NFL officials visit Saints camp to explain new rules for 2019

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Saints denied Super Bowl by missed call.

NFL official Brad Allen and some of his gameday crew held a meeting at the Saints media room with the local media to explain new rules for the 2019 season.

Officials will emphasize enforcement on rules regarding the use of helmet, offensive holding and the blindside block.

The use of the helmet rule is a bit different from the helmet-to-helmet penalty already in place. Players cannot lower their head to any part of an opponent’s body, and the rule will apply to both offensive and defensive players.

At the speed of play, it will be very difficult to determine when players have illegally lowered their heads which will make the officials job much harder.

When I asked Mr. Allen if this will result in more penalties, I also explained to him that many fans I talk to who like the NFL also say at times it is hard to watch a game due to way too many flags. He said he didn’t know if there will be more flags, but he said the league will continue to try to keep players safe. Allen also admitted there are two areas where the the use of the helmet call will be more difficult, interior line play and plays at the point of attack on the goal line.

As for offensive holding calls, the league is trying to make to stop instances when an offensive lineman grabs the torso or shoulder of a defender in an effort to stop him factoring into the backside of a play.

Allen also showed the assembled media a film which highlighted another rule to be enforced in 2019 which abolishes all blindside blocks anywhere on the field.

I asked Allen if pass interference was the hardest call to make and he said it is very difficult but did not go into much detail, although the topic was covered in the film. There is, of course, the new rule to let pass interference now be challenged via replay. Both offensive and defensive interference, called and uncalled, can be examined.

The fans will not be happy with more reviews and the impact they will have on the length of games but with the massive no-call in the NFC Championship against the Saints last season made this rule change happen.  I guess fans will love the rule when it helps their team and hate it when it hurts their team.

The NFL is not the same as what I grew up loving before the technical age. It can never go back now but it was faster and more fun when you could debate if a call was blown. Now with all the replays, calls can still be blown but some can be corrected. How this impacts the sport remains to be seen.

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

2019 Training Camp Presented by Verizon

Friday, August 2, 2019

Post-Practice Media Availability

How much does that help the evaluation process, I guess especially for the linemen when you are able to get that red zone work in?

“Well, there’s just like an ongoing teaching progression and that’s part of the installation and obviously you’re trying to get, not all but most of your installation done prior to beginning to play games. It changes when you’re in that area of the field. It is an area that you can give up yards, but if you’re pretty efficient down there defensively and forcing teams to kick field goals and that can be pretty significant. Obviously offensively, you’re trying to score touchdowns. So, today was our first day getting into that and getting into that section of the field.”

For a young player like (Alex) Anzalone, how much did it benefit him going through a full 16 games last season?

“I think quite a bit. Coming off the injury the year before, I think quite a bit. He is real smart and very comfortable in coverage. To get through a year and the way he did and play as well as he did I think that there’s a confidence level then you return with.”

Some of that benefit too is physical then because he can go through a whole offseason without rehabbing?

“Sure, yeah. He’s not rehabbing, he’s actually in the offseason program.”

When you look at the RPO quarterbacks’ going into the future, could you see them getting double digit carries game in and game out, as far as sticking that system?

“It is a good question. Philosophically, our league has seen an evolution offensively in different directions. There have been years where multiple tight ends (are a trend). At some point, you’re going to have to be able to run the football. I think we are seeing a little bit more of some of the built in run or passes. Yet I think there is a, place for that depending on who your personnel is and what you’re trying to accomplish. That ability to run the ball without it being a RPO, because there are times where you’re going to just want to run the ball. All of that I think factors in. But, I think a lot of it depends on who you have personnelwise and what your vision is as a team for your offense.”

Having Alvin’s (Kamara) versatility in both running and pass-catching, how much does that help you with the red zone?

“Well, he’s a good football player, not just a receiver, he’s a good runner. So, there’s a little bit more of a premium on your running game down there when you’re getting some of the red coverages we do, on a two and a half, three yard gain is a pretty good play.”

Did you get a chance to see the pass interference challenge last night in the Hall of Fame Game?

“Oh, I heard about it. It sounded like it took not that long. It is just another play that’s being challenged. I felt like everyone felt it was as we saw pass interference, (it) got challenged last night. But, I didn’t see the play. I’ll watch it. The feedback I got was it was a, it was kind of an easy, no-call or ruling on the field stands right. I didn’t see any of the game.”

I know so much gets made of the unintended consequences and so early. Do you expect teams to maybe try to weaponize it in a way. Try and have a technique to draw it?

