You guys always play the Saints really tough. Can some of that be attributed to your familiarity with Sean Payton?
“I don’t know if it’s as much me and Sean as it’s a division team. We’ve been playing them since the inception of the division, even before Sean got there. I think anytime you have a division rival, you have those kinds of battles. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Atlanta, Tampa, New Orleans, vice-versa. I think it’s more because of the familiarity.”
Did you have any influence on Sean’s behalf when he was interviewing with the Saints or for other NFL jobs?
“We’ve always been friends. We communicate. Somewhere along the line, I’m sure people that make those decisions asked me about Sean. Of course I have nothing but great things to say. He’s definitely accomplished a lot with the Saints.”
Did you anticipate the quarterback issues that your club has experienced?
“I think we went into the season with Matt Moore as our starter. We went into the preseason and didn’t have much success on offense. That continued into the regular season in two games. We were basically in a funk. I changed quarterbacks the one time basically to try to spark our offense. I went back to Matt (Moore) after the bye week and we had a win against San Francisco and last week lost in St. Louis. He’s going to be our guy. He’s got more experience. I’ve watched him win games here. He hasn’t been the quarterback a lot. He’d been 6-2 as the starter.. Its’ not just our quarterback. We haven’t been executing as well as we’re capable of as an offense.”
Doesn’t going back and forth with different quarterbacks affect the team’s equilibrium?
“We’ve only made one change. We started with Matt, went to Jimmy (Clausen) and went back to Matt, so it’s not like it’s a new guy. I think they feel comfortable with Matt. I don’t think we’re changing all that much.”
DeAngelo Williams was hobbled last week. Is he coming along?
“Yes. He’s getting better. He’s listed as day to day. He didn’t practice today, but he’s improving every day.”
We talked to Jon Beason before you and he said teams have been running much more on you guys than passing. Has the run defense been a problem?
“No, I think because we haven’t been scoring a lot of points, people have been taking the air out and shortening the game so to speak. We’re actually playing pretty good run defense, seventh in the league. We are seeing a little bit more runs than passes. We’ve had quite a few takeaways. We’ve been known for takeaways over the years. People are just taking the air out a little bit because we haven’t scored a lot of points.”
Do you sense your players taking into effect your contract situation and the fact that it is in limbo a little bit?
“I don’t think so. You’d have to ask them that, but I think that just like players in the last year of their deals, coaches or really anybody, whether you’re in the first year or the last year, you’re under contract. We’re very well compensated to play this game. They’re getting my best effort. I’m expecting the same from them.”
Why do you think it is that the Saints seem to have trouble in Carolina?
“I don’t know. All division games are close, most of them. Anytime you play a division opponent there’s familiarity. You play them twice a year. You study them. You study their offseason moves. I think that just comes with the territory.”
Panthers linebacker Jon Beason discussed the Panthers-Saints NFC South rivalry during Wednesday's conference call:
Can you talk about the season that your team is having defensively, even though it isn’t reflective in the record?
“To me solid is a C. That’s average. I think we’re playing pretty well. There are things we can do to help our offense and team out in terms of getting some more turnovers and scoring. We don’t even want to say that we’re satisfied or content with how we’re playing on our side. The only stat that counts at the end of the day is wins and losses.”
Where did the Saints have success against you in the last meeting?
“The biggest statistic was third down.. Drew Brees is the best in the league at third down conversions. They were eight-of-14 if I’m not mistaken. Our goal is to hold them to 33 percent. They’re able to sustain drives. We played them tough, but down the stretch they made some plays and got some field goals to help them get the win.”
Do the multiple reports about John Fox’s job security up there affect you guys?
“Everyone has job security (issues) right now. We’re facing a potential lockout. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next year. I don’t think it’s something we’re going to focus on or even think about as an organization.”
Does it affect your play as a player knowing that your coach might be on the hot seat?
“No, I think that’s something that will be addressed in the future. Right now he’s still giving 100 percent here every day, staying late, trying to help us come up with the right scheme to go ahead and get some wins. That’s what everybody’s trying to do right now.”
How does a team respond to the uncertainty at quarterback?
“I think early on there were a lot of different things going into the quarterback position as it wasn’t playing up to par if you would say. At the end of the day, I think guys have rallied around them, whether it’s Matt (Moore) or Jimmy (Clausen) in there and tried to do their job to help those guys be successful. Jimmy’s a rookie, so he’s going to have his lumps. Even though he’s going into his fourth year in the NFL, Matt has only eight or nine starts under his belt. As a teammate you try to do more around them and try to help those young guys out.”
Do you think the inexperience is more of a factor than the changes in the rotation?
“I think it all has its hand in it. It’s just tough.. If you watch any defense, someone can make a mistake, someone else can make a great play and nobody knows that other guy made a mistake. Offensively if someone makes a mistake, or someone gets beat, someone gets off the ball, runs a bad route or there’s a missed protection…So many different things can go wrong offensively that result in a negative play when maybe the other ten guys are doing their job. We go back and we evaluate the film and the story’s been the same all year in terms of not what teams have been doing to us, but what we’re not doing as the Carolina Panthers.
It’s true you guys have been strong defensively, but against the run you guys haven’t been nearly as strong as against the pass. Why do you think that’s the case?
“I think when it comes down to it, teams tend to throw less against us and run more. I don’t know why that is, but at the end of the day it’s two phases of the game. Usually you’re going to be good at one and maybe not as good at the other. For the most part, it’s just about keeping people out of the end zone and keeping points off the board. As a linebacker, I wish it was reversed, but it’s not the case. What really counts is keeping points off the board.”
You guys gave New Orleans a really hard time in October. Do you guys match up well with the Saints? You guys always seem to play these guys tough. Often you guys beat them.
“Often, I think it just comes down to being familiar. I think the NFC South, especially now that Tampa’s coming on, is definitely a division to be reckoned with. When it comes to playing the Saints, you have coach (John) Fox and coach (Sean) Payton are former coaches who coached together before and know each other well. So, it’s a chess match. We’re so familiar that we know what makes the Saints vulnerable and what makes them go. I think it just comes down to being familiar with them.”
When you’re going through a season where things don’t go your way and playoff chances don’t look great, does it get hard to come to work everyday?
“Yes, it’s definitely tough.. When you lose, it seems like the sun doesn’t come up. You feel the vibe the whole week throughout the facility. You just try to stay enthusiastic and remember that this league’s based on what you’re doing right now. Nobody cares if you scored 40 points last week and had an all pro performance. People want to see where you win now. That’s the beauty of the game in that there’s always next week. You always try to push through. It’s definitely tough. Guys know we have the ability to play well when we want to. It’s about being consistent.”
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