Saints coach Sean Payton post-practice press conference (Aug. 2)
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2017 Training Camp Presented by Verizon
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
“Let me just hit on a couple transactions to keep our 90 man roster up to speed. We terminated guard Orlando Franklin and we signed these free agents: Linebacker Jonathan Walton, who was out here today and running back Darius Victor. Then we waived/injured linebacker Sae Tautu. Senio Kelemete came off the Physically Unable to Perform list and received some work, so we’re at the 90. ”
Why do think it didn’t work out with Orlando Franklin?
“On the second day he had some soreness in his knee. I think one of the big things was, with us being limited on the offensive line-and I’m not saying it’s not going to work out possibly later with him for us-but we needed healthy bodies. After the first day, he was going to be missing the second practice so we made that decision. I think he’s still trying to get strength back in that knee.”
Looking at the shotgun snap, it seems like playing center has never been an issue for Senio Kelemete in the past?
“Yes, Senio will receive some reps We’ll get that cleaned up, obviously, one’s (failed QB-C exchange) too many. Ideally, he’s playing center or guard, and he’s also played tackle for us in a pinch before, so he’ll receive some work there.”
On a practice like the one this morning, is that the defense doing well or the offense being sloppy?
“When you look at the tape, it’s probably a combination of a couple things. As a head coach you’re hoping to see the ebbs and flows and moments from each side of the ball. You’re trying to create a drill, and it’s a third down drill that’s competitive. Obviously, it’s an important down. When you look at the down and distances you say one, four, six, eight, ten. The average conversion in our league on those distances might be 41 percent, and we were higher. A good conversion rate at the end of the season for any offense is 49 or 48 percent. Defensively we’re just considering either win or lose and then counting up the total. It’s just about finding those opportunities to create a little bit more awareness in regards to what the situation is and how we’re playing it.”
On that play where Marcus Williams got that interception and covered a lot of ground, is that something you guys looked at and studied with him?
“If you looked at his college numbers, he was probably the most productive safety in regards to turnover production. I was encouraged. It was a rep versus the ones, and it’s one of the things he does well-trap and locate. He’s very smart, and we’ve just got to keep giving him those reps.”
What’s the general assessment of him so far?
“It’s been good.”
What other strengths has he shown?
“He knows what he is doing very early on, so his attention to detail is good. Obviously, as a rookie, there is a lot he has to pick up and improve on, but that was an encouraging play.”
What was it about Adam Bighill coming out of Canada that you liked?
“He had a lot of production there. I’m anxious to see how he handles the role in the kicking game because he can run and he can tackle. Obviously, he’s size deficient, but we’re looking for those players that can fill a need in a certain area. If he can play on the four core units in the kicking game, that will help his chances.”
How long have you guys been using the yoga station and what are the benefits?
“It’s just part of recovery. Last season on Fridays we had certain recovery elements and that’s one of them for flexibility. The idea being that it’s a little different program on a Friday in season than it is after a practice like we had here. It’s a little bit more of a worn down exercise where you’re really working on your flexibility and you’re stretching. It is one of five or six stations that we think can help.”
Are you pleased with the overall intensity of camp so far?
“I think we’ve had some good periods and yet, this is a young team and you’re still teaching them. Last night, one of the topics in our meeting was defending and protecting every blade of grass. We had just showed examples of plays over time. Benjamin Watson at New England chasing Champ Bailey 98 yards down field or Malcolm Jenkins at Dallas covering a receiver and stripping the ball out late on a Thanksgiving night. Malcolm in Tampa Bay for that matter or you guys remember the Arizona vs Seattle game this year where Seattle is in a pinch and they make a play to keep the ball from going in and the kicker ends up misses the field goal. The point is you can’t pick and choose those times. Nobody knows when they’re going to occur, but those are game-changing moments When you think you’re playing hard it’s a relative term. I think we still have work to do there.”
What are your early impressions of Alvin Kamara through three days of padded practice?
“He’s been solid. There are a few nuances and couple things with protections. He has a role where he’s moving around in the formation and has to figure that out a little bit more with his alignments. So far, I think he’s done a pretty good job as a runner. We haven’t had a whole lot of live work, but we’ll get to see more once we start playing against other teams. Like Cleveland in about a week and a half.”
How hard is it to evaluate the punt returners with the way Thomas Morstead puts it in the air?
“Yesterday wasn’t a good day. Obviously, if you’re a punt returner and you’re running up and just yelling Peter, you’re not getting a chance to do your job. I think that was a little bit more of an aberration for him. Ultimately, you get into the scrimmage or the preseason and you really get a feel for the full speed with the cover guys coming down, how you can focus and what you can do with the ball when you have it. That being said, the main focal points are technique, setting your feet, learning wind, learning sun and all these elements that you have to pay attention to. In Cleveland you have to pay attention if you’re a returner because it’s different. You look up and everyone in the crowd is wearing a jersey the same color as the ball so you have to learn how to track a ball differently there than somewhere else. Those are all some of the things that we have to be on top of.”
