"We getting ready to play four good teams," said Saints coach Sean Payton in his Tuesday media briefing. "The players know we're going to have to win the turnover battle and takeaways defensively.
The Saints placed tight end David Thomas on injured reserve which means he'll miss the rest of the season. He played in the game against the Falcons, but hasn't recovered satisfactorily from a concussion to continue for the final six weeks.
The coach is still on crutches because of knee surgery and a broken tibia, said he has two more weeks to go without putting weight on the leg. He has already returned to the sidelines to coach.
The coach said he could use four running backs in games the rest of the season if they remain healthy.
With this schedule, it’s different for two reason," said Payton. "It’s a Monday night game and we’re coming off a bye. Nothing will be reported until Thursday with the injury report and when we begin that process. Really today, we took and spent most of practice like we would on a normal Wednesday with first and second down and spent some more time with conditioning. These guys will be off tomorrow and then Thursday back at it
Q: Did you make any roster moves today?
A: Nothing right now to report. We will when it’s official.
Q: Did you handle this bye week much different than you did in the past?
A: We handled it very similar to what we handled the last two bye weeks. A couple of years ago we made a change as to how we approached it. We weren’t’ very successful the first three years. What's a little different is it’s a bye leading to a Monday game rather than a Sunday game. It’s kicked everything a day forward. Normally, today would be a day they’d have off and they’d begin practicing tomorrow. But with the Monday game, we’re just trying to get ourselves into our weekly routine. Thursday will feel a lot like a Wednesday schedule wise. The practice won’t be as long with the holiday, but we handled the bye much like we have the last two years
Q: In your view is there a recharge period after a bye or do you notice the same energy?
Q: No, I think there are some variables. Where the bye sits on your schedule it can vary. This is the first time we’ve had the last bye weekend. Let’s say in week ten it was a later bye than we had. I think it came at a better time. It’s helped us after that stretch to get away from it a little bit. There are times when we’ve played and had our bye earlier. I think it’s challenging when that bye unfolds in week four or five and all of a sudden you’re off and you’re keeping going. In our case we prefer the bye to be later in the schedule. This year it was the last week.
Q: Did you notice the same energy today?
A: I thought we were fairly sharp. We ran after practice. When you’re off a period of time you want to get back. Today was a bonus practice for us and we typically take advantage of that when we have that opportunity. We’ll have a chance on Thursday to review and then move on to some other things
Q: How much do you feel that it’s a positive that you played Tampa and Atlanta and now you have the Giants and Lions and they’re in the playoff mix as well? How can that help in terms of playing teams in playoff positioning?
A: It really felt in the third quarter of the season when we outlined that quarter two or three weeks ago, I think our players and every one of us understood we were getting ready to play four real good teams in this quarter, beginning with Tampa Bay, Atlanta and now New York coming up this week and Detroit after that. You get a chance to measure yourself and see where we’re at. Our players recognize that coming up Monday night will be a big challenge. We play what we think is a real good football team who just came off a tough loss at home. Historically Tom (Coughlin) and his staff and that team have been very good coming off of a loss, so we’ll have our work cut out for us. We need to have a real good week of practice and a good week of getting back into our routine
Q: Has the performance of the offensive line improved in coincidence with the return of Zach Strief?
A: Certainly the time on task, snaps and experience for a young center (Brian de la Puente), Zach Strief coming off of an injury, all those things help. They’ve played very good football here of late. We think it’s a key to us playing good football games. Certainly from a repetition standpoint, the more those guys get to work together, the more they become comfortable with the center who’s going to be making a lot of the calls, ID the defense along with Drew (Brees). I think that’s very important.
Q: Does the Giants defensive line present one of the bigger challenges?
A: I would say so. Number one, they lead the league in sacks as a position group. These guys can rush the passer very well without having to rely on pressure and they have played very well this year statistically speaking, when you look at their numbers, it’s impressive. Those one on one battles will be as challenging if not more challenging than any game we’ve played to date. I think when our players look at the film, we talk about the opponent and some of the key elements to winning football games, that are a part of it that’s easy to see when you put the tape on. You see these guys do a great job on early downs, defending the run, play action, getting the nickel snaps rushing the passer. I think that’s a very important part to this game.”
