Sean Payton’s Sunday press briefing:
Opening Statement: Joique Bell left knee did not practice, defensive tackle Tom Johnson with his left calf did not practice, Johnny Patrick right knee did not practice, Jeff Charleston has an ankle sprain and did not practice, Alex Barron did not practice with a left knee. The following players were full in practice: Adrian Arrington, Tracy Porter came off the failed physical list and he went today full, Marques Colston went full today, Jonathan Casillas and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. We will be back on a normal schedule tomorrow and for most of this week.
After reviewing the film, what did you like and what did you not like? I liked the intensity level. I thought, coming away from that game, that night, we saw that. On film, you see it. I thought we played with good energy. I thought, defensively, we took advantage early on, especially with field position. I thought we pressured the quarterback real well. I thought, in the kicking game, we covered real well and, certainly, we had the big return. Offensively, I thought as the game went on, we did some things better. Early on, we had a penalty that stopped the drive and we had a dropped ball that stopped a drive. I like the hustle and I like the energy for the first time out. There is a lot we have to clean up.
You made the defensive front a focus over the off-season, it appeared to make a huge difference in freeing linebackers coming off the edge? It’s one of the areas that we wanted to get better at. I think we’re bigger right now and I think that is going to help us in a lot of ways. The rotation will help us. Tom Johnson did a good job. He strained his calf in the game, but he played well. There are some guys that stood out in each area and he was one of the tackles that got some good snaps.
Do you just ease Tracy Porter back? Yeah, I think we are smart but he is full. We just monitor the reps in this first week coming back. We have enough guys where we are going to rotate through. We will have a plan, and a pitch count, with him. His rehab is going well. As I’ve said earlier, he is on schedule. It is good to see him back out here practicing.
In the past, you’ve had injuries that linger over training camp. Talk about how important it is that with Porter’s injury, that is not the case. It is encouraging, certainly. When you take a guy like that, he is a starter, we will be smart and monitor the snaps he gets. He is feeling well, he is moving around.
Some people were concerned that the injury was similar to Darren Sharper’s from last season and it might have been more prolonged? With the procedure itself, there are some similarities. I don’t know if his was as extensive and, certainly, he is younger. I thought when he came back from the lockout, his rehab was on schedule. There weren’t any setbacks and he has done a good job with it.
How is Joique Bell? He has a PCL sprain in his left knee. We are going to have to sit him for a little bit and rest him up. It’s something that is going to require rehab and rest. I thought he played well the other night. I thought he stood out, and he has in practices. We will make sure that we get him healthy. We are continuing to work with Chris Ivory, and getting him back. We still have a good week and half with Chris and we will go from there.
What are your thoughts on the amount of kickoffs that resulted in touchbacks? Do you believe that most drives will start on the 20 yard line? It is pretty clear that there is one play in our game that is 3-to-1 more likely for injury and that is the kick-off play whether it’s the return team or the coverage team. They spent a lot of time, we did, in regards to ways to make that play safer. I think it was almost unanimous, maybe not quite, but one of the ways was to move that back up to the 35. Certainly, you are going to have more touchbacks. It probably is a disadvantage for those teams, there are four or five maybe, with an elite returner. We feel like we have the leg strength to get the ball to the endzone. We are comfortable with that as a starting point for our defense. Certainly, offensively, we are comfortable with starting on the twenty as well.
Do you think that kick-offs are being taken out of the game? We play in a pretty controlled environment. When you go on the road, there is wind and so many other factors that is going to bring balls to the four, to the five, to the ten. I think there is going to be less, but I do think there is still going to be returns. I think you are also going to see teams look for more hang-time and try to pin the team back as opposed to a touch-back. I think you are still going to see the returns, just not as many.
Is Zach Strief getting a chance to compete for the right tackle position? Last week was the same way. Both he and Charles Brown are in the mix there. We just want to make sure that we are continuing to rotate those tackles. We did that a week ago and we will continue to do that this week.
Is that decision health related with Jon Stinchcomb? I think, more than anything, we went into this camp with the idea that we wanted competition. That was the plan when we re-signed Zach and it was certainly part of the plan when we drafted Charles.
