Thursday, 29 September 2011 15:04

New Orleans Saints Payton, Brees Talk Jacksonville Jaguars, Sproles, Injures, Reggie Bush, Gabbert

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paytonThe Saints will take the field against the Jaguars at Jacksonville on Sunday with the NFL's second-ranked in passing and offensives yardage. Their opponent, the Jaguars' passing offense is last in the league. Their rushing offense is sixth.

There is a chance wide receiver Marques Colston could return to the Saints lineup on Sunday. Colston suffered a broken collarbone and was thought to be out for four weeks instead of two. He missed only two games.
 "He's clear. He'll be up this week," Saints coach Sean Payton told the Jacksonville media in a conference call on Wednesday.

Colston was officially "limited" in practice this week, but it sounds like there's no doubt he'll play.

The Jacksonville media talked to Payton on Wednesday and was asked if the Saints should be viewed as a passing team?

"That would be week to week," answered Payton. "The first question I would ask is define what a passing team is. We feel like when we played our best football if we go to 2009, we ran the ball very well and threw it well.'

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio believes the Saints have a complete offense.

"The Saints are a pretty powerful running team, too,"  he told the Jacksonville Times Union. "They've got some big linemen. They've got a complement of really explosive backs. The first-round player out of Alabama (Mark Ingram) is a good player.

"They are not a finesse pass team. This is a team that is a complete offense; they can throw it and throw it well, but they have a power run game you definitely can't sleep on."

The Saints (2-1) have scored more than 30 points in each of their first three games. The Jaguars (1-2) have scored 29 points in their three games. The Saints are favored by 10 points.

"We feel like our formula is having that balance and being able to run the ball along with throwing the ball efficiently" said Payton. "That helps our defense play better. It helps us when it comes to the second half with leads. I don't know if I would agree necessarily with that (we are a passing team)."

The Saints have faced rookie quarterbacks` nine times in the past two seasons and allowed them two passing touchdowns and intercepted them 15 times. They'll face Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who is in his second start on Sunday. However, the Saints' record against the rookies is 6-3. Defense and special teams beat the Saints and those three losses. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has fond memories of his three seasons in New Orleans. "Love the city," said Del Rio. " Met my wife there. Still keep a place there, still have a lot of friends there. A place I started my career as a player, then started my career as a coach. A lot of good people. a lot of good memories. It's a  place I'm fond of."...

At a time when the struggling Dolphins are realizing that no amount of will power can make Reggie Bush anything, well, Reggie Bush. The Dolphins landed a running back off waivers, Steve Slaton, who has, when given the chance, played better than Bush ever has. Bush has gained 69 yards on 27 carries in three games for a career-low average of 2.6 yards per carry. On Sunday at Cleveland, Bush gained 13 yards on 10 carries. He has made 11 catches for 71 yards. Bush is a glorified wide receiver who is asked to play running back...

SOME hither, others yon: has the Saints ranked below only the Packers  in its weekly power ratings. 1. Packers 3-0. The Packers needed to play in the regular season like they played in the 2010 post season. So far, they have. 2. Saints (2-1), "The only thing the Week One game against the Packers helped determine was the location of the January rematch...

Jaguars assistant coaches are operating on one-year contracts. None is happy about it. Head coach Jack Del Rio is not really loyal to his assistants. If the Jaguars continue to struggle, Del Rio might get rid of a few of them. Or management get rid of Del Rio at the end of the season. The assistants privately are looking for jobs elsewhere...You've heard the adage before. Win the turnover battle, and the majority of times, you'll win the game. Through Week 3, teams turning the ball over fewer times than their opponents are 28-7..

Payton talked about sending Darren Hartley to the IR list, needing a roster spot, the Jaguars, Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham and Reggie Bush saying the Saints faked injuries.

Brees  discussed the no huddle offense, calling his own plays, and throwing TD passes in every game.

 Saints coach Sean Payton

Opening Statement:

“The following players did not practice: LB Jonathan Vilma (left knee), C Olin Kreutz (left knee), T Zach Strief (right knee), LB Martez Wilson (shoulder), TE David Thomas (concussion), LB Will Herring (hamstring).  These two players were limited: LB Jonathan Casillas (right foot) and WR Marques Colston (shoulder).  The following players were all full: CB Tracy Porter (calf), S Roman Harper (shoulder), DT Tom Johnson (calf), WR Adrian Arringotn (left knee), DT Aubrayo Franklin (right thigh), S Jonathon Amaya (left shoulder).  From a transaction standpoint, we signed LB Ramon Humber, he’s in number 53, and T/G Pat McQuistan, he’s in number 76.  We released DT Mitch King and we placed K Garrett Hartley on Injured Reserve.  From a practice squad transaction standpoint, we signed DT Mitch King and released DT Swanson Miller.  We’re at 53 (active) and eight (practice squad).  We went outside today and basically spent most of the practice on our base first and second down.”

