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New Orleans Saints Brees, Payton Talk Houston Texans Showdown
Written by  // Thursday, 22 September 2011 10:23 //

Sean PaytonOn Wednesday, in preparing for the Houston Texans, Coach Sean Payton talked about releasing RB Joique Bell to make room for Will Smith on the roster, getting Smith back, CBs Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer and S Roman Harper in his news conference with the media after Wednesday's practice. He also reviewed the team's injury report.

Also, in another media availability, New Orleans Saints Quarterback discussed the new look of the Houston Texans, the change in defensive co-ordinators Wade Phillips and his overall job this season.

 Wednesday, September 21, 2011

 Opening Statement:

“Let me start with the injury report for today.  The following players did not practice: K Garrett Hartley (right hip), CB Tracy Porter (right calf), LB Jonathan Vilma (left knee), LB Jonathan Casillas (right foot), WR Marques Colston (right shoulder), and S Roman Harper (right ankle).  Limited was DT Tom Johnson (left calf).  These three guys were all full: WR Lance Moore, WR Adrian Arrington and DE Junior Galette.  Will Smith was reinstated to the 53-man roster.  We released RB Joique Bell.  Practice squad transactions: we signed WR Montez Billings and RB Tristan Davis and we released QB Sean Canfield and DT Swanson Miller from the practice squad.  Today was base again as Wednesdays always are.  I thought we had good work and we’re kind of in the mix of it now with this games plan which is a lot different from last week’s when we look at the team we’re playing.  It’s a different type team just structurally from what they do.”

Usually you guys like to keep four running backs, but what went into the decision to keep just three running backs and release Joique Bell?

“We’re stuck right now with two kickers which is taking up one more spot than normal and we also know that we have three and a half to four weeks with Chris Ivory.  There’s no perfect decision.  I think it was just paying close attention to the roster and making that decision now and we go from there.”

Are you confident you may be able to get him back on the practice squad later?

“That’s a good question.  You’re never certain.  He has to clear waivers and if he’s able to, I do feel like we’ll be able to if he clears waivers.  If he gets claimed, then it’s really out of our control and out of the player’s control.”

What are your thoughts on Will Smith coming back after the improvements by the defense?

“I think Will had one of his better training camps prior to the suspension.  He’s in real good shape and anytime you get a player like Will Smith back, one of your captains and someone who’s been a real steady player for us and gives us a ton of good snaps both against the run and the pass, it can only help you.  We just have to be smart with these first few days practicing, but he’s in good shape and I’m sure he was anxious to get back as well.”

Do you have to change anything about how you attack their offensive line with their unique blocking scheme?

“This has been one of the better offenses in the last four or five years in the league.  They have very good balance.  Statistically, they rush the ball very efficiently.  They do a great job of their play action game.  It complements what they do in the running game and they take their shots down the field.  They have some real talented skill players, and you certainly start with a guy like Andre Johnson who can get behind the defense on any play.  They cause a lot of problems for defenses because of their balance with their ability to throw it and their ability to run it.  We go through in our morning meetings the opponent kind of statistical analysis of each opponent and when you look at all the things they’ve accomplished offensively, they do a lot of things very well.”

Do they chop block more than any other team?

“I wouldn’t say that.  I think when you get the zone schemes, this is a team that believes in that scheme in regards to running the football.  It’s often times a backside technique but it’s within the rules and we’ll do the same thing.”

What kind of difference has Wade Phillips been able to make on their defense?

“They’ve implemented this 3-4 scheme.  They play mostly an under front from it.  The one thing you see is they’re doing a good job of not giving up the big plays, they’re getting off the field on third down and they’re rushing the passer very well.  It’s a completely different look than 2010 with this team so most of the film study is off the two regular season tapes and the preseason.”

How has Patrick Robinson improved from week one to week two?

“He started with a real good training camp and I think his overall knowledge of what we’re doing defensively has given him the confidence to play at full speed.  I think that learning curve for him has happened very rapidly and now he’s not only learning but he’s playing.  He’s sudden, doing a good job with the technique depending on the coverage called, and not afraid to support in the running game so he’s improved a lot.”

Has Jabari Greer continued to be a top cornerback for your team?