Does Zach Strief have the experience in this league that he could compete for a starting role? I don’t just look at as a guy who can come in and play the big tight end position. When he has played tackle, he has played well. He is going to get snaps with that first group and I am anxious to see how he does.
What was the diagnosis on Johnny Patrick? Johnny Patrick was ann MCL sprain. A little bit different than Joique Bell, and yet the same type of rehab and rest. We just have to back off and rehab him. Both of those ended up being a little bit better than we initially thought.
Will those guys get a chance to practice or play before the beginning of the regular season? I don’t know if that is the case. They are not going to have a chance to play this week. I am anxious to see how long the rehab takes.
How do you feel about this process with bringing free agents in? Is it too early to say how you feel about this team? I said this the other night, (that) we are still a roster right now. We have a lot to work on, a lot to improve, and a lot of install. We are not even half-way through training camp installation. I was pleased with how we handled those two weeks that were uniquely different than any other time that any of us have seen in this league. I think that Mickey (Loomis), Ryan (Pace), Khai (Harley) and all of those guys had a lot of work to do. I thought we did a good job of re-signing a lot of key players for us that we thought were core players for this team. I also thought we did a good job of selectively finding a player or two from another team that we felt fit a role here.
Can you talk about the most recent draft class and their performance in the past game? How good can this draft class be? They are a work in progress. They are just like the rest of these rookies, learning on the fly. There is a lot that they have to work on. There are some encouraging signs early on and yet there are some thing, that after we look on the tape and go from the first pre-season game to the second one, hopefully we will see more improvement. They also understand the significance of special teams and their role there. Fortunately, we have a lot more time with a full week here and then a full week, next week, on the road. Each day we are just trying to improve in some small way. We’ve got a long ways to go here, still. The good news is that we’ve got time.
Drew (Brees) seemed a little frustrated with the offense’s three-and-outs in the first preseason game. Is it natural that, at this point in camp, the defense is a little bit ahead of the offense? That’s a good question. I think, more than anything, from Drew’s experience and what he expects is for us to function and for us to contend to score either a field goal or a touchdown every drive. That is one of his great strengths. I think that, early on in that first game we have a chance to put the film on and take a peek closely at what kept us from converting or sustaining a drive. We will make those corrections, get better, and get ready for the next week. The expectation level that he has, that we have, for that phase of our team is no different than the defense or the special teams. We are used to being able to move the football. That requires precision. That requires timing. I don’t know that we would use that as an excuse.
Do you approach the game against the Houston Texans any differently than the game against the San Francisco 49ers as far as getting them ready to play? It is the same approach. It has kind of been the same approach for most of our preseason games. Most of the week, we are working on installs and working against each other. The last day and a half, we switch gears to plays that are geared toward the opponent. That would hold true this week.
So the lockout doesn’t change your preparations? I don’t think it changes. I don’t think it changes the way we approach. We have so much that we are working on that the last day, the day before, we will focus on a Texans game-plan.
Can you point out what kept the team from being successful on offense early on? We had the penalty on one. We had a big play to (Robert) Meachem that we weren’t able to convert on and we ended up punting after that. Those were a couple things. On offense, if you take a penalty then your percentages of scoring on a drive decrease dramatically. We’re just trying to stay ahead of the chains and stay on schedule. Those are some of the things that you look at right away.
You talked about pressuring on 18 of the first 22 plays. Over the course of the game, was that number higher? The total snap count, I don’t have. I know, going in, we had talked about this being a good game to work a lot of our pressure packages from the get-go. It just kept coming. It was good work for us. It was good work for our players. There were some things that weren’t perfect. The intensity level, the hustle, and the energy made up for some things that we will clean up. It is a tape that we can put on with the defense and say, here are the things that we did real well and here are the things we can clean up. It was good tape, and it was encouraging.
Was there anything that you didn’t like? I thought the sideline was clean. I thought our organization was clean. I didn’t feel like it was sloppy. I think the one aspect was scoring early on. That is the one thing that you come away from and say, ‘I wish we had more success early while Drew was in there.’ I liked the effort, I liked the energy. I thought we came out and we were physical. I was real pleased with the way we handled the blitz packages defensively and I was real pleased with the kicking game.
by Ed Staton