Quotes: Sean Payton, Dennis Allen, Drew Brees post-practice (Aug. 7)

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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2017 Training Camp Presented By Verizon
Monday, August 7, 2017

Opening Statement:
“Short yardage was our installation today—third-and-one and fourth-and-one. We had some live work at that. There was a lot of good stuff to coach on. I thought the practice, overall, had a good pace. These guys will be off tomorrow, and then we will start back up our preparation for Cleveland when they get back.”

Will you have a conversation with Cleveland Head Coach Hue Jackson about blitzing vs. not blitzing, considering Gregg Williams blitzes a lot?
“Usually, you might exchange some things you want to get done. At some point, I’ll reach out. They key for us—I just talked about it earlier—is to do a good job with our evaluation. It might be a certain thing you want to see. Obviously, you want to see how your young players perform. You also want to see how some of the veterans perform, guys that are new to our team or guys that have been with us. I think the evaluation becomes challenging if the player struggles with what to do. Then, before the play’s even snapped, he has little to no chance of any success. You want it to be crisp. You want guys to move and play fast downhill. We will have a chance to see that. With regards to Hue, I am sure that over the next 24 hours, I will give him a call and have a chance to visit prior to the game.”

With the evaluation in mind, how do you plan on going about establishing repetitions for the first and second teams?
“We’ll go through that tomorrow. We’ve typically operated in three phases. We’ve operated with the first phase—starters—somewhere in a one-quarter range, 15 snaps or so. We then get into the second phase, and generally, it takes us into the third quarter. Then, we finish with our third phase. There are a lot of exceptions to that, based on what our goals are for each player in this game.”

Adrian Peterson has not had a preseason rushing attempt since 2011. Will that change here?
“We’ll see. We have to be smart and understand what the main goal of his preseason is. We really have not sat down to finalize how we want to handle this game.”

Do you think there is any mental advantage over the defense when you have a Hall of Fame quarterback and running back together?
“I don’t think that there is any mental advantage. I just think that you want more good players. If you are able to have really good players, I think it helps you. Certainly, with Drew Brees and his experience, there is a mental edge from his understanding of what we do. Adrian Peterson has picked up the system very quickly. You are looking for good football players, really.”

Adrian indicated that it was less the physical and more the mental grasp of the offense that made him hope for preseason snaps. Do you think he is underestimating how well he has picked it up?
“These guys are all competitive. They all want to play. Those guys had live snaps today in short yardage; all of the runners did. We will be smart and put a plan together that we think really meets our goals for this game.”

When the opportunity arose to hire Curtis Johnson, how high was he on your priority list amongst candidates? If you can recall, what was his reaction when you called and offered the job?
“It started when the season ended. It wasn’t something that was on the radar. Johnny Morton coached receivers. So, when he got the coordinator job (for the New York Jets), it became (more critical). You begin to put your list together, and early in that process, it was apparent that there would be some interest by CJ in coming back. I’ve worked with him at San Diego State before here. In 2006, he was one of the first coaches I hired. The timing of it really worked out. There was some coincidence with Johnny getting promoted to a coordinator position with the Jets—I think that is a great opportunity for him—and CJ’s availability. It just made sense.”

When you called him, do you remember his reaction?
“No, I can’t specifically. He and I have a really good friendship. I can’t even recall the first call. I can recall the first time I called him in 2006. He’s someone I know well. I think he is a really good football coach and good for our team.”

When you get the team together for practice, how do you handle the emotions on the field?
“I like it. As the head coach, you want to see the momentum swing both ways. You want to see success offensively. You want to see success from your defense. I thought that we had good juice today. I think that as coaches, we are constantly trying to create competitive environments that challenge these guys, all of them. I think that is the quickest way to grow.”

Have you seen any progression from Travin Dural?
“There’s been some. He had a good play today. One of the things he does is run well. He has good size for a receiver. He will be one of the guys that we get a good look at this preseason. He has done some good things.”

