New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Training Camp Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
With intelligence being such a high priority among your rookie class, have you seen them grasp it as well as you hoped it would?
"Yeah, I think it's gone pretty well. We went through a week and a half of walkthroughs and meetings. So you're giving them basically the installation schedule and then today was the first time essentially where we put helmets on. It was pretty much, again a walkthrough, but a little bit more practice structure, if you will, and I feel like that this young group is doing good, especially in light of not really having to do the minicamp that you normally would have in the spring. At some point here, when we go to pads, we'll start back at the beginning and truly go through a training camp install, but I feel like overall, John (DeShazier), it's gone well."
Historically, has it been more difficult for one or the other of those positions? Whether it be offensive line or tight end or linebacker or quarterback?
"Yeah, look, it's (a) good question. Certainly, there's a challenge for every first year quarterback just with the volume of information and what they're doing. But, I've found over the years that the other players that are smart enough and pick things up well enough to play a lot of different positions. And conversely, there's some players that just require more time and so a lot of it's the individual, the program he's coming from and then part of it is just his ability to retain quickly and we're getting the chance to see that and kind of get a feel for that right now."
The last couple seasons you have been among the NFL's best teams in terms of the turnover margin. Has there been an increased emphasis on that and what do you kind of pinpoint is the reason behind that?
"Well, look, it's (a) good question. Last night, was one of our first team meetings where we illustrated that relative to the last three years. It's a statistic in our league that each year kind of holds true. And so I know that those have been positive numbers for us. Last year, offensively, I think we had eight total giveaways, which I think's never really been done before relative to a whole season. And we've taken it away, defensively, but the point in the meeting last night was, here is how we fared over these last three seasons and coincidentally or maybe not coincidentally, here is where we fared in the turnover game plus and minus, offensively, defensively each of those seasons. And so it's still one of the most important elements to our game."
Alex Anzalone said the other day that there is just a lot more that he can show on film and he hasn't shown the league what he's capable of yet. What are you looking for out of him as he is coming back from this injury and going into year four?
"Well, look, I do think he's a young player that we have high hopes for. He's had some nicks and injuries, but I think the recent surgery had went very well. He has extremely good football IQ, and he has very good range. So I know he's excited to be feeling as healthy as he has (in) quite a bit and I'm just as excited for him. I do think he can be a real good player for us. And we've seen signs of it already, but I'm as excited about it as he is."
You mentioned the helmet that your players put on today, are you using the splash shields, and if so what type of feedback have you gotten from the players about them?
"Well, look, some of the polls were in kind of. Today's the first day with helmets, so it probably is a little early for me to give just the feedback from players. I think some of the players are trying them. I think some of the challenges is just the air you're getting as you're in competition and you're playing. We'll work through some of that. It's not mandatory, it is an option. These guys have all kind of seen the model in the locker room where if they want, the equipment guys to put it on their helmet for a practice, they can do that. So I do not have the feedback yet, but I know one of the challenges is just the ventilation."
I know it's still early, but you've been together for a little while now. Are you getting some ideas on how you can lessen the gap between a regular training camp and what you're having to deal with this year?
"Yeah, I think it's different, but we're so accustomed to adapting and changing. Someone said this, I think to some degree, I think it might have been Bill (Belichick). It's a little bit more like a college preseason. We still have a good month, month and change before we begin play, we'll create scrimmage situations during the course of certain practices to make sure that we're getting the fundamentals of tackling and pad level and all those things that you begin to correct in preseason games, but it'll just come a little bit more from our practices. I think we're going to have more padded opportunities because we're not playing games. In other words, in a normal preseason, let's say the game was on Friday, you'd be in pads during the week and then probably taper down Thursday, walkthrough, play the game Friday, and so without a specific game each week, you are not restricted necessarily to approaching that weekend the same way. Our first weekend coming up here next weekend, we're not playing a game and so we'll be practicing on a Saturday, on a given Monday, and of course there's a day off each week, but without having a preseason game, you have a little bit more flexibility to how you lay out your practice schedule."
