Payton: Saints Must Avoid Fumbles

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS CONFERENCE CALLS WITH TAMPA BAY MEDIA

HEAD COACH SEAN PAYTON

(On Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston)
“Having met him at the Combine and then, really, sitting right behind him during his Pro Day, getting a chance to watch him throw, he’s got a great arm. I would say his leadership skills and personality stood out. He’s got a lot of that ‘it factor’ you’re looking for. He’s won a lot of games, even prior to playing at Florida State. So he would probably be in a long line of young quarterbacks in Week 1 that things didn’t go exactly how he wanted them, and yet he’s got that resiliency and toughness to him that’s the right fit for his team. But having had a chance to watch the film, there are a handful of things that come up and typically more credit or blame oftentimes falls on that position, but I’m a big fan of [Winston’s] throughout the process of seeing him. And obviously the [league schedule makers] put the two young guys in the first game against each other and, really, it’s two teams.”

(On having had trouble in the red zone in Week 1)
“It ended up being a game where we had to settle for field goals. We had some opportunities, especially in the second half. The score was really a one-score game for the most part. It got away from us late in the fourth quarter. We’ve got to be more efficient. We had the one touchdown early on and then settled for a number of field goals. Now, the good news on that is we had a rookie kicker that stepped up and on the road did a nice job. For us, offensively, we’ve got to be better. There’s a handful of things you come away from the game [with]. You identify those Monday when you come in as a team, then, come Wednesday, you’re on to game planning and your practice versus the opponent.”

(On running back C.J. Spiller)
“We’re in our first year with him and he’s explosive. He’s got outstanding speed. That’s the first thing you notice when you’re with him. So he’s been with us throughout the spring and the training camp. He practiced today on a limited basis and it’s good to see him back out there.”

(On how Spiller can help diversify the offense)
“That speed and that ability to run the football – he’s also a good receiver. Look, when you have a player that’s dynamic like him, you have some things that you want to do with him in the game. It gives you a little bit of versatility.”

(On the importance of protecting young quarterbacks and whether they can have long-term effects from taking hits early in their careers)
“I think the mental toughness and the ability for a guy that has thick skin, that’s been, throughout a player’s career – and I say that [as] high school, college – there’s a roller coaster ride oftentimes playing that position. Generally those guys that you’re looking for in the draft have that toughness to overcome. And I think that every year we spend a ton of time evaluating the quarterback position and you’re constantly digging for traits, similar traits, things that you’re looking at for the position. Is he accurate? Is he tough? Can he move? Is he smart? I think that the challenge oftentimes is they go earlier in the draft than most positions and sometimes they play early, sometimes they don’t. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong formula either. I think it really depends on the team and the player.”

(On New Orleans’ home-field advantage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the importance of that when facing a team with a rookie quarterback)
“Historically, we’ve been good here. But I would say this: last year, we weren’t. It’s still about playing smart football, taking care of the football, fundamentally doing all the things that keep you from – preventing yourself from doing the things that keep you from winning games. In this series, where over time in the dome and then a last-possession-type game, I mean, in our time here, it’s been a field goal, it’s been a real close-fought series and a close-fought game year-in and year-out, the two of them. Typically in the division, teams have a feel for what they’re going to get when they’re on the road or what it’s going to be like to be at home and I think here’s a game where you have two teams that opened the season with a loss and both will be fighting hard to get their first win.”

(On the advantage of being familiar with Tampa Bay’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme)
“Typically good defenses have certain things they want to do and do well. The key offensively is quickly understanding the defense, how to handle the force patterns, how to handle the movement. Dating back to when Lovie was at St. Louis, they were playing [Tampa 2 defense] as well as anyone. And I think the one thing oftentimes that goes undiscussed with it is how much single-safety defense, man and zone, that a team like Tampa, for instance, plays. [Tampa 2] is the preferred coverage of choice, but there are so many things that go into it. They do a great job with their technique. We read to the team today, I think that in Lovie’s however many years as a head coach, his teams have caused 180-some forced fumbles. It’s a little more than one a game. They do a great job of disrupting the ball from the ball carrier, the receiver or the runner.”

(On whether New Orleans’ large receivers help their defense prepare to face a receiving corps like Tampa Bay’s)
“In our division, one of the things we tried to do in the offseason, and you can do it through the draft or free agency, but, man, if it’s Tampa Bay, if it’s Atlanta or Carolina, there’s a lot of really, really talented, big receivers in this NFC South. So I think it’s important that the corners have some size and length or there are going to be plays where they just can’t come up with the ball and they might be in perfect position. I think that week to week in our division, you see really talented, big receivers and that makes it challenging for the defense.”

(On quarterback Drew Brees and how he maintains his level of play, especially given the loss of major target Jimmy Graham)
“No. 1, he prepares and his work week is amazing. He’s extremely dedicated. Takes care of himself; he’s in great shape. When you start looking at these elite quarterbacks, or the guys that – if you really looked at their work week, you’d be amazed. What they spend on the film study, what they spend in the weight room, all the treatment that they go through to put themselves in the best position on Sunday to be healthy and ready. With the loss of Jimmy – and obviously you spend a lot of time with a trade like that – there’s some challenges that go into it because you have a matchup player there that can give you some joker opportunities or matchups versus safeties or linebackers in man coverage. But we were able to acquire a first-round pick and also our starting center, Max Unger. I think the pressure on the skill people, the tight ends and receivers, is spread throughout. I don’t think the snaps or the touches are picked up by one individual, I think they are picked up by a number of them. So it’s our job each week to look closely at how we want to go about playing a game and where do we think the matchups might be and that’s what we’ll do this week.”

(On Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the weapons in the Tampa Bay offense)
“I know this: he played well this past weekend. When you watch the tape, you’re starting to see more and more these tight ends that come into this league – typically at that position there’s a trait, [a player is] a receiver more, a run-blocker more, and I think [Seferian-Jenkins] has that versatility you’re looking for at the position where he can help you both ways. When you watch the film and you look at the touches and you look at both of the receivers [Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans], and of course one didn’t play last week, and then the tight end – I thought Doug really ran well [as well]. He almost looked like he did a year and a half ago. He looked explosive, fast. There are some things you see on film that strike you. Coming away from that game [in Week 1], I’m sure a tough loss like that, there are some positives. But I thought they ran it really well and I thought that he, specifically, played very well.”

(On the current New Orleans defense)
“The first thing you obviously realize is there are some key veteran players that in one season either retired, maybe through injury or just where they were at in their career – when you have a [Jonathan] Vilma, when you have a Will Smith. Then we lose Malcolm Jenkins in free agency, Roman Harper is now with Carolina, Jabari Greer – there are about six starters after that ’13 season that all of a sudden we were replacing and the one thing about that group is not just the skillset, but their toughness and leadership ability is something that you miss. You generally lose maybe one or two [players] a season, but that’s something that we’re working hard to replace.”

(On what to expect from the New Orleans defense this week)
“I don’t know that we’ve been a high-pressure defense of late. In other words, there were some snaps at Arizona, maybe some five-man rush. I think each team will have their critical-situation, Cover 0 snaps, it’s something that you mix in. But I think with the size of the receivers that Tampa has, you really have to be careful not to tip it off. So I really think depending on the game, you look at the matchups and then you decide how you want to play a certain game.”