How does he fit in with this offense?
“He’s in the process. With the receivers, you hope that there’s a certain skill set that they bring. Are they good on the outside? Are they good with the inside patterns? How do they block? Do they pick it up? Can they play multiple positions, or are we leaving them at one position? I think he has really good size. I think he runs well for his size. I am sure that he’ll have to add strength. There’s a lot of work that he has to do on some of the specifics. Is there a way for him to fit into the kicking game? All of those will be questions that we’ll have a chance to answer, not just with him but also with most of these guys. So far, there have been some good snaps that we’ve been able to evaluate.”

Who is your best blocking wide receiver?
“I don’t know. It’s to be determined. We have had guys like Willie Snead, who’s been really good. Brandon Coleman (is good). Those guys have had experience blocking. We will see. All of them, hopefully, can block. If you want to run the ball, you have to be able to handle the force.”

What is Coleman’s career trajectory on blocking? Is that something that was ever a weakness?
“No. I think with his size (he has an advantage). It starts with willingness to block. When he got healthy (after being bothered by injuries as a college senior), I think it was something that he began to do, something that he feels confident doing. We put him in those positions.”

To use your word “juice,” how much more juice are you seeing from the defensive backs this year?
“It is hard to know. I thought today that it was good. We will see once we get into these preseason games. I thought the energy overall was good.”

At this point, what are some reasons that the group could be better?
“There’s a handful of those guys that have a year more experience. We had some younger guys playing, looking at P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley, Damian Swann, and Erik Harris. Those are all early year guys that are going to have a little bit more experience and confidence. Hopefully, we will see that growth. We have some experienced guys back there as well. Sterling Moore is a veteran player who has been in a lot of football games and understands what it takes. There is a pretty good combination there.”

When you get into these preseason games, do you expect to see a continuation? Do you think players will surprise you?
“In every preseason game, there are some good surprises and some not-so-good surprises. That’s why you play them. You do receive a better evaluation. There’s someone else that is prepared and going full-speed in that competitive environment. There you are in a game. You learn a lot. It gives you an opportunity to measure growth and see where you are in the second and third weeks. You have a feel out here (at practice), yet there are things that’ll happen in those games that may be surprising to you.”

Is there anyone that is going to play a bigger role in that game that has already earned it?
“Hopefully, a lot of these young guys are going to play. We will go through the snap count tomorrow and lay out our plan for each phase.”

How much can a great game or a solid preseason game performance build a secondary’s confidence?
“Every day, we are out here practicing. Generally, the confidence you are looking for is from prior or past accomplishment. That can happen in practice. That can happen over two days. We have seen it happen a bit with Brandon Coleman. Generally, you build your confidence with snaps of success. That is the growth you hope to see, and certainly, that can take place in a game as well.”

You said you are going over snap counts tomorrow. Is it possible that Drew Brees will play on Thursday, or will he sit?
“We will see. We will discuss that as well. We will discuss all of these guys.”

Does Tommylee Lewis have special teams versatility? Could he be a gunner?
“Yes. I think that is going to be an important role for him.”

What do you make of the pass rush lately?
“We will have a chance in the game to see it. I thought there were some good rush snaps today. Last night, I felt the same way. Once you get into the game, and you are truly getting to the quarterback and trying to sack him, one of the things ever team is mindful of is keeping your quarterback upright in the pocket. It is an area that we feel we have to improve in.”

How much might some of the rookies who are out with injuries miss an opportunity with this game?
“We will see. If a rookie is out, he is out. If a veteran is out, he is out. We have to get them healthy so we can continue evaluating them. At some point, they have to be out there though.”

New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen
2017 Training Camp Presented by Verizon
Monday, August 7, 2017

Opening Statement:
“We had another pretty good practice today. It’s all about competition. I think our guys are out there competing, and it’s good to see some of these young guys making plays.”

How encouraged are you by the cornerback position as a whole?
“I think I’ve obviously seen progress from where we were at this point last year to where we are right now. I’m really anxious to get in game situations and see how these guys respond under the lights. I think there’s been progress, yet I think we have to temper our emotions a little bit and wait and see how we perform under the lights.”

