Michael Thomas out, Davante Adams doubtful for Saints-Packers clash

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Davante Adams

Michael Thomas will miss his second straight game with a high ankle sprain when the New Orleans Saints host the Green Bay Packers for Sunday Night Football.

It is no surprise that the standout wideout is unavailable. Thomas did not practice for the second straight week. He was injured late in the season opener for New Orleans.

For the Packers, their top wide receiver may also miss the matchup of NFC heavyweights. Davante Adams, who did not practice all week after suffering a hamstring injury last week versus the Lions, is listed as doubtful.

Saints linebacker Chase Hansen will also miss his second straight game with a hip injury.

While Marcus Davenport has been upgraded to questionable with his elbow injury which has caused him to miss the first two games, Trey Hendrickson (groin), David Onyemata (calf) and Ty Montgomery (hamstring) are all questionable. The defensive line has to be a concern.

Malcom Brown (foot) and Terron Armstead (groin) were both limited today as well.

Green Bay rookie tight end Josiah Degura (ankle) and linebacker Randy Ramsey (groin) are also doubtful.

Other Packers injury issues include defensive tackle Kenny Clark and safety Darnell Savage, both questionable with groin injuries, and guard Elgton Jenkins who is also questionable with back/rib issues.

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Video with New Orleans Media
Friday, September 25, 2020

It’s been I think like seven years since you guys have actually faced (Aaron) Rogers in a game, when you’re looking at his tape this week, is he still pretty much the same player as he was back in 13 or whenever you played him?
“Yeah, absolutely. I feel like when you look at the tape last year and the early part of this season, he’s got great command of what they are doing offensively. They have got great balance. I know that is obviously a quarterback’s friend. Their ability to run the ball is impressive. They take plenty of shots down the field, it’s an explosive offense in the running game and passing game. You watch the timing of what they’re doing, precision. I think Matt (LaFleur) and his staff have done a great job of instilling a plan. This is a team that obviously won a bunch of games, 13 a year ago, and they’re off to a 2-0 start. And so yeah, he’s playing fantastic.”

Does he still do a lot of the off schedule stuff that he kind of did in the past? Just kind of like improvising sort of?
“Yeah, he does and yet, I would say a credit to what they’re doing right now. He’s got that ability, and certainly in the redzone, if you’re going to rush three, he’s going to understand that, buy time, find receivers. But he’s on schedule. He’s someone who’s difficult to sack. He’s got a quick release, he understands defense, he understands where he might be short. And so you’re seeing the same skillset.”

Would you describe this as maybe a challenging time for you to try to figure out the offense and get it going or do you feel like this is something you’ve been through before and you’ve done it? How would you say this last few days have been for you looking at the offense?
“Well, look, I thought we did some things better last week than we had the week before. I felt the one challenge a week ago was the time of possession. And in the second half, we had trouble getting off the field. We talk all the time about a complimentary game and to credit Las Vegas, they very much played a complimentary game. Their offense converted, was on the field a lot and conversely, it felt like, man, it felt like the third quarter went quick for us relative to our snaps on offense, and a lot of snaps for our defense. Each week, we’re working extremely hard at trying to find the right fit for our players to have success in that game. It’s always easier to do coming off a win, and yet that’s just the reality of our league. You come back, you make the corrections and then very quickly, you’ve got to get on to the next opponent. And meanwhile, as coaches, we’re constantly evaluating, not only what we’re doing, but who we’re doing it with.”

How big has Nick Easton been in just giving you guys some flexibility there and kind of filling in wherever you needed a player to start?
Yeah, look, there is flexibility. I think, overall, it’s been important for us. He’s someone that, obviously, can play at center. He’s played a guard. He is an experienced player. He was a good addition for us when we signed him and is playing well.”

Does Tre’Quan (Smith) have a better understanding of what he’s doing in the offense now? He’s talked before about it was a little bit slow, but does it look like he’s where he needs to be?
“Yeah, I think so. I think, number one, he had a real good week of practice. We’ll move him around some. He’s a real good blocker for us, but he’s also a guy down the field that can run and one thing about him is he can catch the ball in traffic. He’ll be a big part of this plan.”

Marcus Davenport has been back at practice last couple days. How beneficial was that for y’all just to get him back?
“Look, it’s good to have all your guys out there healthy and sometimes that’s not always the case. But yeah, I would say just what you said. It’s good to have him back out there working and getting reps and feeling good.”