“Yes, he’s been very consistent, he’s smart, has real good ball skills and can run.  I think it starts with his health.  He’s someone that takes care of himself and that’s helped him remain on the field.  (Patrick Robinson and Greer) are doing well.  They played a lot of zero coverage a week ago where they were basically one-on-one without safety help.  You have to have a trust level with corners to do that.”

When you have two guys like Jonathan Casillas and Jonathan Vilma get hurt, how do you handle those guys with practice so they don’t push themselves too hard?

“I think we start with the doctor’s recommendation and the trainer, we meet in the morning to start the week and we go through each player.  With Casillas, there are a handful of things he’s battling and it’s just being smart.  There’s a lot of tape study that’s being done and walkthroughs and yet you don’t want to too quickly have any setbacks.  We feel like both those guys will be able to practice some tomorrow.  We’ll see how they go through the treatment today and tomorrow morning.  (Marques) Colston, who technically didn’t practice, got a lot of stuff done today but just wasn’t in any of the team drills so he’s on schedule if not ahead of schedule.”

Is that the same way with Roman Harper?

“Hopefully with his ankle, what you’re hoping to do is in two or three weeks have him removed from the report where it’s not just lingering so we have to be smart on Wednesday and this is probably nothing unusual.  It’s probably more of the norm.  I think tomorrow we’ll get a good gauge of where they’re at.”

How much does has it helped to have a guy like Arian Foster go down but other running backs are stepping up in his place?

“Gary (Kubiak) with his experience in Denver, they’re prided themselves in their efficiency and ability to run and recognize that it’s a position that you have to have depth at and you’d like to feel like there’s not going to be a drop-off in your production when you have to make a change or there’s a change made from a health standpoint.  Certainly with Foster, he’s a guy that had an outstanding season a year ago.  They have a good group of backs though and we saw them in the preseason and they have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing.”

What can you do to improve the red zone efficiency?

“I think more than anything is practice it, focus on it and generally you want to pay close attention to the looks you’re getting defensively.  Sometimes it changes when you get into that tight area of the field, but more than anything else it’s practicing and really covering all the details.  I think that’s where it starts.”

Did you get a chance to take a look at special teams with Houston?  It looks like that’s where they’ve had a big advantage the first two weeks.

“They started off real strong.  They have two very good returners and it’s a sign that they have a good young team as well.  You see a lot of these players that are either playing on their defense or playing significant roles or backup roles contributing.  They’ve had two good wins and it’s been complete team efforts, not just on one side of the ball but on both sides.  Again, that field position battle will be critical in this game and very important.”

Does the familiarity with playing the Texans so often in the preseason or regular season over the past few years help?

“To some degree there’s familiarity with personnel with some players that have been on that team in the last few years, but it’s no different than us.  This year because of the lockout we didn’t have a practice or series of practices like we normally have, but I think on those odd years, those every third or fourth years with the AFC team, it is somewhat unique having practiced against them for a fairly decent amount of times.  But again, it’s a fairly different team.  They’ve gotten off to a real good start and are playing with a lot of confidence and deservedly so.  We have to make sure we have a good week with our schedule.  We have to go a real good job with our tape study and our preparation.  We’re kind of into our second week here routine-wise and we’re looking forward to it.”

Every game is important of course, but can you talk about the importance of this game with three road games coming up?

“I think you hit on it to begin with, each game is important.  I know it’s a cliché and yet it’s accurate, we try to really just focus on one objective this week.  I think we’re a good road team so not really paying attention to the next three games or the next games after, there’s really only one focal point and that’s playing our best this weekend.  It’s probably easier for us to do that because we kind of disappear here for five days in a row, putting together game plans with the players and meeting and the focus is really all about the Texans game.  It’s easy not to get ahead because there’s so much that you have in that week and you’re really working to be efficient and then you’re on to tonight’s planning of third down so you really don’t allow yourself that much time to even think about the next weeks opponent or the fact that we travel for three weeks after that.  To really answer your question properly, it’s important that we play well at home, it’s important that we take advantage of the crowd noise and it’s important that we play our best football at home.  That’s where we’re at with it.  We had a good turnout last week.  I thought the noise helped us a bunch.  I’ve heard it louder, but when Chicago became one-dimensional later in the game, that’s a challenge for any team when you’re on the road to have to throw the football in a loud environment.  That’s a tough task.”

What would you say about Drew Brees’ play right now?