How does the process look for David Thomas with the concussion?

“We’ll see.  In other words, each day we’ll monitor his symptoms.”

Was the decision to go outside because the next game is in Florida?

“It was probably more grass and outdoor-related as opposed to heat-related.  It was warmer today that what we’re going to play in on the weekend.  It was just a break from going inside.  We’ll probably go inside tomorrow, but just getting out on the field and the grass surface.”


Since you didn’t place Zach Strief on IR, does that mean you hope he’ll be back at some point this season?


So it’s not a torn ACL or anything like that?

“No, it’s not that or we would’ve moved him to IR.”

If Charles Brown has to play, do you think his development over the last few weeks will get him ready to play?

“Absolutely.  I think I was asked that the other day.  He’s experienced, he played well last weekend, and certainly knows our system.”

With the injuries piling up, did you feel like it was necessary to put Garrett Hartley on IR?

“I think a lot of it was creating roster space.  It was two-fold.  Number one was creating roster space and number two is John (Kasay) has been outstanding.”

Can you talk about the specific challenges Jack Del Rio’s defense will present this weekend?

“Here’s what we see on tape: they’ve improved dramatically in every area statistically, they’re doing a great job of keeping the ball in front of them.  They were a team last year that was giving up a lot of big plays.  This season they’re first in the NFL in regards to big plays allowed.  They play the run very well.  They’re strong in their front and you see a secondary that has really done a good job with their scheme.  They’re playing with a lot of confidence and have played some good teams offensively already.”

Can you talk about Gregg Williams’ familiarity with the Jaguars having been there three years ago?

“When I’m asked these questions about someone was there and now they’re here, generally it would be more personnel related.  We see the scheme.  In other words, it’s all on tape.  There’s a different defensive coordinator who’s calling the defense this year than in years past.  Offensively, there might be some more similarities but I think it would be more of a reference to what are the strengths and weaknesses of certain players, and three years removed, you guys know how rosters are,  so it only would apply to some players.”

What do you see in Blaine Gabbert?

“He’s a big talented guy who was real successful in college and he’s making his transition after one start.  The game last week is tough because of the conditions.  He’s a guy that through the evaluation process I think everyone saw his skill set.  He’s a guy that’s physical, he can make all the throws, and a guy that was well-thought of by a lot of teams heading into the draft.”

How challenging do you think it is for them to go through three quarterbacks within a couple of months?

“What you try to pay attention to is we know that they run the ball extremely well.  They have one of the better runners in our league in Maurice Jones-Drew.  He’s physical, he’s fast, he’s elusive, and he gave us fits the last time we played them here.  It starts with their ability to run the football, they’re experienced on the offensive line, Mercedes Lewis is a tight end who’s a threat, and then they’ve inserted a different quarterback and certainly there’s some changes but you still see a personality or a scheme that that player’s playing.  But you try to watch as much tape as you can and that would be the preseason and then certainly the regular season.”

It seems like you’re finding ways to get the ball to Darren Sproles a lot these first three games.

“The one thing that we’ve been doing a good job of is in the kicking game.  We put up the numbers each week and whether it’s a punt return or whether it’s a kick return, when you have someone like Darren you feel like you’re always a play away from at least changing field position if not scoring.  The thing with (Matt) Turk is he doesn’t maybe have the distance that statistically comes across, but he does get exceptional hang time so we’re going to have to be smart about the ones we return compared to the ones we fair catch.  But like in any game, especially on the road, that battle in special teams will be important for us and a big point of emphasis.”

Were you satisfied with the progress of your team after the first three games against three possible playoff teams and can you talk about the schedule getting a little bit easier the next few weeks?

“Let’s start with the first question, I don’t know that we’re ever satisfied, but we’re always looking for and working hard for our best game and it always seems to be the next week.  Each week, we’re looking for improvement and I really don’t pay much attention to on paper the schedule seems to be getting easier.  Each year, there are games where you go on the road and understand how important it is to play your best football and really focus on our own team and not the record or the statistics of the team we’re playing.  These guys are real good at home and their record speaks for itself.  Under Jack (Del Rio’s) tenure there, they’ve never lost to an NFC South team (at home).  Their win-loss percentage is seventh best in the NFL during that time frame from ’03 to now so they’re a handful.  That’s where our focus is.”