It seems like the Raiders either had no crowd noise or it was low enough that you couldn’t hear it. Have you guys considered just dropping the fake crowd noise all together because you will be able to have at least some fans in attendance this week?
“Look, they just changed the levels or decibels of which a stadium can set crowd noise from. What was 70, I think you can go up to 80 now. Yeah, look, we’ll set it up whatever level you’re allowed to set it at and I think that will work just fine.”

What’s been your assessment of the kicking game so far this season?
“Pretty good. Last week, I would say we did our job. There was nothing remarkable relative to coverage or return units and the week before we were outstanding. Hopefully, that can be a big part of our success Sunday night.”

Does that surprise you considering that you didn’t get to really touch on it too much in training camp with the live reps?
“Yeah, look, we’re talented at those positions. We’re talented at kicker. We’re talented at punter. We feel like we’ve got real good coverage units and a good return game. I think we’ve got a core group of guys that have returned and obviously that helps.”

New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Friday, September 25, 2020

It’s been a while since y’all have actually had to face Aaron Rodgers. I’m not even sure if you were here the last time they did, but when you’re looking at his game, is it still kind of similar to what it was five, six years ago?
“Well, he certainly is still playing at an elite level. He does a great job, he’s got great command of the offense. He is certainly driving the bus, he has got the ability to make all the checks and get the ball to the right people. So, he is certainly a difficult challenge for us. And he’s got some good skill guys to get the ball to. So, they’re playing at an extremely high level right now.”

Specifically, with his ability to make some of those off schedule plays and evade the pass rush, how difficult is he in that regard especially?
“Well, look, he’s extremely difficult. I’ll tell you the thing that I think he’s doing even a better job of now is the rhythm passing game. The ball is coming out a lot faster than I recall looking at him in the past, but yet, he still has the ability when things aren’t there, when things break down to create, move around in the pocket and generally create a lot of explosive plays when he does that. So, that’s certainly going to be something that we’ve got to keep our eye on.”

I’m just curious just in your film study this week, what’s been something that the Packers do really well that’s popped out as maybe the thing that’s going to be difficult to defend against or just something you’ve noticed the last two weeks that they are exceptional at?
“There’s a lot of things that they are exceptional at. They are exceptional at running the football, they are exceptional at throwing the football, they do a really good job in the screen game. I think this is an extremely well balanced offense. There is a reason why they are number one in the league in a lot of statistical categories, it’s because they are operating at an extremely high level. I think the big thing is they are able to run the ball extremely effectively and that opens up a lot of things for them in the passing game. It has probably been a while since we’ve played an offense that I think is operating at this level.”

When you went back and looked at that Raiders game, what was kind of the big issue with (Darren) Waller specifically? Why do you think they were able to kind of consistently go kind of back to the well with him?
“Yeah, look, he’s a really good player, extremely talented, we had a multitude of guys that were in coverage on him both in zone and man coverage. I think they did a really good job of utilizing him. I think the biggest factor in that game was the fact that we didn’t get off the field on third now, which we’ve typically been a lot better at doing. It’s been a big point of emphasis this week, and we’ll look to get better in that area.”

Is part of that just trying to force them into some more third and long situations? It seems like the Raiders were kind of ahead of the sticks pretty much the whole game.
“Yeah, I think that’s a big deal and when we did force them into some longer down and distance situations, and we had good opportunities to get off the field. We didn’t convert, whether it be we allowed somebody to catch the ball and run for a first down or we got some penalties in those situations. So, certainly third down is a huge emphasis for us. Redzone has got to be a huge emphasis for us and those are areas that we need to improve on.”

Kind of looking at those, like, especially the PI penalties, is there a balance guys have to kind of strike with your physical corners, who have that style of play that’s going to maybe lead to some more penalties, but not kind of backing off some of the physicality so you don’t get those penalties if that makes any sense?
“Well, look, I think you’ve always got to be aggressive and we just try to coach through some small fundamental and technique things to hopefully avoid those things, avoid those things happening. Look, at the end of the day, they’re judgment calls, the officials call them and we’ve got to deal with it. Look, that’s what this game is all about. Sometimes you’ve got to overcome some adversity and rise up and make a stop and we’ve got to do a better job of doing that.”

