Saints coach Sean Payton post-practice press conference (Aug. 23)
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2017 Training Camp Presented By Verizon
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
“Jake Allen was waived/injured and then we signed Elijah Mitchell at cornerback in his roster spot. So we’re still at 91 (including Alex Jenkins). Tomorrow we’ll be outside with Houston (for a joint practice).”
You ran 33 running plays compared to 27 passing plays this past week, should we expect that going forward in the preseason?
“There’s a handful of things we’re trying to get accomplished. It’s always hard to take a whole season and project. There are some weeks where if a team’s stacking up and playing a run better, then we have to be smart enough to understand how to handle that team, versus a team where we might feel like it’d be more difficult in throwing the football. Week to week we really try to study who we’re playing and what’s the best way to score. We are getting some good looks though, not just at the runners, but at the offensive linemen.”
How much do your practice periods in camp and the stuff you guys focus on, how much does that change from year to year?
“I think quite a bit. We spend a lot of time on the two-minute. I think personnel groupings in this camp would be probably a lot more spread or opened up then maybe in ’07 or ’08. (Despite) What you’re trying to get, there are certain elements that don’t change. You’re going to spend time on third down, (which) we did today. You’re going to spend time on red zone, you’re going to spend time on two-minute. Those periods haven’t changed much over the years. Now what you’re doing in those periods with regards to scheme may change.”
What are the advantages when you have someone like A.J. Klein, moving him between two positions most of the time?
“Number one, he’s a real good communicator. He becomes kind of the signal-caller of the defense. You get really one green dot helmet that allows you to talk to a (defensive) player on the field. In base, he’s received a lot of Sam work and then in some of the nickel packages, he’s received a lot of the Mike work. He has versatility. He’s done some of this stuff before and there’s a handful of guys like that. Even in the game the other night, late in the game, in the preseason you have a number of guys with the green dot helmet that aren’t necessarily wearing it, but when their time is to win the game as the signal-caller, they can wear it. Now, it’s a little bit more challenging in-season but it’s not uncommon.”
Has he met or exceeded your expectations as far the leader, tone-setter and the things you want?
“He’s brought a lot of the things that we were looking for and hopeful for so that’s exciting. He’s having a good camp.”
It seems like you have really tried to identify the importance of a signal-caller on defense in recent years?
“I think one of the elements is being smart and trying to acquire as many guys that understand the game and can diagnose and solve problems. The mental errors and missed assignments, those things will get you beat. It’s an area that we’ve struggled with quite honestly in the past.”
After last week what did you think about Marshon Lattimore?
“I thought he had a good week. He had a good week of practice. He didn’t have too many opportunities in the game but considering he had come off some missed playing time, I thought it was an important week for him.”
When you look at the depth you have at safety, where is Chris Banjo at as far as just being a defensive safety? We all know his contribution on special teams.
“I think first it’s going to be a guy that can contribute in the kicking game. That’s going to be his niche and yet he’s someone that understands what we’re doing defensively. We have some decent depth there so he’s taking safety snaps and will continue to do so. I think he had four special team tackles the other day. I think he understands exactly who he is as well and that’s a good trait.”
You guys have worked with the Texans before in joint practices, does that help to speed along the process of knowing exactly what you want to do and what you want to get accomplished?
“Yes. I can’t think of a preseason where we haven’t played them in the last maybe 11 or 12 years (except 2014). I’m going to say probably we’ve had six or seven joint practices. Bill (O’Brien) and his staff have done a great job so the meeting schedule and putting together a practice format. Although it takes some time, there are some things that both of us know exactly what we’re wanting to get from it. They will get in this afternoon and we will meet with them, the coaches and make sure we’re all squared away on the field space. But in regards to the practice itself, that’s kind of been shelled out already. I am sure the team has been scripted (for practice) in regards to what we’re going to do in each of these periods. It’s just the familiarity that helps a lot.”
Do you guys talk about what you’re going to do in the game too?
“Not as much. Last year was the second game (since O’Brien became head coach of the Texans), this year is the third game. I’m sure you are going to see probably, depending on the player, you’re going to see a handful of starters maybe a little bit more than the week past. But really the focus is on the two days working with them.”
What about P.J. Williams’ game makes him fit to play inside?
“Number one, he can tackle. He is strong. He does have some good instincts; I think those’ve gotten better. He’s long, he has some length. He does have short air, quickness. So those are things that have helped him grow and you’re seeing him develop in that nickel. Now if you’re playing man-to-man, you might line up anyway based on the matchup but in a true nickel spot, these added reps in this camp have helped him.”