“I think that’ll be difficult. I think that would be hard. It is being officiated the same way. It’s being officiated at the same way and if it goes to New York, they’re going to look closer at it and then make a decision. If they have to look at it probably over 30 seconds, they are probably going to stay with what they call them, the field. So, the biggest thing is valuing your challenges a little differently now that you have one that might be a more significant play. I don’t want to get caught in the second half without any challenges? So, the eight yard catch, no catch maybe or feed inbounds, in the first half probably does not merit using the challenge on if I can save it for a bigger play if need be. I mean the worst thing that could happen for you as a coach would be to have a game changing play in the second half and you’re out of challenge flags.”

Do you think the perception of the game in terms of officials needing to be from different parts of the country, should play a factor?

“I am not quite sure how the selections are made relative. I think that is really more for Al (Riveron). I think they are mindful of that, just relative to eliminating any type of perception. But, I think that is more of the scheduling with the league office.”

After a year with Demario Davis, how much do you think that was a home run with an acquisition?

“It was identifying in an area that we felt we wanted to improve and then finding the right type of makeup and the right type of football player. Sometimes, it is hard to do and sometimes you have to wait for the draft. However, fortunately for us, the vision was pretty clear and to his credit, he has really come through and played well. He is a good leader too.”

How much is he a part of the run defense?

“Well he was part of it. He is a physical player. He is not a wrap up and take down guy. He is someone that that can hit you and stop you in your tracks. He was part of that.”

Were there any other rule changes that you had to adjust to?

“I think one that is significant is any peeled back block, you could not go to the head or neck. You can’t peel back behind and go towards your line of scrimmage in and knock someone off their feet. You’re going to have to be a little bit smarter. I think that is a good rule change. Generally, when those blocks happen, those players are out of the play anyway. They’re chasing. So on a turnover, the defense has to be smart about peeling back in and hitting someone that can be a foul.

Are you going to coach to just screen the player?

“Yes. We’re going to screen. You’re going to shield. You can block them. You just can’t decleat them. We’re learning more. You don’t have to just (have someone) getting hit in the head to get a concussion. You can get hit hard in the chest and it can be a traumatic play for the guy getting blocked. That was one. There’s a couple relative to, there’s a foul on a scoring play, a defense or offensive foul, usually it was enforced on the kickoff. It still can be, but the team that was fouled against can take it on the PAT try. So, if all of a sudden you want to make them, at the end of the game instead of kicking a field goal or PAT from the 15, you can make them kick it from the 30. That is pretty significant rather than take it on the kickoff and then vice versa offensively if you choose to take the foul, you can go to the one-yard line and go for two if you want as opposed to from the two.”

They seem like they are going to be looking at the running back more closely going forward.

“I think philosophically, the message is clear relative to leading with the head or crown down, body behind, we know that’s not a good position. When does that happen? It happens with a pulling lineman. It happens with a player in space, a defender. It happens with a running back when he gets outside the tackle box.  Focusing on seeing target or head to the side. That’s the second year of this rule and again, trying to draw clarity from it.”

After bringing in two new tight ends this offseason, what have you seen in Dan Arnold so far?

“The progress. He is a young player. He had a pretty good 50/50 ball yesterday, that I thought was a good play and then the confidence that comes with playing well. So just that growth, the reasons that he made the team, now you want to see those steps.”

New Orleans Saints Linebacker Demario Davis

2019 Training Camp Presented by Verizon

Friday, August 2, 2019

Post Practice Media Availability

Is there anything now with this defense that you don’t know? Is it truly everything is second nature to right now?
“I think at this point I’ve got it down pat about the best as you can get it. There’s always little things that you can add. We’ve put us in different things in the offseason that we’re sharpening now, and I think we’ve got probably got about three more installs. Just the more and more you get through it, you go through it, the better you become and more accustomed (you are with it). I think that’s the key to playing fast, get it down, and make it second nature so you can focus on what the offense is doing.”

How much pride do you, Alex Anzalone, and A.J. Klein take in running down the field with the receivers right there in coverage for 25, 30 yards?

“I think it’s a spatial game. Now you have to have hybrid linebackers that can get the job done in the box and make plays 15 plus yards down the field because the tight ends are running deeper, running backs and running deeper, and now and then you may get on a wide receiver in slot or something like that. It’s just the nature of the business and it comes with the position. Now you have those responsibilities and so you’ve just got to make sure that you’re prepared to do it and know when to get into those spots.”