What did you see in Michael Hodges, when he was under (Mike) Nolan that made you guys so comfortable with putting him in charge of those linebackers? What does he kind of bring to the staff?
“Well, I think he’s an extremely hard worker, he’s very detailed in the way that he goes about his job, it’s extremely important to him. He’s searching for everything, searching under every rock and every stone trying to uncover anything that he can to help his players to be able to go out and execute on game day. You’re around the guy for a certain period of time, and you get to see him operate and see him do his job and I just think, when you have a guy like that, and he’s been in in the system, I just think that’s the best way to do it. It’s no different than drafting players and developing players. That’s the best way to improve your football team, I think it’s the same way with your coaching staff. Hopefully, you’re able to get guys in, they’re able to develop in your system, understand the things you’re trying to get accomplished and then hopefully, they’re able to move on and into bigger and better things and you’ve brought somebody else up through the ranks that’s able to slide into that position. I just think that’s, ultimately, when you have a culture, and you have a way of doing things, if you can continue to promote from within, I think that’s the best thing to do.”

He said he had some pretty good mentors at Texas A&M where you went. When you’re able to kind of learn under a guy like that, what does that do for a player? Just like having that kind of mentor who’s had a lot of success as well?
“Yeah, well, look, I think all of us as coaches, learn from our players as much as our players learn from us. And it’s funny, because I think coaches and players, a lot of times see the game in a different way, in a different light. And so, I think all of us continue to learn from our players and I think that’s a good thing. And certainly, when you’re able to coach or be around really productive players. It helps your growth as a coach.”

You have been playing so much sub personnel through the first two weeks. I am just wondering how much C.J. (Gardner-Johnson) just allows you to do with that just with his ability to kind of stick those in there and play against the run. What does that give you guys just when you’re lining up your personnel out there?
“Yeah, look, I think every week you go into a gameplan, and you really look at, all right, what does the offense do really well and what’s the best personnel grouping we could put on the field to try to stop that? The first week of the season, we played a lot of sub defense. Last week, we had some five down big people to try to help us in the run game. Each week that changes, and that really gets back to just having some versatile players that have the ability to do a lot of things and certainly C.J. is one of those guys that can do a lot of different things. And I think anytime that you have one of those nickel type players that can fit in the run game, it allows you to do a lot of different stuff and gives you some pretty good matchups in the passing game. So, each week, each game plan will be different and a lot of that’s predicated on not only our personnel, but also the personnel of the offense and what the offense is trying to do.”

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Taysom Hill
Video Call With New Orleans Media
Friday, September 25, 2020

You got a chance to play briefly with Aaron Rodgers. And I just want to ask you about him and Drew (Brees) sort of compare. I mean, what are some similarities and maybe even some differences between those two?
“I think overall, both of those quarterbacks, they win a lot of football games with their mind. And, obviously, Aaron (Rodgers), there’s probably a little more off timing throws, and Aaron (Rodgers) runs the ball a little bit more than Drew (Brees) does, which is probably what I would say, what would be the difference. But both quarterbacks win with their minds. I would say, Drew, what makes him special and unique is, his ability to know what the defense is doing, attacking their weakness. And, I certainly saw the same thing from Aaron (Rodgers). And he had a great command of the offense and, finding the weaknesses and exploiting them.”

The Saints and the Packers played early in your tenure here with the Saints, but you didn’t play in that game. So, I guess how special is this for you that you actually are going to be a part of the game plan to play against them?
“Yeah. The turnover in Green Bay has been high since I was there last. There are certainly several players that are still there that I consider friends. It’s a fun game to be a part of. But man, overall, I had a great experience in Green Bay, going from the number of injuries that I had, and then being undrafted. And the reality is, Green Bay created an opportunity for me to be seen. And I’ll forever be grateful to the Packers and their organization and they certainly have a soft spot in my heart as well. Because of the opportunity that they created for me.”

The kicking game has looked real sharp these first two games, and I was wondering does that surprise you at all, considering you guys didn’t get that preseason and same live work?
“No, I’m not surprised. I look at Thomas (Morstead), I look at Wil (Lutz), I look at Zach (Wood). And those three core guys have been together for the last several years and they’re all professionals. They’re vets that were working in the offseason. They put in plenty of work during training camp. And so, I’m not surprised how well they’ve performed so far.”