Q: Was Chris Ivory the odd man out for a participation reason in the last game?
A: No, we really thought with his hamstring…In the early part of the week I really thought his hamstring was going to be further along than where Mark (Ingram) was. As we got to the middle of the week, it appeared that Mark was definitely going to be healthy and Chris was going to be questionable. It had more to do with the injury.
Q: Will you still stick with picking the three healthiest guys?
A: We’ll see. Right now this might be the first week where all of them are healthy. Whether we go with three or four is yet to be determined
Q: What do you think of the Giants rushing attack? It seems like their numbers are off.
A: I think the things we pointed out today in our PowerPoint presentation to the team is that this is historically a club that has been very good rushing the football. Although statistically speaking they haven’t been as effective. We know that this personality they want from their team is something that with a good portion of the season ahead, they will be working hard to establish. I think the approach we have to take is understanding what we’re seeing from a scheme standpoint in the running game and understand that this is a team for good reason who believes strongly in that element to winning football games. Coach Coughlin and with this team we’re playing, its’ always been a big ingredient to their success. I would expect that to be the case coming up in this game Monday night. I think although their statistics haven’t been as strong as in years past, I don’t think their commitment has changed at all. I would expect that to be something they’ll work very hard at and try to correct.
Q: Can you talk about the job Jed Collins has done on special teams, receiving and in the run game?
A: He’s an interesting story. It’s a pretty good testament to a guy who’s worked hard. He’s been on a number of clubs and he found his niche beginning last year with us and in training camp, really earned that starting fullback position. There are a number of snaps where we utilize a true two-back set, so we utilize that position with some snaps and what it provides for us offensively. I think he’s a player who exactly knows what his strengths and weaknesses are. He is a guy that can catch the ball comfortably out of the backfield. His toughness and leverage and ability to learn, he’s pretty smart, all those things led to an opportunity to make this team during training camp.
Q: What do you think your team needs to improve on or sustain following the bye week
A: I think overall, the consistency is a term we would use. I think the importance of these next six weeks, winning that turnover battle, takeaways defensively. It was a big one we had a week and a half ago with the interception by Scott Shanle. The ball security offensively, I think the number one thing during this next six week stretch is that we’re better in that area than we were in those first ten games. I think that will lead to a little more consistent play.
Q: I know you’re not giving participation, but do you have a feel for Jonathan Vilma’s recovery?
A: He’s doing well and his treatment's going well. With him it’s day to day. You measure how he’s moving. On Thursday we’ll give you a better indication of where he’s at.
Q: How important is it to use Darren Sproles as a receiving option against a team that can rush the passer?
A: All of the elements that you use to throwing the football are important and critical along with Darren Sproles out of the backfield, the help periodically that we have to give, I think the timing in the passing game is critical. To your point, I think when the backs are out and the receivers are in their spots quickly, you hope you don’t have to hold onto the ball, because this is a front that can come up with a big sack, a big turnover and really take over a football game if you’re not paying attention to the rush. They’re very talented. They have very good depth, rotate players in. That’s something that’s stood out on film.
Q: Would you say Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory comparable to each other and because of the similarities are one of them the most likely to sit out in a numbers game?
A: I think that’s a good question. I would say to begin with that we would kind of clump them to some degree that way, although there are some differences between Mark and Chris Ivory. Whether or not if we go to three from four, comes specifically from that group, would be hard to say. A lot of times we’re going to look closely at what’s the role for Pierre (Thomas), for Darren (Sproles) and either Mark or Chris. This discussion we’re having is a good one. It’s something we sought at the start of the year in that competition. I would agree with that first assessment. Whether or not it would always come from those two, to create three if we’re going with three, it would be hard for me to say that, based on who we’re matching and who we’re playing. This week all four are going to receive the reps and the work and we’ll see. What happens oftentimes, maybe someone along the line on defense can’t go and all of a sudden you have that luxury. The meetings we have on personnel each week are very interesting. You’ll have your 53, but who’s your active group of players and your seven inactives. You always start with who can’t play because of injury and then oftentimes you’ll turn to special teams and what those guys can do to contribute. Korey Hall who is also a second fullback can also be a guy who is a core special teams player. He was a guy who was active early in the year, inactive of late. Those are the type of discussions that take place in determining who’s going to be inactive and who’s going to be up.