How has it gone determining which position groups just because of, historically, the way they used to practice or meet would be most vulnerable to transmission and trying to mitigate? I don't know, if you're treating different groups differently and mitigating that.
"To answer your question, I don't know that we've approached it (like that). We have looked at really more of the science relative to the numbers in meetings, the numbers in the weight room, the numbers outside working out. When it comes to even the locker room, the position groups are mixed up now as opposed to just (being) in one area. Certainly, there are certain positions that are closer to each other than not in, and yet, still, we're relying more on what's taking place outside the building prior to coming here. We're testing daily. Again, every morning I ask Beau (Lowery), 'how'd it go?' no news is good news. So we're still no positive tests yet. We're at 80, and yet we don't ever take that for granted any night. So I think to answer your question, I don't know that we've looked at a certain position group. When we do the tracer study, periodically, Mickey (Loomis) will give me the numbers on hey, here's some tracer numbers from yesterday. There will be a couple offensive linemen maybe that have a 10 minute span near each other, whether that's from a meeting, whether that's from a team meeting. In the locker room it's different, because we have the fiberglass dividers set up. So players are going to be closer to each other for a longer period of time, but they are relatively protected. But I think more than anything, we're trying to follow the protocol and guidelines not only in the building, but away from the building."
So what about like line play during padded practices? You don't think like the linemen might be more breathing each other's air than receivers?
"Yeah, I think that you could make a good argument if someone studied that obviously they're closer to each other than other positions, and yet, I don't have a formation yet where we're spread apart. We're going to have to work through that and rely on the time leading up to those practices and making sure that all of those players are negative to begin with. In other words, look, if there's a positive player in the building, would it transmit more if he was an offensive lineman, you can make an argument yes, because they're on every snap closer to (other players), but we're trying to stop it before there's a positive player in the building."
It might be a little early to ask you this, but with all this going on in college football, have you talked to Jeff (Ireland) much about just kind of what all this means as far as what he'll be doing?
"Yeah, this time of the year, normally our scouts would be here at training camp, they'd be out of practice evaluating position groups, and then beginning to get assignments in the preseason, relative to the other teams. In other words, they'd be helping the pro department with the task of evaluating the other rosters. The challenge with that, we'll start with that before we get to the college game. The challenge with that is you don't have the preseason games to evaluate. So back to the college right now, not having had a chance to really follow it. There obviously seems like a lot is happening there and in a fluid way, with some conferences versus others. I don't know that we're planning on seeing scouts on the road anytime soon and so we'll have to adjust accordingly. I think there's quite a bit of uncertainty, it appears relative to, what conference you're playing in and whether or not you're going to have games. There's a lot, you know, I am getting the news just as you are. But we will have our personnel involved, any way, shape or form and obviously they will have more time, the college scouts, I am talking about will have more time to evaluate game video of these players last year and if they are playing this year. But I think that's part of our adjustment."
Do you think the first game is much more of a mystery for both teams because there's no preseason tape to look at?
"Yeah, I think to some degree, I think so. And yet, you know, for us in Tampa, you know, there's not a lot of turnover in the coaching staffs systems. Obviously, Tom (Brady) now being the quarterback of Tampa Bay, there will be some things that will be different. Personnel is really the thing that you see that's different. Both teams have an influx of rookies and influx of veteran free agents and how that will impact the game and how those people will fit in and what roles we'll they have? Those are the things that are a little bit unique, and to some degree, I think, present every year, you know, even though you have preseason games, generally speaking the wrinkles and some of the things you want to do to start the season you may not show in the preseason. But I think it'll be a little bit more challenging for the clubs with new coaches, new coordinators, new systems overall."
What do you think would be the next steps for Marshon Lattimore's development to kind of just become that consistent presence every week and be a top corner in the league?
"Look, he's already put himself in that discussion each week. He is an extremely talented player. He'll take the tough matchup (and) is very competitive. There's a lot of confidence in our locker room and in his abilities and I think, you know, always whether it's fair or unfair ball production is important. But he certainly has proved he can take the ball away. So I think it's putting another good season together, but he's already put himself, we think in that elite group of players."
