New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, November 2, 2020
Can you talk about the acquisition of Kwon Alexander, what you're hoping he can add to the team?
"So, we made a trade today with San Francisco, that will involve Kiko Alonso on our end and a conditional fifth based on playing time. We've had a chance, obviously seen this player in our division. We see him as a Will coming in, competing over there with Alex (Anzalone), with Demario (Davis), obviously playing more of the Mike role. Yeah, it was something that we've worked on for a little bit here. And fortunately, we were able to work out the details with San Fran."
The run defense has been a strength, while some of the deep passes have been an issue, but how about coverage in that area in the field? Is that something you wanted to see improved?
"It's adding another player we think fits what we are doing. Really, it is more about that. It also gives us another athletic player at that position that can run. And now there's an onboarding process relative to coming here. And that'll begin tomorrow."
Is playing in coverage what he (Kwon Alexander) does best?
"Well he does a lot of things well. He's smart, he's instinctive, he's a run and hit player that has very good speed and instincts. No, I wouldn't just say that. I think he's very good in coverage, but he's also very good in defending the run game."
Based on the timeline, I guess, when can he start actually practicing?
"Yeah, it's a good question. I think we go through five days onboarding. Our plan is it would be difficult for him to be available in this next game, but the following week, would be a goal."
Do you see Kwon (Alexander) as maybe someone filling a role as a situational pass rusher at all?
"Nope, I don't see that role."
After watching the film of this week's game, what do you think of Cesar Ruiz, whenever he was faced up against Akiem Hicks? I know he was lined up across from him most of the game.
"Yeah, I thought he battled. We thought he graded out pretty well. Up front I thought we played pretty well. It's a heavy front, I felt like there were some runs (where) there was more meat (left) on the bone and for whatever reason we didn't take advantage of it. And that's something that we have got to landmark and work better on with the runners. I thought overall in protection, there were a few hurries, but I thought those guys up front played very well. We ended up kicking more field goals than we might have liked, and yet part of it was the way that game was unfolding. The two-minute drive at the end of the half was significant. Just like it was a few weeks back. So when you watch the tape, there are a number of things that you'd like to clean up. And the same way defensively, I thought we won the pressure battle on the quarterback, we won the turnover battle. Watching the play at the end of the game (regulation with Demario Savis), I thought it was a fumble. That's just me. I thought we did enough things, especially in the second half (to win). I thought we really affected the field position in the kicking game in the second half. We had a ton of return yardage. We won that battle, we covered their kicks well. So there's some things, obviously, that you still want to clean up. But that was a good road win."
Is Marcus Davenport growing in the mental side of the game, is he rushing with more of a plan than maybe he did in the past, how has he developed in that aspect?
"I thought we rushed the passer better last night. We rushed more from a four-man front than a three-man front and I thought we did a good job of affecting the passer. But he's doing well."
What is your approach as a coach with a player like C.J. Gardner Johnson, who's obviously kind of volatile and doesn't mind trash talking and taunting and things like that? Do you like him playing close to the edge or do you have to warn him not to cross the line?
"Yeah, I think somewhere in the middle, Mike (Triplett). There's a competitive nature to the player. And I think that we've got real good leadership throughout our team that can help him with that. And yet, there's a competitiveness to how he plays. I thought he handled himself well, after all that had gone on. And you know, he's got to be, he's got to be smart and understand, you know, it's a long season, game to game. And to make sure that it doesn't impact or affect us."
Just a wrap on the week. Did I hear correctly that, I know you broke the players early, when the hurricane was approaching. Did you have your regular coaches meetings, as the hurricane was hitting, or did I misunderstand that?
"No, we did. When the morning came, look, ironically, every one of these hurricanes, Mickey (Loomis), and I've gone through in detail with plans. And this one, although it looked like it was headed our way, we didn't underestimate it. But we felt like with the infrastructure in place that we didn't need to remove the team. And so, that morning then at practice, it appeared that, it was going to be coming in here around, 3, 3:15 pm and the goal was to have our meetings, practice, cut practice and get the players home in time to be with their families when the storm hit. Now, the players will give me a hard time and say I told them, we're going to have them home before the eye's here. But we weren't able to watch film with the players afterwards. As coaches, we just stayed here. And we went until one or two in the morning with our gameplanning. The power went out, the generators came on, we switched the (mechanics slightly of the) meeting. There is a handful of the building that's on the generator. And then some of the individual rooms and offices are not. And so, that just involved us kind of moving spots a little bit. But we stayed in the building during it all. So we were here (during it) and then here, obviously, when it was gone. So we didn't really get to see, feel or hear, I wasn't outside at all. You heard the wind, but to really see or experience the actual hurricane coming through."
The two minute offense, with how effective it is, you know, some teams use it at different points in the game. Is it more effective for you guys, if you save it for the late game situations to save that tempo for them?