Q: Do you think that with Darren this could be the best offense you’ve had here?
A: He’s played a huge role in what we’ve done. He’s added an element of speed and quickness in space. He’s a threat as a receiver and I think he’s a very accomplished runner. Whether or not this is the best offense we’ve had is to be determined really. You always go back to where you won. In ’09 we won and had success. You measure your team. If you’re looking at statistics versus a season like ’09. We’re still a work in progress. There are several things we feel we need to do better. It would be too hard. Do we have the potential? I’d like to think so and what’s most important, a lot of the time if we’re just looking statistically, it might not be necessary to what we need to win that game. A 17-10 hard-fought win may not statistically help one side of the ball or the other, but nonetheless it’s what’s most important during the week and with your goals are, but I think with Darren, he gives us a good mix, a good blend an gives us a lot of different options that we try to take advantage of.”
Q: Do you have a target number of touches with a guy like Daren?
A: I would say a little bit more than touches, snaps or plays played, what we try to pay attention to more is tendencies when players are in games by personnel. In other words, there’s eight, nine, ten different personnel groupings we might use offensively. Ninety ten, eighty twenty there are certainly ones where Jimmy Graham’s on the field as opposed to John Gilmore. John Gilmore would be a guy we would think can block the running game really well. Certainly in Jimmy’s case, you would say who’s a very good threat as a receiver and yet we need to have that flexibility and balance to be able to run when Jimmy’s on the field and to be able to throw when John’s on the field. I think in the bye, more time is paid to those types of tendencies, no different than defensively when we’re in an Okie package or a nickel package or when we’re in our base defense. Are we giving something up very easily and not even recognizing it. That’s when you do the self-scout and I think more attention’s paid to that then to how many snaps are given. It’s a challenge for us at receiver where four guys that are very involved in the game plan, we’re constantly looking at the things they do well. There are just weeks where one guy has more (chances) at the receiver position, like Marques (Colston) this last week versus Atlanta, who had probably his best game as a New Orleans Saint and two weeks from now, (he) may not have those same opportunities based on coverage, the looks that we had and what we see in the game. So, at some positions that’s easier to scout if you’re just looking at playing time and snaps and then certainly the skill positions it’s a little more challenging.”
Q: How’s your rehab going?
A: It’s going well. I have two more weeks without the weight on it and then have the minimal weight bearing. I think the goal is for Christmas to be able to walk without crutches. I think the long term goal would be March 1, where it’s 100 percent. So far it’s gone well.
Q: Will you be down on the field on Monday?
A: Yes, I’ll be down from here on out.
Q: Do you need to get new plays for Darren Sproles after the Atlanta game?
A: In defending Darren, other options became more attractive. I think we’re always mindful of the best things a player can do and giving him those chances in a game. Sometimes, your point is exactly what we’re talking about. Based on the nature of the game there were some things that weren’t that attractive and all of a sudden Marques has one of his better games. Jimmy Graham has a big game. Drew (Brees) is a guy who is going to find what the defense is doing, what the weaknesses are and try to figure out what they’re playing. We do pay attention to what’s done in our league. I think the reason it’s referred to as a copycat league is because all that video and information is available at the end of the weekend. On Monday or Tuesday you have access to all the video in games that are played. We try during the course of the year to look at a team that’s excelling in a certain area and see if there’s something they’re doing that might fit us or is it just uniquely different to their team. That would be something we’d pay attention to. We’re always looking for new thoughts that might fit our personnel, but nonetheless not getting away from what we do.
Q: Was the game not conducive to screens or Sproles’ style?
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Can you talk a little bit about coming off the bye?