“I’d say he’s playing at a very high level.  You start with protecting the ball and he’s doing that very well.  His long ball has been outstanding.  Just in two weeks statistically, the yards per completion and all those things, third down percentages, he’s playing at a real high level.  He’s had a great offseason and real good training camp so he’s comfortable and certainly familiar with each week’s plan but he’s playing very well.”

The pass he threw to Devery Henderson looked like he couldn’t place it any better.”

“The key to it was the location obviously and we talked about that play, it’s designed for that long yardage situation and the thought behind it is it’s complete or incomplete and if that pass is intercepted it probably results in a similar field position as a punt would.  The idea is trying to get Devery between those safeties with a clean release and sometimes in that Tampa-two style of defense the inside receivers don’t get re-routed.  If in cover two all of your receivers are getting a jam before they can get into those seams, that helps buy the safety some time; but if one of those receivers gets a clean release or possibly two, then there’s more stress on those safeties so it starts with the protection and it’s going to take longer and it was a one hitch, two hitch throw and the throw was right on target.  Devery made a big play with keeping his feet afterwards.  Certainly when you can score on a long play like that, that’s a big plus.”

Was cutting down on interceptions a big emphasis for him?

“Probably what’s been a bigger point of emphasis is working on our run game and knowing that the more effective and more efficient we’re able to run the ball, that takes some pressure off of quarterback play.  Certainly that’s a statistic that he’s mindful of and that he prides himself in and I’m sure, as an individual, he wants to cut that in more than half.  All of us, in a normal offseason, would look at all these reels, the sack reels, the interception reels, the things we would want to do to self-scout and look at ourselves no different than us as coaches - how can we help with the design of what we’re doing reduce the turnover rates.  He’s handled it well and gotten off to a real good start with that area.  I think statistically it’s pretty clear now, your first five years you have some clear analysis that points to wins and losses in regards to how we play and how we protect the football or how we take it away.  That being said, it’s something you’re still always working on.”

Roman Harper was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.  How much improvement did he make from week one to week two?

“He made a lot.  It was a different type team, but he came up big in the game against Chicago in a lot of ways.  He’s instinctive.  When he’s getting pressure on the quarterback, I think he’s very good at rushing the passer from the safety position.  It was a big game for us.  Obviously he was one of the players for us defensively that got a game ball.  It was good to see him play that way and defensively as a unit have that success and now this is a completely different challenge with the next team, a different type of style of offense and one that we have to really be ready for.”

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees

Media Availability

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

 

Can you compare and contrast the Saints defense and Houston defense and how each team puts pressure on the passer differently

“Houston obviously is a 3-4 defense. Typically what comes with that is a different front and a lot more pressure, the way they’re able to bring it from everywhere with everybody. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Wade Phillips. He was the defensive coordinator in San Diego when I was there for two years. Obviously I think he’s a guy who gets his defenses playing hard, always bringing pressure, a lot of single safety. You have to be able to win in those one on one matchups. It makes it tough to run the ball.”

How important is an effective running attack in a situation like that?

“It’s very important. When our offense is clicking on all cylinders, we have great balance between run and pass and our ability to beat people with our tempo and our formations and personnel groups, spreading the ball around, not really being able to key on one person or another and definitely just being able to have both pass and run complement each other…The better you run the football, the better it sets up the play action pass and some downfield opportunities. The better you throw the ball, the more you open up some looks with the run.”

Does it help that you’ve seen the Texans so much in preseason games and practices the last few years?

“Yes, you could say from a personnel standpoint it’s a lot of the same guys, but when a new coordinator has come in, the scheme has changed very much, but it’s a guy who we’ve played against before. Obviously when we played the Cowboys last year he wasn’t there. It was (Paul) Pasqualoni, but in a lot of ways it was Wade’s defense. We played the Cowboys in 2009. That was Wade, so I think we’ve had experience over the last few years with him. We played him them in the preseason, so we know what to expect.”

Are you on a hot streak based on your numbers?

“I feel like there’s plenty more left out there. I walk out from both of those games feeling like there were opportunities left out there and things I could have done better. For me, I’m never satisfied. I know what you’re saying, where those are those stretches of games where we’re clicking. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface yet.”

Are things not clicking right now?

“I wouldn’t say that, but it’s not where it should be.”

People have talked about the Texans being on the cusp. Are you guys going to have a target on your back with Houston maybe having an impression that if they knock you off, they’ve’ arrived?