When you were doing the draft evaluation, what did you come across when you saw Deshaun Watson?
“You couldn’t help but notice the way this guy played in big moments. His overall won-loss record. He’s magnificent. The championship that he won and even the game (College Football Playoff loss) a year ago. You felt a poise about a player. There were a lot of things that stood out. His ability to move (is impressive). You saw him the other night come off of a play action and kind of step inside an unblocked player and make him miss and score. He’s a great prospect and I’m sure they’re excited to have him.”
What have you seen with Trey Hendrickson so far in this camp?
“He’s been active. He plays with power. I like his football makeup. I think he’s had a good camp. For him, it’s just learning the alignments and some of the stunts, some of the movement with pressure. But we’ll keep getting him the work. He’s been active and there have been some good practices where you really notice him.”
We haven’t seen Stephone Anthony in a few weeks, how does this lack of availability impact his competition?
“I think it is always challenging when you’re not available and yet, I think it will not be too long (before he returns).”
You said some of the starters were going to get some time, is Max Unger among one of those starters?
“We’ll see. I want to see how he does here. He received good work today. He’s on schedule and I think how he feels after tomorrow’s practice and Friday’s walkthrough we’ll make a decision, if and how many. But it’s good to see him back out there and good to have him cleared.”
On hurry-up offense, do you envision any greater emphasis on that throughout the season and where can you help practicing that in the past maybe by many teams, just yours?
“I think we’ve always tried to put a high priority on it. If you look at the end of the season, I’ll give you an example, we took out, let’s say our goal line cut up. We might have 14-15 snaps offensively and defensively maybe the same, 14-15. But you’d be over 100 with two-minute work that’s going to take place at the end of the half or at the end of the game. So proportionally it’s wise for us to spend that much time on it, because there are 100 million scenarios, you could be 1:58 one timeout and need seven (points). It could be 38 seconds no timeouts and you could need three. You keep putting those together and just practicing. I think at the beginning of each drill they need to understand who has the advantage at that moment. Today we had a couple of drills kind of in that vein, needed a score, then the next time we needed a field goal. So it’s down distance, its timeout (management), its clock management.”
Does being proficient in that, would that allow you to do a change of pace even when you’re not pressed for time with the clock?
“Yes, but it’s different because the (of) coverages you get. We’ve done that before where we just wanted to create tempo. But most of what we worked on today was end of game.”
How much will Drew Brees, Mark Ingram II, Adrian Peterson and Cam Jordan play on Saturday night?
“We haven’t met yet. We’ll sit down and go through the roles and I’m sure we’re going to want them to play some. How much, we’ll see.”
Has your opinion on that evolved over the years?
“It evolves when you practice with another team. When you get another team in here and you’re able to have a controlled environment and get real good work, it’s different than if you didn’t. This will be our second or third year where we’ve had joint practices with two teams. There’s a little less sense of urgency if you will if you’re receiving that work with them in the week leading up to the game.”
And what’s the flipside? Why do you like to make sure that they get at least one game in?
“I think it’s important in a live setting. We’ll practice Friday in the (Mercedes-Benz Superdome) Dome just to get used to the lighting and there are a lot of guys here that haven’t been there. The surface is new every year (replaced every year). Just getting acclimated to the field. We’ll figure out how much.”
If you are having a joint practice like you are tomorrow and lightning is a factor, it’s hard to have two teams in the indoor facility together with over 175 players. Would you have two different sessions?
“No, we’ll come inside. We’ve done it before actually. When we were in Houston in ’09 we had a practice inside. We already have an outline laid out. We’ve already talked about this end would be Houston’s end and we would be on that end. Where the drills (will) be. It might last a little longer but we’d be in here.”
How has Coby Fleener done?
“Well he’s missed a period of time so I kind of see him back. This is really his first time back since. He’s not injured, his wife had a baby just recently. These next few weeks will be important for him. I feel like with the time missed, it’s hard to give a proper evaluation just because he hasn’t played as many snaps.”
For clarification, Max Unger passed his physical last week, so is he off the PUP list or is he still on it?
“You have to be off the PUP list to practice, so he practiced and I don’t know if I’d use the word “full go”, but he’s cleared. We’re just deciding him (on if he will play Saturday). He’s going to play in one of these preseason games, maybe both of them. But I’m going to see how he does in these first few days back, but he’s doing well.”
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