind of adjustments does Drew Brees go through and what's that breaking in period?
"Yeah, I think just getting the center coached up as far as exactly how we like the snap and then getting him on board with just the cadence, all right. And there's variations of the cadence. So getting him acclimated to that and obviously, the rest of the offensive line kind of has a rhythm in their head. And so he's got to figure out that rhythm. So as they're hearing the cadence, they know when that ball's being snapped. So getting used to that and then when we start getting in the silent cadences, that's probably the biggest challenge is we go on the road and there's a silent cadence and all the guys are counting on him, and we do little head bobs, different signals to the rest of the guys of when that ball's being snapped. And being consistent with that and giving them a chance to get in rhythms so that they know when that ball's being snapped is probably the biggest challenge."
Is most of the identification on Drew Brees or does the center do a lot as well?
"The center, we want him to know what's going on. Now Drew is always going to come up and ID. A lot of times it is like, we all know what the ID is and then if it changes. But once Drew makes that call, there's series of calls the line has to make after that. So if this is the MIKE, this is the type of block we are going to make the work up to them. The Mike's over here now it's going to be different. A communicator on the field, there's some work that gets done with that, for sure. But I think it does make it easier having Drew in there to be able to handle a lot of that."
How has it been spending time with your family during the change in the offseason and is it more or less stressful?
"Yeah, I've seen enough of them (laughter). I've got seven kids, so it's a crowded household and it's been good. Really it's been fun to be home with them. Obviously, we all get a little stir crazy sometimes, but, we've got a park within walking distance and worst comes to worse we can throw them in one of the outside fields around here to work out their energies. And we're blessed to have a pool, which has been huge. So it's been good. It's been good. No question way more stressful."
What's the children's age range now?
"I've got a 18 year old. He just graduated high school. He's going to go to a UL (University of Louisiana-Lafayette and then I have a three year old. So we got a nice spread in there."