How tight might that competition be?
“We have a lot of candidates. I can’t even stack them right now.”
How important is a preseason game for guys that you’re counting on like Alvin Kamara and Ryan Ramczyk?
“It’s obviously really important because this is all new. The speed of the game is new and you’re hoping to establish some confidence in those players once they begin to do it and have success. You want to build on it and improve. When you get to go against someone else who’s doing their job 100 percent, you really get a better feel on if he can sit on a bull rush. How does he handle speed? How does he handle the period of time he’s in there? We’re not just going in there four plays and out. You might be in there on a drive for 12 plays. I think it’s vital and, obviously, something we’re looking forward to when it comes, but we still have a ton of work to do prior to getting there.”
Looking at team periods going live, you don’t want to get your running backs beat up, but you want to see tackling. So are Trey Edmunds, Darius Victor and even Daniel Lasco getting more reps in those drills?
“Those guys will receive reps, but there’s going to be some periods where we’re going to be live and Cam Jordan is in there and Drew Brees is in there and you’re going to see Mark Ingram or Adrian Peterson. We’re smart that way in regards to how we’re practicing and yet, it’s still about pad level. From what we’re doing now to actually going to the ground, that just gives you a chance to truly see where the play finishes. Oftentimes, you see someone tap off and there’s some question as to where that player would be down.”
How valuable has Mark Ingram become as a passing game player?
“I think he’s improved a lot in that area. I think he’s having a pretty good camp. I know it’s an area that he’s worked on and I know there’s a lot of confidence now with a few of the routes that we’re running where that back is featured. I think that’s helped him quite a bit, especially with the screen game and some of the other things you do as a runner.”
We talked about the Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush type role in this offense. Some of that would be Mark Ingram and some of that would be Alvin Kamara?
“We’ll see as we get closer to the season. Each week we’ll have a plan. Travaris Cadet has handled that role and has been really good in that role. We’ll have a few guys competing in that area. A lot of it is just who we’re playing.”
It seems like Chase Daniel and Thomas Morstead are competing for the holder spot on special teams. Is this permanent, or are you looking to move Chase Daniel to that position?
“They’re competing and eventually there will be one that we trot out there to be with the first group, but I want to see those two out there receiving the reps throughout the preseason and see how they do.”
Why are you opening that up?
“It’s just like many of the other positions. Here’s the benefit of the punter, there’s a lot of time on task that he has with the kicker when we we’re in other drills. The benefit of the quarterback is the ability to throw the football if something happens and he is a little bit more of an experienced guy that can call plays, has been in the huddle, and can calm the group down. Those are the two guys that we’re looking at right now, and we have seen receivers do that job. I’m anxious just to see back and forth how the two of them are doing.”
Can you share anything on Marshon Lattimore’s status?
“No. Nothing specific. It’s not a hamstring or anything. He had his knee tweaked, and I think he’ll be fine. It won’t be long.”
I think people are struggling with the fact that Alvin Kamara keeps getting these great reviews and he wasn’t the guy at his position group in college at the University of Tennessee. Do you know why that happens with players like him?
“There are a lot of reasons. His initial school was Alabama, and there were a handful of running backs there, and for whatever reason he transferred, and he played a (specific) role at Tennessee. There was another really good running back there. We try to evaluate the player and then envision role that we have for him. Sometimes you have highly productive college players that have trouble finding their niche at this level and there are other times where players have played and demonstrated some skills that you’re looking for, but maybe didn’t have the large production, that end up going to have significant NFL careers. I know this: when I was on that school visit, they spoke highly of him and felt like he was a key contributor. The work out and all the things we did when we were there for a day were really impressive.”
Did you talk to Nick Saban or was that too far in the past?
“I did not specifically regarding him. I did for some other players, but not him. We spent the day there as a group, and I came away with this: at the right place in the draft, this is a player we would like to have. Fortunately he was still available in the third round.”
You’ve talked about that visit a lot. We’re you sold on Kamara beforehand?
“I’d say that helped me a little bit more. It helped me confirm some things. It’s hard to really evaluate how smart a player is football-wise. You can see signs of it on film, but to spend an afternoon there and see him in meetings with Pete (Carmichael) and their quarterback (Josh Dobbs) helps. They had about eight prospects this year with the linebacker, a cornerback, the receiver, the quarterback, the defensive end, and the running back. It was one of those visits. As a group, we probably hit five or six schools that way. He was an intriguing player, but after the visit he was a target.”
Ken Crawley seems to be having deja vu for the second camp in a row?
“He’s done some really good things. I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence. Obviously, he’s a year into the system now. He can run, and he’s long, and those are good traits for a corner.”
How much do you think that experience from last year carries over to this year?
“It helps a lot. He played a lot. Even when there were plays where other guys were making plays, you always felt like he was in position, but I think there’s a bit more ball production in the early parts of this camp.”
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