We have had fans come up to us on the Saints radio and say, well, Demario Davis to me, I know you are your own man. But they kind of view the great linebackers we’ve had here. Sam Mills, Jonathan Vilma, and they kind of even say now because they are more familiar under Sean Payton that Demario Davis is our new Jonathan Vilma. You’ve got to take a lot of pride in that when the fans view you that way?

“I’ve got so much respect for guys like that. The guys that are in Saints glory and the Saints Hall of Fame. I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for those guys and the work that they put in. To even being in the same conversation is an honor. I know the game is a lot different now. Linebackers are asked to do a lot more stuff, especially in the coverage game now and going wider and deeper down the field. I try to focus on being as best I can in this era. And at the same time, I have a lot of appreciation and utmost respect, nothing but praise for the guys who came in front of me.

Sean Payton was saying how a lot of teams my try to save those reviews for the second half now that pass interference is reviewable. Being a player on the field, how do you guys deal with that and how do you think it plays into the strategy?

“I think goes a lot more to the head coach more than anything. The challenge has always been controlled by the head coach. He is listening inside his headset to the guys up top (booth coaches) and he will know how to best use it. I do not think as far as us, it affects us any different. If we get the call, we get it. If we do not get the call, we do not get it. That kind of goes both ways. Sometimes on defense, you can get away with one, sometimes offense gets away with a lot. But I think that’s on the coach as far as how they want to review it and you can’t let it affect your game.”

How has the game changed looking at RPOs and you’ve got Lamar Jackson type quarterbacks and Taysom Hill. To honor that quarterback truly as a runner now it goes back to RGIII (Robert Griffin III), you’re probably familiar. Does that give a linebacker on an assignment more responsibility?

“I think it is tough anytime you have got the extra dynamic of a quarterback that can run, but what really helps them is their ability to keep plays alive longer. It is so much you fear them running down the field because most of the time when they get down the field they slide anyways. They can keep plays alive longer so you have to turn and find an open man that maybe turning up the field wide open. But even more than the scrambling quarterback, it is just the run-pass option. They can fake a run and it looks like a run. The linemen are coming down field. The only people that know it is a pass are the quarterback and the wide receiver. We have been trying to push and say, man, you have got to call that flag because you have got linemen down the field blocking and the quarterback pulls and he throws it. For a linebacker, you cannot get a read on that. Usually, in prior times if the linemen come down the field, you know it is a run, if they stand straight up, you know it is the pass. But now they have a run play called and the only people who know it’s a pass are the quarterback and the receiver and the linemen maybe three-yards down the field and he throws a slant route with linebackers at the line of scrimmage. So it is hard on us. We just hope we get a few of those calls, but who knows?”

You mentioned that how much linebackers are asked to do now. The consistency with the group, most of the guys are back. Does that allow you guys to scheme things up a little differently or more complicated? Do anything differently this year than maybe you did last year?

“I think we have a closer bond. Some guys have been together for three years now and most of us for two years under the same coach so we have a really close bond, not just on the field, but off the field. I think that just kind of allows us to think along the same patterns. A lot of times we may change a blitz in the middle of the play without even saying it or communicating with each other because we both kind of think along the same plane. Whether it’s two of us or three of us on the field, we kind of found a groove of just kind of understanding how a guy plays, how a guy thinks, and it just puts us one step ahead of the offense.”

So that unspoken communication, do you think that that’s overrated, underrated in the NFL and not talked about enough? How important is that?

Chemistry is a probably not talked about or taken as seriously as it should be? I think for as well as we played last year defensively, I think a lot of that has to do with just our chemistry all around, especially in our room and to the whole defense and the team. Chemistry is what allows teams to really gel on the field and just guys knowing where certain guys are going to be in that call from knowing where a guy is going to be in the locker room or what he’s going to be doing in the locker room. I could probably tell you about 15 guys and what they’re doing right now and then that translates to the field.”

What about your journey? I mean, to me that’s the story, a great story. Mississippi, you end up at Arkansas State, and to be where you are right now, you have to be enjoying this process and really proud from where you came from to be where you are at right now?

“I am just blessed. Not just my journey of being born to a single mom and not having much growing up, but even more so just falling into the lot of the wrong stuff. I got expelled from school in high school. I went to jail my first year in college, and then my sophomore year in college I end up giving myself to the Lord and understanding that football is not for my glory, it is about His glory. And that really just transformed the way I thought about things and made me a better player, a better person (and) a better leader all around. And so I cannot help but give him glory and credit for that because who knows. I could have easily been dead and (in) jail a long time ago.”

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