“I think it’s definitely different having the bye later just because when you really look at it, we had six weeks of preseason. You go for about two weeks before your first preseason game and then obviously four preseason games and then right into ten weeks of regular season football. That’s sixteen weeks of very physical, every day both mentally and physically demanding. You’re kind of itching for that opportunity to take a breath and get away a little bit to rest your body, rest your mind, recharge the battery and then get back. It was a pretty spirited practice today. We’re all excited to get back because we’re excited for the opportunity that we have going into the second half of the season. Four of the next six games are at home. The Giants are coming to town, so that’s a huge game Monday night. We just got flexed to the Sunday night game after that against Detroit. As you look at it, we have a tough schedule with a lot of very good teams. This is our opportunity to try to separate ourselves and really establish our position both in our conference and our division. I’d say that definitely with the amount of time we had off, being that Coach (Sean) Payton turned us loose after that big victory right away and the fact that we’re playing Monday night gave us an extra day as well, I’d say that’s the most time we’ve had off ever, which maybe because this is the last bye week you could possibly have and we’ve been grinding for 16 weeks straight it was very appropriate because I think a lot of guys needed it. We had quite a few guys banged up. Whether they had missed time or that they were just hurting and they needed that relief a little bit, I think we’re going to make this a very positive thing for us. I think we’ve gradually kind of changed our formula for the bye week different from the first three years we were here to the last three years, which has really been more recovery time and kind of extending that bye so that guys can really get rested. I think we have enough of a veteran team now and leadership and character and guys just knowing the right thing to do to take care of yourself and to make sure you’re prepared and ready when you come back.”
After looking at the first ten weeks of the season, what do you think you guys need to sustain or improve on to make a deep run into the playoffs?
“As we look at it right now, there are consistent things that every week win and lose games. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but the fact still remains that taking care of the football and then being able to take it away is vital to winning and losing. Being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run is vital to winning. The opportunity to make big plays, third down conversions to stay on the field, red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns when you have the chance and not field goals. I think we started off like game busters on third down, and we’ve slowly tailed off a little bit but we’re still obviously operating at a pretty high level. We just need to continue to emphasize how important that is. Taking care of the football, we can do a better job offensively of taking care of it and I know defensively they’re preaching taking it away. I’d say those are two of the more important things and then obviously the run game as well.”
Are there certain things you can attribute to your team’s success in November last year and this year?
“We put a lot of emphasis on that. We’re all professionals and we all try to approach our jobs the same way every day and each game the same with that level of intensity and urgency and all those things, but human nature would tell you that it’s hard to sustain that level of play. So how do you differentiate each game from one another and make it the most important game? How do you make each month the most important month of football? I just think for whatever reason over the last few years especially, I think we’ve just really emphasized the month of November being the time when the contenders kind of separate themselves from the pretenders. We always want to be a contender and we view ourselves that way. I think we just put that focus and that attention to playing really well in November because I think that can really be a springboard to how you’re going to play in December and how you’re going to do in your division and kind of creating momentum going into the latter part of the season.”
Does it feel like with playing the Giants and Lions, who are both have similar records and are right behind the Saints, that it’s in your hands to better position yourself?
“Absolutely. It’s still and always will be one game at a time, but as you get to this point in the season you start looking at where you stand in the playoff picture. Obviously we have enough of a challenge within our own division, but then we have a couple of conference games coming up that could affect playoff positioning, which I know we aspire to be there as do the two teams we’re playing coming up especially the Giants who have been there a lot. It’s very much strategic. These games mean that much more because of that.”
Are you preparing for the Giants to consider this a must-win game considering they’re coming off of two straight losses?
“So much of this league is not who you play, it’s when you play them. Everybody’s good. Everybody has the talent and the ability to win any Sunday. Obviously these guys are coming off of two tough losses with the last one being at home against a divisional opponent, so there’s an extreme sense of urgency on their part. All that means is we know we’re going to have to go out there and play one of our best football games of the year. Execution is going to be key. As we go through this week coming of off a bye, it’s Thanksgiving, I’m sure everybody has family coming in town. You just have to find a way to eliminate distractions and enjoy that time but also make sure you do everything you can this week to go out to prepare to play the best game you can play. You expect a four quarter, physical, down to the wire game. I think if you prepare yourself for that, then you’re ready and that’s all you can do.”
When you look at the Giants front four defensive linemen, what do you see from them?
