New Orleans, La. - Saints minicamp got underway Tuesday and with practice open to the public, the Who Dat Nation got their first chance to see the 2013 installment of the team. Head Coach Sean Payton shared his thoughts on the team with the media and the following is that conversation, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
"We held out Benjamin Watson, Ryan Steed, Keenan Lewis and Terron Armstead, we took in midway through practice, so those are the four guys we are talking about. Overall today (practice) went really well. We installed red zone for the first time today and we got to third down as well."
How good is it having Charles Brown back?
"I think it's important with the snaps, that he is able to receive as many as he can, especially mentally, just being out there with the protections and the different looks we are getting from our defense."
Is it too early to tell if the defense is making any progression?
"I think we have good competition, especially in the periods when we are in the red area and tight red zone and we finished practice with third down so, there was an even flow back and forth, but I thought overall I was pleased with the tempo and the competitive nature of the periods."
What have been the challenges for Joe Vitt?
"He has coached a lot of time, he has coached and seen a lot of football. He is invaluable to what we are doing. There are so many different ways to skin the cat if you will or call defenses or offenses. Often times there are things that carry over, but his experience is important with what we do, certainly his leadership.
Can you talk about the backup quarterback competition?
"Obviously Ryan Griffin is the young guy from Tulane and then the two other players have both seen snaps in our league and have experience, Seneca Wallace and Luke McCown. I am anxious to see them progress through the offense. They are both picking things up well. Luke has been here before and (this is) Seneca's first time, but so far they have handled it well."
What did you think about the aggressiveness of the defense today?
"Well we are working on it a lot, you've seen pressures, you are seeing drop eights, and you are seeing a lot of different things that we are trying to begin to install. There are going to be at times some protection challenges and I think the key offensively is to settle in and know how to handle the different looks you are getting, but I think that's good, especially now. I think the importance of the mental aspect of what we are doing is something we emphasize."
How important is it for the rookies and undrafted players to catch your eye right now during minicamp and OTAs?
"I think it's a process, it started already and I've said it to them in meetings though; the positions and the roster spots won't be made until we get into pads. With that being said, everyone is trying to prepare themselves as best as they can for when we are in pads and we are in training camp, and that's not only on the field, that's in the weight room too."
Can you talk about Nick Toon and his progress?
"I think last year he was nicked up and missed a lot of snaps because of his injury, so it's just the experience in getting out there and functioning as a receiver. He has good size, which I like in length and it is just a matter of getting settled in and again, once we get into pads, (him) establishing himself as someone who is consistent. I think it's important for all of these receivers, the younger ones especially (that they) are making sure they are painting the right picture for the quarterback and learning the nuances of what we do offensively."
How do you evaluate the offensive line when they are not in pads?
"I think you try and stay away from trying to instantly evaluate. I think you are able to see, assignment wise, are they on the right guys, do they go into the right spot and are they on the right person? I don't get really caught up as to whether the defensive lineman or the offensive lineman blocked him or didn't block him because really it's kind of a catch 22 out here without pads on. But you do get a feel of how they are transitioning with the assignment element, and then again, the emphasis being training camp when they have a chance to truly win those spots. This is an important mental aspect of what we are doing because a lot (of the offense) is going in."
What do you like about Terron Armstead so far?
"He is athletic and you see him handle the speed pretty well. I'll be anxious to see how he handles the power when we are in pads. You can't really see him like that now, but you can see the speed rush. He is someone that is long and he has good feet."
How do you feel about the linebackers?
"I think there is a lot going in and I think they are handling it well as a group. Certainly it's a different scheme. So far they are doing a good job."
Do you have any Deacon Jones stories?
"I don't but he was a special player."
When you have a new coordinator, do you sense that players need to prove themselves to the new coach?
"I think the competition right now is more or less proving themselves to all of us. There are 90 guys out here right now, so we know the roster is going to get down to 53, but it's not going to happen anytime soon. So again, it's taking care of your body, getting yourself in the best shape possible, so when the time does come you feel like you are ready. When you know what you are doing, your chances of executing go way up."
Can you talk about Jimmy Graham's progress?
"I thought he had a good practice today. I think certainly getting him back after his offseason surgery (is a plus) and I know that he is anxious to get started on this year, but I thought his practice today stood out. I think we had a handful of guys that played through some injuries and we had a handful of drops. Certainly I think his expectation level is high, just as ours is as well and I look forward to watching this upcoming season and him progress."
Can you talk about the evolution of a two tight end offense in the passing game?
"It's a position you need depth at. We have been fortunate to have guys (for it). We've found them in the draft, we've found them in free agency, we've found them as unsigned veteran free agents, so we value that position as well."
Can you talk about joining Twitter?
"It (activity) has been very minimal. My arm was twisted, both arms (by) my children (who) brought me up to speed with how to even begin."
Did any of the young guys catch your eye?