"Well, look, there's parts of me that say, alright. You've seen it in two authentic two minute modes, not necessarily like, as a changeup during the game. And I don't know, that was we felt on the road, (there was a premium on having) no sacks, no turnovers. You know, there are some, not risks, but you know, when you're in that type of offense, (Khalil) Mack is probably in a one on one battle with one of your tackles. There's not a lot of nudging or bumping. So, there's some risk reward with it and our plan was really just, if it presented itself at the end of the half or the end of the game."
Is the theory though just overall like in other situations, maybe not specific to this game, is it just better to save it when you surprise them with that tempo at the end of the game?
"I think every team, in fairness to your question, every team has their two minute end of the half, end of the game offense. In other words, you're going to be up tempo, you're going to try to maybe get in field goal range, depending on where you're at situationally. And so it's not as if we're saving it. It's just like what we're in based on the end of the half or the end of the game. Now, towards the end of the game, how much time was on the clock when we took a knee to go into overtime? 13 seconds? Yeah, and so there's that moment where you are looking at the field position, do we try to get to plays in field goal range, but then what's the risk here? Any type of batted turnover puts them in (field goal range) so we just took a knee at that point and went into overtime. But yeah, look, it starts with Drew (Brees), his command, his understanding of what he wants to do, his ability to communicate it to the players and then obviously the players executing it and then every once in a while you get some huddle calls and he makes the play at the end there to Jared (Cook) for a touchdown. That's no different than the way the game finished not too long ago with the touchdown pass against Carolina to Deonte (Harris). So those are big momentum shifts when you win at halftime and you get that touchdown, that's significant."
If you sit at the end of regulation with 13 seconds and a timeout, did you have to contemplate maybe long and hard about a couple of shots down the field? Or was it an easy decision to just take a knee and go to overtime?
"I think the biggest mistake would be, you're either getting real aggressive with some shots down the field trying to get a field goal. But considering the conditions of a long field goal, that played a little bit of a part in it, maybe in the (Mercedes-Benz Superdome) dome, we're going to try a play or two. The mistake sometimes I see teams make is, a handoff, or a screen. And it makes sense, it appears to and then all sudden, there's a punch out fumble. And so we're either going to aggressively try to get in field goal range or rather than even handing the ball off, let's just take a knee and play for overtime. Why expose ourselves to a potential turnover? And so I think a lot of that was just gut instinct relative to the conditions at that moment and the time left on the clock."
What are your thoughts on the NFL Vote initiative? And I guess facilities are closed tomorrow? We haven't talked to you since that came out, what are your thoughts about that?
"Number one, relative to our league, it falls on a Tuesday, which of course it does every four years. That's the player's day off, and I think I heard Zach (Strief) this morning on WWL talking about this election relative to all of our lifetimes. I don't think we'll ever experience such attention to an election like this one. I know I have not, until now. And it'll be hard pressed to think that I will after. So I think not just the NFL, but our country as a whole, I think we'll have record turnout."
You guys have hit on that angle route with Alvin (Kamara) for a couple big plays this year. I'm just wondering if there's anything in particular that you're looking for when a player is running that route? Any traits?
"Yeah, good question. So it's a choice route. And there's certain coverages that make it more desirable, if you will. A team that's playing true zone, Alvin's going to turn around and kind of catch a ball in space. But when you're getting man-to-man or you're getting some of these match coverages, he can break out, he can break out if he feels like he's getting overplayed, then he can angle in front. He's pretty good at running that and so truly he has three choices that make it friendly and in Drew's (Brees) able to see the indication steps he's taken relative to what he's doing. So he really has some options on that play."
Do you think it's taken longer this year to find out the identity of your team relative to other seasons, just because of the way things have played out?
"Yeah, listen, I think that's a fair question. I think we're still improving worse, I thought we got better yesterday in a tough environment. But I do think there's a grit element. And when you're able to play well in tight games and come out with a win, I think you develop a certain confidence and you're comfortable playing and overtime. We still feel like there are a number of things we can do better. And it's a lot easier to coach after you have a winning moment. And yet you bring them back in and you talk about hey, these are some things that we need to improve on when we play the next game or a more important game."
Malcolm Jenkins talked about the coin toss in overtime and he talked about choosing heads and somebody talked to him into tails. Is that something you even talk to him about?
"Man, I've never (gotten involved). The two things I don't get involved in is the coin toss and the color pants we're wearing. I let the captain handle it. So I know there's been a lot of old school fans wanting to know where the gold pants went. And so they can they can direct message (on Twitter) the captains (laughter)."
You talk about how smart Alvin is quite often. One of the things he does like on the sidelines, it seems like sometimes he's smart about not taking an unnecessary hit for like half a yard. Is that something you see?
"Yeah, listen, I think so. He understands the game and the situation. And yet there's times where you see him finish for that half a yard when it's needed on a third down. You know what I mean? I think he picks and chooses wisely and we trust him. He has very good instincts, gets out of bounds he understands the situation completely, yes."