You and Drew Brees have been talking about how important it is to get off to a fast start but it seems that your team is finishing games stronger.  Can you talk about that?

“I think it was a big emphasis last week.  We felt it was important to get off to a good start and obviously that didn’t happen.  We get back to paying attention to everything we can in regards to our openers, in regards to field position whether we’re receiving or kicking off, but it is something that we’ve talked about and it is something that we need to get better at.”

Is it hard to get Darren Sproles more carries with the amount he does?

“I think more than anything it’s the flow of the game and each game is uniquely different.  Last week that last portion of the game which was pretty much the quarter we were throwing it.  A lot of it depends on how the game unfolds.  What’s most important is, are we getting him quality plays?  Are we doing the things that he does well?  Last week was a great example with the 2nd and 1 run that he gets eight yards on and the very next play he scores.  So we just keep finding ways for him to be a threat in space and he’s someone that doesn’t have to just operate outside.  He’s someone that we feel is very good inside.”

Has Sproles exceeded your expectations?

“I would say he’s a better pure runner than maybe we had given him credit for not having been with him and just having seen it on film.  He’s someone that can handle the off-tackle and the outside.  He’s very smart.  In a quick amount of time, he makes good decisions and those instincts really serve him well.  The other thing is I think he loves football and you can see that.”

How much time do you spend during the week on a no-huddle?

“Probably not as much as you would think.  What we do occasionally is during our walkthrough, we’ll take maybe the last six plays of walkthrough and maybe just kind of walk through the mechanics of getting on the ball and calling plays, and then later in the week we do more of a two-minute sequence and it would be really dependent on game plan.  In some weeks, it might be more of a feature and other weeks less of a feature.  Generally just in the walkthroughs.”

How fun is it to watch a guy like Drew Brees operate that?

“The one aspect that goes unnoticed that we watch initially is when the formation breaks and he’s taking a peak at the defense and finding out who or if anybody is coming and how can we get the protection right.  In other words, that’s all happening prior to him catching the shotgun snap, reading the defense and making a great throw.  So there’s a lot going on in eight seconds and now the balls snapped and he’s into his routine.  He’s extremely smart and works extremely hard at try to by game day go through all these things in his mind so it comes easier and appears slower than maybe it would be.  When he got going last weekend and you look at the ball distribution, it went to a lot of different players.  It was something.”

Can you tell us what Jimmy Graham brings to the table?

“I think we’re all seeing someone grow right in front of us and it began at the end of last season, the last four or five weeks of last year.  Certainly into this training camp and into this season, there’s a confidence level he has.  He recognizes a lot of the nuances that we do throwing the ball, he’s improved as a blocker, and I think he’s driven.  I think it’s important to him to be a real good football player.  I’ve said this before, in 2006 after that season we coached in the Pro Bowl and the one thing that struck me was you had all these good athletes but you also had all these intangibles that really maybe separated them from others who were maybe just as talented but you had guys with intelligence, you had guys that were competitive that is was important to, all the things that go into really being a special player and I think that early on he’s working at his craft and working to improve each week.  He takes coaching and applies it to the field and each week does something that impresses you or encourages you more.”

Your offensive line has been intact for a long time and now you’re possibly going to be out there with a center and right tackle who don’t have a lot of NFL experience.  Can that change the way you approach the game?

“Maybe to some degree we’ve been a little spoiled with the health and the experience we’ve had.  I do think starting with Charles Brown and Brian de la Puente, they’re experienced players to some degree.  They’re not first year guys.  Both are uniquely different in that obviously one’s a pure tackle and the other is an inside player but they’re highly driven, they’ve gotten a lot of snaps through our training camp and through really the period of our program, and I think they’re surrounded by good players and they’re surrounded by a quarterback and they understand like most of our guys do that they need to focus on their jobs and as coaches let’s make sure they’re doing the things we think they do well.”

Can being in a good rhythm on offense help an offensive line play well?

“I think there’s probably a tie to a lot of things.  I think a play-caller feels like he’s in good rhythm when he’s throwing and they’re defending run or he’s running and they’re defending pass or he’s blocking when they’re pressuring.  There are some games when it comes, but I think the magic isn’t in the play call.  I think the magic is in the scheme that the players have confidence in and they know and they’ve repped a hundred times and they’re very comfortable with.  It’s karaoke and you either know the words or you don’t and if you don’t know the words you’re in trouble.  Our job is to make sure that they know certain plays and then chances are execution efficiency goes up and generally the ones that are the new inventions that maybe we don’t have as much practice at or the ones that aren’t as good in the game and still we work each week to look at what we can do.  The rhythm is important.  I think our tempo is important, that’s outside anything else.  In and out of the huddle, up and down, on and off we do with a lot of personnel.  That can get boring if we don’t pay attention to it.  In other words, that’s something that I think can help us if we do a good job with it.”