How much do you weigh the preseason games just in general for evaluation?
“It’s the most important thing. That’s what we do. We go out and play games. I would say it’s important for all these guys to go out and perform in the preseason games.”

How much easier is it for you, without Marshon Lattimore on the field and the cornerbacks who have been in this system before? Is it easier for them to adjust, or is it easier for you to adjust what you want them to do without Lattimore on the field right now?
“I think, obviously, when you have a familiarity with your players that helps you. There is obviously a learning process that these guys have to learn about how I call a game and how I respond in different situations and I need to do the same with them. It’s always a constantly changing process. A lot of times you go into a game, and you have a certain game plan. If things work well, you keep doing the things that you’re doing, and if they’re not, then you have to make adjustments.”

Has Kenny Vaccaro’s experience helped with angles and him rushing the passer?
“I think that really gets back to what your guys do well. I think that’s one of the things Kenny does well. I think he’s a good pressure player. We’re able to find opportunities where we can send him on a rush because he’s a fast and explosive player, and he’ll go back there with a reckless disregard for his body. That’s a good thing. I think his experience helps him in that regard, but I think more than anything his mindset and the type player he is allow him to be successful in those situations.”

What has your impression of Alex Anzalone been so far?
“I think Alex is really smart, I think he’s an instinctive player and has good coverage skills as a linebacker. I like his length as a linebacker because a lot times you’ll see these guys in contested situations down the field, but yet, with a lack of length it’s hard to make the play at the end of the day. I’d say he’s a little bit further along in pass coverage and he still has some things to improve in the run game, but I like his progress so far.”

What about Mitchell Loewen? How encouraged are you by him and what have you seen from him?
“I’m encouraged. He is a guy that we brought in last year as an undrafted free agent. We liked some of the things we’d seen out of him. He had a little bit of an injury history. He came in with a foot issue and wasn’t able to really compete with us last year. It has been nice to have him out here. We’ve worked him at defensive end a little bit. We have moved him a little bit more inside to defensive tackle. I think, again, he has some of that length that helps you as an interior rusher. I think run-game wise is where he needs to bulk up and play in the inside, but I think there’s been some good things from him.”

Through 11 practices in Training Camp, where would you say the defense is compared to last year?
“Last year’s so far removed from where I am as far as my mindset’s concerned. It would be hard to compare. I think with each season, you start over and you build the right mindset for your team. I do like the progress that we’re making right now. I still think we’ve got a long way to go. The most impressive thing right now is that our guys are coming out and competing everyday, and if you do that, especially versus our offense, you’re going to do nothing but improve.”

With guys being banged up, is it nice to have guys like Ken Crawley and De’Vante Harris who have been in the system?
“Yes, because that is how this league works. It is a next man up philosophy. Obviously, you don’t want guys missing time, yet the next guy has to step in and do the job and perform at the same or higher level of who he is replacing. We don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about that. We just come out here and we have a job to do, so we come out here and compete and do our job.”

De’Vante Harris was quick to give the defensive line credit for his interception and pass breakups today. Was he being magnanimous or is he on to something?
“It works together. That’s why you have 11 guys on the team. Our coverage guys have to give our rushers an opportunity to get there and then, when they do, our rushers have to affect the quarterback. I think we’ve done a better job of that. It was, obviously, a point of emphasis this year and I think we have done a better job of that up to this point in camp.”

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
2017 Training Camp Presented by Verizon
Monday, August 7, 2017

How important is it to actually win a preseason game?
“I don’t think it is reflective of your performance during the regular season. When the starters are in there, you want to perform well. You want to execute well. You don’t want there to be mistakes all over the field, mental errors or lack of effort. We are prideful and we play to win. You also need to understand that you only get a fine amount of time when you are out there. A lot of the times you are mixing and matching because you are trying to give some guys rest or trying to keep some guys healthy, or really see what you have in a certain player that makes the team or doesn’t make the team. But at the end of the day, does it make you feel good to win, yeah it feels good to win. But that is not a record that reflects on anyone’s stat sheet at the end of their career.”