How much more challenging is it for an offense to go up against Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins in the same secondary?
"Yeah, you're dealing with a few different things. Situationally, your early downs, then you're dealing with your third downs. Where you may get more or may see a little bit more man to man, depending on your team. Some teams will always stay right and left. Some teams will match. Some teams will match only in man to man coverages. So a lot depends on the system in the team you're playing. So we try to factor those things in offensively, as to how we can how we can get Mike Thomas maybe on the right matchup and I think that's part of the art of putting a plan together. So, yeah, the flexibility of a player like that, Janoris or Marshon or some of the other players we have that can do a few different things certainly helps you defensively."
What does it mean to you to have staff continuity?
"I can't tell you (enough) the significance of just having a quality staff. And look, there's going to be changes each year, some years, maybe more than others. I remember back a few years ago, when Mr. B (late owner Mr. Tom Benson) came to see me, he said, coach, we got a number of these coaches that are interviewing for other jobs. How do you feel about that? And I told Mr. B, I said Mr. B, that's a good thing. I said that means we're doing a good job. So I feel like I've got a number of coaches on the staff who are going to be head coaches in this game someday. But to have guys that you're familiar with that understand what we're valuing as a program and how we want to approach our work week? They're not just guys, maybe that I've worked with before, some I hadn't worked with you know. But I feel like we've got a very talented staff and it starts with just their ability to teach and communicate and have a passion for what they do."
Are you going to look at the practice squad differently this year since it's expanded so much?
"Yeah, it's a good question because there's a few things going on. Number one, you know, the numbers have gone up to 16. Number two, the qualifications for that squad have changed where you can have veteran players. Seven (veteran) players are part of that squad and so you know, it's a bigger list. It's also a different type of list than we've dealt with before. And then lastly, how important is it relative to the pandemic we're dealing with this season? How important is it that you feel like you've got depth, and you've prepared maybe for worst case scenarios? But I do think the expanded practice squad, look, if you just look at the numbers and you say 53 and 16, you're at 69 now as a team. That's considerably different than a year ago, and then knowing we're at 80 already, you know, I just think that there are a number of things that are different about this year's practice squad. Outside of even COVID-19, if you're just looking at some of the changes that have taken place that you really have a chance to carry veteran help on your team, young players on your team to develop all of those things will have to manage and plan accordingly."
Where do you think Marcus Williams is in his development? And have you seen him getting better each year?
"He's someone we feel like that can turn the ball over (back to the offense). He has good instincts and range he can break and each year we've been able to see that his instincts on the back end. I think he's got to work on his tackling. He understands that and he's got to be better in that area. But I think each season we've seen steps that have really helped our defense and we like the combination now when you start looking at smart players like him, Malcolm (Jenkins), those guys on the back end that have played (a while) I feel like you're now getting to a point where his experience is showing. And hopefully the ball production continues and then he continues to work on, you know, some of the things. Like every one of these guys have got areas we want to really improve in and I that's the one area I think that that he needs to be better at. I think he himself would say that."
I'm curious now two weeks in, how satisfied are you with the conditioning and the work they could in?
"Well, I think we're starting to see it. We haven't had that one test, you know, per se and yet today was pretty hot. They fought through it pretty well. We're on the field for an hour and a half. But I think it's a process and they're in pretty good shape. The last couple of weeks we've had a chance to grind in the weight room and run and I'm happy with the body weights and where a lot of these guys are at. Certainly, there's that adjustment to getting in football shape when you're putting the pads on and really beginning to prepare to play and that's coming up here this next month."
What are your thought on Nigel Bradham so far?
"We feel like he gives us some flexibility and experience. We've only had him out on the field here for a short time because, he had to go through the onboarding process. But I think he's someone that could give us some versatility. I think it's going to be important. He helps us in the kicking game and we've had a chance to see enough of him on pro tape to get an idea of what we're getting and the player. I think he can run and once we get the pads on we'll get a better feel first hand up close to see him as a player."