Are there any trends that you’ve noticed taking place in the NFL that are leading to higher passing numbers?

“I think we’re seeing more shotgun.  We probably have the last three or four years.  We’re seeing more shotgun in college so those quarterbacks transitioning into our league are familiar with it.  We’re seeing more shotgun running game and you see that in college.  I think it’s really based on the team.  It’s what the team’s identity is.  I still get back to what’s important for us, but there is a spike in passing and I think the quarterback play in our league is as god as it has ever been.  There was a stretch in the 90s or the early 2000s where there was concern about where all the great quarterbacks were.  I think it’s good as it’s ever been right now.  To some degree, I think the rules favor throwing the football and make it more challenging.  All those things are things that have happened in the last 20 years where one adjustment isn’t a big thing but then another one and another one, and it’s tough to play pass defense if you can’t hurry the passer and you can’t affect them.”

Can creating those individuals matchups with receivers and defensive players like you like to do make it more advanced?

“I think our league studies tape.  It all goes to the main system so we all have access to everyone’s games every week and we have a whole offseason to study and look and what we try to do is see if there are similarities or if there’s a fit but there usually aren’t many secrets.  It’s really down to what fits your talent and I think that’s important.”

Reggie Bush was quoted as saying that faking injuries occurred here.  Did you read the report?

“No, someone mentioned something to me last week and we don’t fake injuries and I don’t think you can find a situation where a team has been in a hurry up and all of a sudden guys are just falling down.  If you went back, it would be pretty easy to do.  That’s probably more frustration on a player’s part there.”


Saints QB Drew Brees


Do you agree with Sean Payton’s assessment that the Jaguars are certainly not a team to overlook?

“Definitely. They play very well at home. As I look at their defense, their defense has played extremely well for this whole season. The New York Jets game is deceiving when you look at the score. They had four turnovers that gave the Jets great field position and allowed them to score 30 plus points .Besides that they’ve been pretty stifling. They’ve been great against the run and they’re a team that’s pretty conservative as far as their zone coverage structure. They don’t give up big plays at all, but they’re not going to bring a ton of pressure. At least that’s what they’ve shown. I know that they have it and we’re going to expect the unexpected, be ready for anything. I think it’s a defense that is deceiving when you look at the film. They’re very effective at what they do.”

Could this be a similar situation to when you went out to Arizona last year?

“Yes. The fact of the matter is that it’s hard to win on the road no matter where you’re going or who you’re playing. I think some teams when you just look at the statistics, they’re a different team at home than on the road, in every statistical category. This team if you look at the stats. They are better every way when you play at home. I think we would be remiss if we don’t look at past history and not recognize the challenge we have going there and having to win a game. They’re going to be ready for us. It’s going to take every bit of firepower we have.”

What’s been the reason for some slow starts on the road?

“We’ve gotten it going eventually, just haven’t’ gone down and scored on the first drive yet, which is something I think we’ve been very, very good at ever since we’ve been here. We’ve been tops in the league at that. We always start in our openers of 10 to 15 plays beforehand that are going to be what we’ll start with. For whatever reason, we’ve had some third and short situations and for some reason we haven’t converted. I think you just have to keep plugging away. You have each of those plays down pat, no matter what the look, no matter what the situation. We just need to get a rhythm going. Against Green Bay, we fumbled the second play, otherwise that’s a first down and we’re off and running. Chicago, we miss it by six inches, (Darren) Sproles is right there. Last week, the first play is a negative play that otherwise might be a positive play. You just have to get out and get that first, first down and get it rolling.”

How would you evaluate Blaine Gabbert’s play so far?

“I haven’t’ really seen much of him to be honest with you other than just the talk throughout the preseason with a lot of these top picks, him and Christian Ponder and of course Cam Newton. But obviously it looks like he’s getting his opportunity. You don’t get drafted that high unless you have some talent. They seem to be pretty excited about him. He’s a Missouri product so Chase Daniel, I’m tired of hearing him bragging about him. Chase takes all the credit for mentoring Gabbert at Mizzou. I really don’t know a whole lot.”

Are there a targeted number of passes you want to throw per game? The two best years the Saints have had since you’ve been here, you’ve thrown under 600 times. Are you thinking about that or is it just a function of how the game is going?