In terms of the coverage units, you guys seem to be picking up right where you left off last year. Is that just, sort of kind of the same thing?

“Yeah, I would say the same thing. I think our core guys are guys that we have played together. And I would also say, last year, we were all still getting used to each other with a new Special Teams Coordinator. And I think, going into this year, we didn’t have a learning curve. You know with Coach Rizzi, like we were all familiar with each other. And we obviously added a few new parts, but the core, nucleus and stuff is all still there. And you know, Craig (Robertson) and Thomas (Morstead) who were our special teams captains, like those guys have done a great job making sure that everybody’s ready and they’ve been great leaders, special teams wise.”

Did you guys still have the quarterback challenges during this preseason? And if so, what was your record? How did you do?
“Yeah, good question. We did. We did still have the QB challenges, but it wasn’t as organized, you would say is it as it normally is. And honestly, I’m not sure what the record was. If you ask me I’m sure I would say, I will say that I won. If you ask Drew (Brees) he’d probably say the same thing. If you asked Jameis (Winston) he’d probably say the same thing. I’m not sure where we were.”

Was there a particular talent, since Jameis was the new guy in the bunch? Was there a particular skill set that he showed off that came out in those even more than in a practice session?
“I’ll say most of the QB challenges, most of it was, playing around. There wasn’t really a ton of opportunity to throw a deep ball and we were just having fun. So there’s nothing particular that stands out in my mind.”

Just following up on my last question. From the Washington game, that preseason game in 2017 for Green Bay to now, how would you say that you’ve grown since then?
“Yeah, I mean, I think overall, just my overall confidence of playing in the NFL. I think that transition from the speed of the game to, you know, the style of defense that you play week in and week out, my comfort level of that has grown tremendously and continues to grow. But I’d say that those are the main things that stick out in my mind. Every year, I feel like it’s a little bit easier to, to recognize and make right decisions and make plays. And that’s what comes to my mind.”

Do you ever find yourself looking back, like, oh, it’s been three years since then, and just how far things have come for you since then?
“Yeah. And I think again, this week is one of those weeks that’s created an opportunity for me to, for me to do that. And I certainly did in my career, playing out the way that it has so far. But man, it’s been, the last few years have been so much fun for me and my wife and our family. And having the opportunity to be in New Orleans and playing in the NFL has been an incredible experience. But the reality is that, that incredible experience all started in Green Bay and I had a great experience there too”

It looked like on one of their punts last week that you kind of, like really, lit up Foster Moreau. And like, it seems like contact is one of the hallmarks of your game. Like how do you marry that though, with the thought that you’re probably closer to that quarterback chair, then you have been at any point in the last couple years?

“Yeah, that’s something that I have to remove from my mind, frankly. I prepare every week to play quarterback. But I also know that my role is unique. And that can add value in a different way to this team. So, I feel like if I’m worried about avoiding contact, preserve my body, preserve me as a quarterback, then I am not, adding as much value as I possibly can to my team. So, I am not thinking about that as I take the field. And my mindset is to make every play count that I’m on the field and to help our team win football games.”

New Orleans Saints Center/Guard Erik Mcoy
Video Call With New Orleans Media
Friday, September 25, 2020

How big has Nick Easton been for you just whenever, whether it’s been Andrus (Peat) or Cesar (Ruiz), just kind of plugging in and not missing a beat?
“Nick’s (Easton) a heck of a player. He’s very smart, very cerebral, knows the playbook like the back of his hand, and he’s a great addition to the room. He’s definitely somebody that I enjoy working with.”

Cesar (Ruiz) got in for like, six snaps in injury relief last week. How good was that just to have him ready to be able to play last week?
“Yeah, I would say it was really beneficial. Anytime that you can get young guys like us on the field, it’s a good thing. You can get the experience, the game experience, especially. He’s a valuable piece of this offensive line”

The offense with Michael Thomas, not playing last week, maybe not playing this week, it changes a little bit. Does that change anything for you up front in terms of how the entire game is going to go?
“I would say yes and no. Just because, Michael Thomas is the best receiver in the NFL. Not having him on the field is obviously a difference. But up front, we have to go and execute whether he is there or not, whether that is in the run game or in protection. We’ve got to go out and execute, and be fundamentally sound.”

