New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, December 31, 2020
How have you seen this Carolina defense change or evolve since the first meeting between the teams?
"Well, they've got a handful of rookies that are playing in starting roles. So just that alone, that experience. They've had a few different faces at the corner position, but I think they're playing overall much better as a unit. They're getting the takeaways and look, when you have a change is drastic as you have with a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator, no offseason, I think you're seeing a unit on that side of the ball now that is benefiting from game reps, corrections, all of those things. They present a lot of different looks and challenges."
If you're not going to have C.J. (Gardner-Johnson) for the game, what does that take away defensively?
"There's no presumption he is or isn't going to be available, obviously he's important in what we do. So like anything else, it is the next guy that has to come in and play."
I know Alvin Kamara, I think he's only 68 yards away from a 1,000 yard season. Do you think that milestone means anything to him? And if you can recall when you guys were scouting him, did you think that that would be the type of back he would be once you got him on the field?
"A couple things. First, with your last question, if I knew the kind of back we're seeing right now is who he was going to be we probably would have drafted him even earlier. You have traits. You have things you like. Man, this guy seems real bright, he's elusive, but how come he transferred from Alabama to junior college? How come he was a part time starter at Tennessee? So there's a number of reasons to, but I think after the evaluation process, I just, I know how I felt. And eventually, I was there for the workout. I was there for the mental part of it. I was there to see him catch punts. And so I love the way he's playing. Relative to the 1,000 yards, you probably have to ask him. But the unique thing about him is I would say he's very unselfish. He's as happy when his teammate scores as when he scores, obviously he had a huge game, but he's unique that way. And it's rare in this day and age, and it's something that is appreciated and I think that, sure, if you're a runner, and you have a chance to get 1,000 yards. Does that mean something? Yeah. Yeah, I think it does for most. And yet, if you asked him that question, hey, to get the win (you might not get 1,000 yards), he'd trade in winning for any of it."
I think you had high words for the receivers the first time you played them, do they pretty much look the same production wise, and that offense as they have gone along?
"They do. And look, they're experienced now in it. I think Joe (Brady) has done a real good job of moving them around. Teddy (Bridgewater), of course, sees the field well, he's not taking sacks, the balls coming out. They have some flexibility where they bring D.J. (Moore) into the backfield and they give you some different looks. They are challenging, they spread the field, and they force you to tackle well in space."
I think it was about a year ago that P.J. Williams learned that he was going to be playing some safety in a game and he said he hadn't done it really since high school, but he's adapted to it, I know you guys like smart, intelligent players. What does that say about his abilities to be able to continually go from one position to another and still be effective?
"Yeah, those instincts allow that and not everyone has (those instincts). There are a lot of players that play well, that don't have those same instincts, but they allow him and players like him more flexibility and he's got good football awareness."
Is this defense maybe even exceeded your own expectations or is this about what you were expecting from a unit that has like really good players at every level?
"Yeah. I don't know. It's a good question. I don't know that at the beginning of the year you're thinking more in terms of winning. Look, I think we turned the corner midseason that stretch when we played, God, it seems like an eternity here, we had Carolina at home, Chicago, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, I mean, we hit a stretch there. We were playing our best defense. And then I thought we played really well against the Chiefs defensively, I thought we played okay last week. And Philadelphia, of course, was not where we wanted to be. I think the thing that's most important is situationally and the first quarter pole the season there were a lot of those numbers, red zone, third down, big plays that weren't where we wanted them and to credit Dennis (Allen), the staff and these guys on defense, they went to work and in every area you've seen a big change, and I think that it gives you a chance."