On the sense of how the defense is performing?
“I feel like the energy’s been high and I feel like we’re starting to install more and more defenses. There’s a confidence level that’s going up with things that they’re doing. As you know, defensive football has so many factors when it comes to that. Especially when you are talking specially about pass defense or how well we are getting pressure on the quarterback. The combination of the two results is how good you can be overall in that area. I feel like we have had some good battles as camp is going on here and we need to have more of those. I am excited to play this first preseason game and I’m excited to go to Los Angeles and scrimmage those guys. There is still a lot of football left in this preseason as we continue to sharpen.”

How does the satellite packages give you guys opportunities with those types of players coming out of the backfield?
“It gives us a ton of versatility and it is a match-up issue for defenses. It definitely changes the thought process or something they have to have a plan for. You can potentially take advantage of some good match-ups there.”

Did you talk to Brett Favre when you guys signed Adrian Peterson?
“No, I didn’t. I know guys that have played with him. As I have seen guys throughout the offseason, nothing but great things have been said about him. I have played (in) some Pro Bowls with him. I knew his level on intensity, because even in the Pro-Bowl it can be kind of chill there in the beginning. His level of intensity when he was running the ball is far beyond what was the typical tempo. You could tell the type of player and mentality he had when he steps between the lines, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a preseason game, playoff game or the Pro-Bowl.”

Do you think (Adrian Peterson’s) presence has at all raised the level of intensity for the other guys?
“I think it sets the tone. I think he has a presence, I mean guys look at that, they respect that. The guy’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s been one of the best backs in this league for a long time. Guys see his level of work ethic and when guys see how he approaches practice, especially that garners a lot of attention and respect. That definitely elevates everyone around him.”

How much say do you have in regards to playing time Thursday at Cleveland?
“I do whatever Sean Payton decides in regards to the playing time. Each year the objective might be a little different. There was a time here when we were earlier in the program here that we were more to the script of the traditional first preseason game a quarter, second preseason game two quarters, so on and so forth. I think as we have gone along here you just have to pay attention to your roster and the veteran guys, who you want to give rest to and who you want to see more from, and more reps and that type of thing. I’m always ready to play and it is just a matter of Sean and the rest of the coaching staff as they put together what that is going to look like. If they feel like it is necessary or something that they would rather other guys get more reps.”

What is it about Michael Thomas’ slant route that is so hard to defend?
“There are a lot of things that are hard to defend with Mike. He’s a physical guy. He plays with violence, especially when guys come to play him on a bump and run. I don’t think they realize how strong he is.”

How much do you think catch radius is due to his success (Michael Thomas)?
“It definitely is. He has big strong hands and he attacks the ball. So wherever you throw it, he is going to get the ball, he is not going to wait for it to come to him”

What kind of progression have you seen from Travin Dural?
“He has done well. This system is a lot to pick up, especially for a young guy early on, but he is definitely a talented guy and I’ve seen him make some plays and for most receivers it’s just when they know what to do and they can just play fast and play with confidence the better they play and so I think he’s definitely had his moments where you see it begin to click and he’s doing some things very well.”

What can a preseason game do for a young player’s confidence?
“I think if you can take what we have practiced and transition that to the game field, in regards to execution and being fundamentally sound and sound with the scheme and that kind of thing. That’s something that reinforces what you’re doing on the practice field. You go out and have success on Sundays with it then you say, wow everything we’ve been doing that carried over, maybe it was something that a guy’s been working on all offseason and into the preseason and gets into a game and it becomes more second nature or there is a confidence level that comes along with it and that just continues to build.”

What was the frustration I saw when Kenny Vaccaro hit your arm?
“That happened a few times in that period and it’s competitive. It was a third down period so you are keeping score and it is competitive. Obviously you have rules for safety purposes. You don’t want guys hitting your arm when you’re throwing that’s not smart or safe. When it happens (and) I understand it’s going to from time to time which it did. Whatever we can do to move on.”

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