“I’m not sure what their mentality is. I do know that they’re a team that feels like they have a great opportunity, this year more so than many to make a run at it and have a shot at the playoffs and beyond. I think they’re rejuvenated. Obviously their offense and defense is playing really well, Wade (Phillips) bringing in that system and players in that system playing very well. They’re 2-0. They have the largest margin of difference in scoring in their first two wins or second in the league. I know they’re playing well and confidence. I also know in their minds they started off 2-0 last year. I know for a lot of those guys, they feel they can never get too far ahead of themselves. Its’ always the next game. That’s the mentality that we have as well. The fact is that it’s an opponent from a personnel standpoint, because we have scrimmaged against them the last three years in the preseason. We have played them in the preseason quite often. Even though they’re a different division, different conference, it’s just competitive.”

 

Do the offenses have any similarities?

“I know that they’ve had a lot of success with their offense if you look at the numbers and where they’ve ranked, yardage and big plays in a lot of categories here over the last few years. They’ve done very well. I have a lot of respect for Gary Kubiak, Matt Schaub and some of the guys that they have. I think their ability to run the ball has been the most impressive over the last two years. They’ve always been able to throw it. They seem more balanced than ever. We know we have our work cut out for us offensively against our defense. I know our defense feels that way about their offense.”

Last year they ranked poorly against the pass and now they’re ranked first. What do you attribute that too?

“Keep in mind if you want to go back to last year, their first game they were up a lot against Indianapolis and Indianapolis was in two minute mode the entire second half and Peyton (Manning) threw for 400+ yards. Then they went up to Washington and kind of got in a shootout up there, got into overtime I believe. Schaub threw for near 500 yards. Washington threw for a lot too. It was circumstances. They are a lot improved. They went and got Johnathan Joseph, one of their corners in free agency. The other guys are more experienced now. They moved one of their corners to safety. There are guys in good positions for them that fit their strengths. They’re playing well within the system.”

Are the struggles in red zone efficiency bothering you at all?

“Yes, we started off the first two in kicking field goals against the Bears and ended the last two in the end zone. We’re starting to turn that number around. It still needs to improve.”

How has your confidence in Jimmy Graham changed in the last year?

“At this point last year, he was talented but raw, so green still. Even though it’s been only a year, he’s gained a lot in experience, not only from how we incorporated him into the offense last year, but how he had an offseason under his belt where he was really able to work a lot with David Thomas and the stuff we did on the side. Obviously once we got into training camp, you see him having this mentality of trying to be great and he loves football. He’s his biggest critic, which I love seeing young guys like that who are going to police themselves and do the right thing. They don’t need a coach telling them something even though as a young guy you’re going to have a coach telling you what to do.”

When you talk about being competitive, even though it was preseason, does the preseason loss against the Texans linger?

“That wasn’t us. That’s not the way we play even if you say it’s preseason and we’re keeping it simple. No excuses. They beat us soundly in that preseason game. Does that count for anything in the record books? No. But it counts for something as far as just knowing what happened the last time you stepped on the field across from those guys. We know the challenge in front of us. They’re a much more physical team than people give them credit for. Everything we need to put forth from a gameplan and physical standpoint, we’re going to need for this game.”

How different is Mario Williams as a 3-4 linebacker rather than a 4-3 defensive end?

“He still does a lot of the same things. It’s just a matter of him having his hand in the ground or not. He’s a big, big physical presence. He’s very athletic for as big as he is, but I’d say the biggest adjustment from being a guy who’s been a defensive end to becoming a 3-4 linebacker is hand in the ground or not.”

Do you see any similarities in Houston this year and you guys in 2009 in terms of having good offenses and improved defenses with new coordinators?

“Anytime there’s struggles, you make a change. There’s new renewed enthusiasm. Could it be the missing link? Wade (Phillips) has a great reputation as a defensive coordinator and a lot of respect from quarterbacks like me. I’ve played against him and practiced against him everyday for two years in San Diego. I know the type of coordinator he is and the attitude he brings with his guys and the scheme. They play hard for him. I think that you see that. You see that renewed enthusiasm and confidence on the defensive side of the ball that maybe hasn’t been there in the past.”

by Ed Staton
 

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  

 

Website: www.louisianasportstalk.com

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