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Transcript: New Orleans Saints Linebackers coach Michael Hodges training camp interview - Sunday, Aug. 30

Hodges spoke with media on importance of pass coverage at Saints Training Camp 2020

New Orleans Saints Linebackers Coach Michael Hodges
Video Call with Local Media
Sunday, August 30, 2020

How important is it for you guys to be really good cover linebackers in a division that features Christian McCaffrey, Rob Gronkowski and Todd Gurley?
"Look, I think you look at our division or you just look in the league in general. I think that question it a kind of answers itself in the sense that it's where our game is now, so it is critical. That's a big part of how we evaluate players. And so, man, it's so funny you bring all those names up, as soon as some of the moves happen in the offseason, Joel Thomas texted me, says good luck. But no, it's going to be a fun challenge. But it is important for us to really hone those skills early this camp so we're ready when fall comes around."

How much of an emphasis do you put on position flexibility?
"That's a big emphasis. I think it actually starts before (we get started in camp), when Michael Wilhoite, and I talked to our players, and we show them a depth chart or we show them what we're doing for whatever is going on, we always tell them, hey, these are the two positions you need to be ready for. And so we are constantly training them to be multi-position players, for a lot of reasons. One is to COVID stuff that is going on. We (have) all hands on deck, but also just the versatility of a player. And it really adds value to them and helps our defense be flexible."

What are you seeing from Alex Anzalone and what about him has this kind of made him consistently make plays?
"Alex is doing a good job, you know, I think he's more and more of a pro over the last four years. It's been fun, he's the one guy that I've been able to literally watch every snap that he's taken since he's gotten into the NFL and so he's doing a good job and constantly asking good questions and trying to get better. So there's still room for growth there. So we've got another week to really try to develop him a little bit more just to be ready to be his best. But he's doing a good job and working hard every day."

What's an area that you guys are trying to get Anzalone better at?
"I don't know if there's one particular area. We're going to put them in some man coverage situations, we're going to continue to work on that. But he's also the Mike linebacker in the in the box. And so there's a lot of fighting going on in there too. So he's got to work on that as well. So I couldn't really pinpoint one or two. I just know that a well-rounded football player can continue to develop all of his traits to play that position for us."

How important is it to have a veteran like Craig Robertson in the locker room?
"
I think it's critical. I don't have a baseline besides the New Orleans Saints for locker rooms, but I have to believe we have a top three (locker room leadership) in the NFL. With guys like him, guys like Drew (Brees) guys like Cam (Jordan), guys like Demario (Davis), it's really unbelievable. I was talking to (Michael) Wilhoite the other day and he was looking around as our team was coming up to break after practice, and he's like, there's a lot of players on this team that played a lot of football. So we got a lot of experience and a lot of leadership that's going to really help us as this season goes on. I'm pretty excited about it and it really makes my job easier. Because guys like him help them run the show."

Do linebackers in today's NFL have to be a different compared to previous generations of linebackers?
"Every club has these criteria for a player. And I've been able to go back and see some from older times, and it's like, okay, Mike linebacker has to be 258 pounds, so now if you got a guy that can do that great, but the game has definitely continued to change. And so we got to change with it, or we're we're going to be out of a job. So it's really important and our personnel staff does an excellent job of helping us kind of figure out what the parameters are across the league, who's doing best, and what are those measurables and so we use that as we do our offseason evaluations and get ready to bring new guys in. But it is different and it's important that you get guys that can move around for this league."

Have the circumstances of this camp allowed you to get a better look at your depth and how is that maybe beneficial as you try to you know, work out the roster?
"You got a lot of young guys in this linebacker room and you are right. I'd love to have everybody out there healthy and even if it meant less reps for the whole group of individuals. But it has allowed us to get more guys out there for more reps. And so without preseason games where you would get a whole half to watch young guys play, now we're able to take advantage of this by getting those guys in there and mixing them in with different groups to see how they can handle it. The volume of evidence will help us decide where they're going to be with us going into the fall."

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