“They do a great job of getting pressure just with their front four. They have the ability to pressure, but at times they don’t need to because they get that pressure from their front four. They’re very good against the run as well as the pass. That’s something you see is just big physical guys that look the part and are very versatile and athletic and can do a lot of things. As we look at it, you have to find a way to keep those guys off balance. You want to be good rushing the football and mix in the play-action, drop back, change up the launch points, and do all those things you need to do to slow those guys down.”
Can you talk about your own offensive linemen coming together?
“I think they’re doing a great job. I think they’re coming off of a great performance in Atlanta. Obviously that’s a tough place to play with the environment and having to go up against some pretty elite pass rushers. I felt like they handled it extremely well with no sacks and something to build on. The offensive line is the group that has to play with the most continuity. They have five guys that need to be on the same page every play. It’s hard to do, and yet I feel like we have smart, tough guys that do that.”
Sean Payton said he thinks Marques Colston might have played his best game ever as a Saint. That’s saying a lot for him.
“He’s played in a lot of big games and he’s played well. He’s been a very consistent performer for us for a long time, ever since he’s been here. He’s one of the original guys. I would agree with that. It’s just small, subtle things. I’ve played in games where he’s scored three touchdowns. He didn’t score three touchdowns (against Atlanta), but he came up with some plays and some catches and did some little things in critical situations. That was where you say, ‘Wow, there was nobody that could have covered him there because he was going to find a way.’ I’m happy for him. He’s a big physical guy that obviously makes a living running across the middle and getting hit a lot. There are a lot of times where he’s playing banged up and playing through it. Right now as I look at it, I think he’s as comfortable and healthy as he’s been in a long time.”
Statistically, this offense is on pace to be the best since you’ve been here. Can you talk about that a little bit?
“I have to give Darren Sproles a lot of credit. I think he’s been a big part of that. I don’t think we’ve ever had this stable of running backs. Back in 2006, we had Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister, that one-two punch. Those guys played great and complemented each other extremely well. It seems like that position has kind of been battered with injuries over the last three or four years after that. Obviously 2009, that was a solid group where if one guys was banged up, the other guys were able to pick up the slack. I think this group is very similar in that regard but maybe to another level because Sproles can do so many things and Pierre Thomas is in the prime of his career as well. Mark Ingram is a young and exciting talent. Chris Ivory is just getting back into the mix, too. It’s pick your poison. Those guys have a lot to do with it. Up front, I think our offensive line has a lot to do with it. I think our wide receivers have been as consistent as you can get. Our starting four have been together for five years straight. Three of the four have been here for six years. I think the continuity and consistency and playmaking ability is an all-time high.”
Can you talk about being ahead of Dan Marino’s passing numbers up to this point?
“I’ll be honest, we did this back in ’08 where I was getting questions each week about being on pace. I think I thought a lot more of it back then because you kind of thought that record was untouchable. I think that was the closest anyone had gotten to it in a while. The way this year started off, there were like six guys that were on pace and then gradually it’s kind of dwindled down. I try not to give it much thought. We would love to have that record, but within the framework of winning games. I certainly try not to think about it. You just try to do whatever it takes to win and if that means we have to throw it three hundred plus yards a game or run it two hundred plus yards a game, we’ll do whatever it takes and we’ll see where the chips fall at the end of the season.”
Are you exited to see which poison is picked this week considering all four running backs are healthy?
“Coming off the bye week, I think that’s a good problem to have. I think all four of them are going to be used at some point in the season. We’ll see how it shakes out. Obviously we’re early in the week here. We’ll just have to see. It’s a good problem to have.”
Is there a better free agent pickup than Darren Sproles this year?
“It would be hard to find. Look at his productivity. To be honest, I don’t even know the numbers. I just know he’s up there in receptions and total yardage. He may even be number one. What I know is within the framework of what we do offensively, eh can do everything. We ask him to do a lot and it’s never too much for him. There’s not a guy that I have more trust in with protection, with catching the football out of the backfield, giving the ball to him in critical running situations. Whatever it may be, the guy is a ball player and I’m glad he’s on my team.”
by Ed Staton