“There’s direct correlation usually between that and how we’re running the ball. If we’re running the ball effectively and the game is in hand and not in a ten minute situation where we have to play catch up, then typically that number is high 30’s. That’s usually where we’d like to be. I think we’re always swayed towards 55-60 percent pass and 40-45 percent run. The more we can close that gap, better. It shows that we’re running the ball and two, we have the lead, therefore we’re running the ball more to chew up the clock, wear the other team down, keep the defense off the field and all those things. So, I think there’s some correlations there. I’d say even though we’ve thrown the ball mid-40’s a few times this year, we’ve thrown it effectively. I think we’ve gotten the job done doing it. Whatever it takes to win.”

What do you see in Charles Brown if he has to step in at right tackle?

“Charles Brown is an extremely talented, physical looking specimen. I like his attitude and approach. He has good guys in that room around him who have helped bring him along. He’s used to playing big-time football coming from USC, high draft pick here and for each guy you kind of wait for the opportunity to come around and I think he, just like most young guys, you see the talent, but you’re never going to see the real full potential until he starts playing. Now he has that opportunity to play and get some pretty significant playing time. I’m excited for his opportunity.”

When you go to no huddle like at the end of the last game, what’s the biggest challenge for you in that situation when you’re at the line calling plays?

“I do enjoy that. I feel like you kick up the tempo a notch and it allows you to get into a rhythm. You’re going to throw it every down. There are no backs back there, unless you start running a few QB draws, which you never know. It might be in the plan. I think that the biggest challenge is that you’re also letting the other side know you’re throwing every play. They can pin their ears back with their rush and rush the passer. You have to be very efficient with your reads, get the ball out on time, protecting the football, knowing when you don’t get the look you want, protecting yourself, if you’re getting pressures and certain looks. A lot of times, Sean and I are communicating calling plays, but we’re changing plays at the line, so if you try to get down in the plays that work against the looks your seeing, so there’s a lot of thinking going on, at least pre-snap. I love the tempo and rhythm of the no huddle.”

Is it similar to what you did at Purdue?

“No, not where I have the ability to call it, which Sean (Payton) gives me that ability in a lot of cases, but we did run the spread at Purdue, the five wide yes. (It’s) definitely the same concepts and such.”

Sean Payton said you had a string of 14 plays you called in a row. What did you think of that?

“If he said it was all me, I guess it was all me. We’re constantly talking. Even if it’s “How about this”. If I like it we’ll do it, but if I already have something in mind that I just really feel strongly about, then I’ll just call what I’m going to call, but in a lot of cases, he’ll punch in and say ‘How about this?’ or ‘Tell (Robert) Meachem this?’, ‘(Darren) Sproles this’ and we’ll do that.”

Does that suit your personality?

“I’ve grown to really, really like that. I know I have a coach that has a lot of confidence in me. I know we have a great game plan and I have a ton of trust and confidence in the guys I’m throwing to. I do love that opportunity. I feel like when he gives me that opportunity, I have something to prove every time out.”

How much credit do you give Brian de la Puente for how he came in and performed?

“That was big, especially for a guy who hasn’t been here that long. He was on the practice squad, did a great job in the preseason and made the team. He started at guard for us in that third preseason game against the Raiders and obviously jumped in at center and got some significant time there Sunday, so kudos to him. He did a great job of preparing himself even though he didn’t get a lot of reps during the week and that was big. I was excited for him.”

Do you appreciate it even more when you see all kinds of snap-exchange issues on a Monday night game?

“Definitely. It’s nice when you know that you have a guy like that who can step in,. You feel like you don’t miss a beat. Every center is different, maybe in regards to the way they snap, the way they call things out, so you understand maybe the nuances of each guy, the subtle differences, but in the end, you want to make sure you have a guy who knows what the heck is going on and you feel comfortable taking a snap from under center and under the gun. The last thing you want to do is be thinking about that. I think with Brian, I don’t think about it one bit.”

Did you hear about the River City Relay play from the last time the Saints were in Jacksonville?


Do you guys work on a play like that?

“I think every team has a play like that in there in the bag, package. You hope you don’t have to use it. I can’t say you rep it that much, but we have something like that. I think everyone does.”

Do you have some level of pride that you keep moving up on the list of consecutive games with a touchdown pass?

“You have to do it first, right?.”

Do you think about it?

“I guess I try to not think about that kind of stuff. Obviously I like touchdown passes because they’re seven points, but I’m just as fine handing it off or watching (Darren) Sproles, (Mark) Ingram, Pierre (Thomas) or someone else score. The goal is to score as many points as you can. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”

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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. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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