Obviously, you know, when you’re looking to bounce back from a loss, and you have a good opponent coming in, do you kind of have to tell yourself alright, let’s just focus on doing what we need to do and not try to do too much to, in a way kind of, you know, make up for last week. Does that make sense?
“Yeah, that makes sense, hundred percent and I would say it all comes down to the execution. All across the board, especially on the offensive line, we can execute a ton better than we did last game. And especially better than we did in the Tampa game. But, just trying not to do too much, staying within your realm and game. And just execution. It’s a big thing.”

How tough, just from film study, how tough is Kenny Clark to kind of deal with?
“Kenny Clark is a hell of a player. And I’ll be the first one to tell you, run or pass. He’ is strong, he’s quick twitch. That rare combination of size and speed makes him one of, if not the best defensive tackles in the NFL. So, I have to be on my A game.”

You guys are averaging like 8.4 yards per screen attempt, it’s up like three yards from last year. What do you think some of the keys are to that being so good the first couple weeks of the season?
“Honestly, I would just say assignment, knowing kind of where they’re going to drop to. That’s something I especially didn’t know last year, where defense is going to drop to, which is going to depend on you know, who’s responsible when they’re one out, who’s responsible when they’re two out and just the assignment of it all.”

Yeah, how would you say you’ve grown from year one to year two?
“So, I have grown a ton in just the mental area of the game, just better recognition of twists and slants and stuff like that. But also physically I’ve gotten a lot better with my reach blocks, with my footwork. That’s stuff that I spent a lot of time in the offseason working on. So it’s nice to see that improvement”

There are going to be like 750 fans, family members in the stands. Is your wife going to be there or any other family?
“Yes, my beautiful wife will be there. I cannot speak about, I don’t know if the rest of my family will be. But, my beautiful wife will be. And that’s exciting.”

Back to Nick (Easton), I’ve heard a couple people just mention his intelligence there, how does that kind of play out on the field, like is it just, being in the right place or Is it communicating?
“I would say a lot of it has to do with communication. Especially with me. Hee’s really good at picking up on when the defensive line is going to slant, or when he thinks the twist game is coming. So he’ll be like, ‘hey E, watch the three technique slant here, or ‘watch the TT here.’ Just stuff like that, just with film study. So it’s impressive.”

New Orleans Saints Defensive Tackle Malcom Brown
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Friday, September 25, 2020

How are you feeling?
“Feeling good, just trying to get the gameplan down and work towards this Sunday (night) game.”

Short weeks are always hard to bounce back from even with a win. So, when you’re going over all of the things that you need to work on, how do you balance recovering from that West Coast, versus working on the things that you need to improve on for the next week?
“As professional athletes that’s kind of what our job requires every day. You come in with bumps and bruises and you still have to get the game plan down, you still have to get everything taken care of. That’s just so like, when the day is over, I mean, you’re not just running out the door, you might be going to get some treatment, you might be going to the meeting room, might be doing whatever to get those last little things locked down, get your body right, get everything right for that week’s game. I mean, you kind of just throw that away and do it all again the next week.”

Yeah, what do you see from their running game and what makes their running back kind of a unique challenge?
“Man, it’s an explosive running game. He (Aaron Jones) finds his gaps, his guys makes holes for him and he hits them running and he has a burst, breakaway speed. He has everything you want in a running back. Like I said, the offensive line makes pretty big holes for him and even when there’s not holes, he’ll set up holes and get everything going for himself. So, they work real well together. They’ll come in and play it.”

How do you feel like you guys did against (Josh) Jacobs last week?
“We obviously didn’t do everything we wanted. We didn’t win the game. So, like I said, we’re on to the Packers now and I’m going to try to stop Aaron (Rodgers).”

You got Marcus (Davenport) back at practice this week. Just how big is that getting him back at least taking some reps in?
“It’s good to have everybody out there on the field, helping our depth and having everybody that can roll and go. Everybody’s learning stuff, we’re still knocking the rust off and everything. So, it’s good to have him back out there.”

How does (Malcolm) Roach look so far to you?
“His ears are open, eyes are open. He’s looking to try and learn. He’s listening to everything everybody’s talking around him. And he’s playing fast, he came in and he’s been working really hard.”

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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