Metairie, La. - The Saints have faced difficult foes in weeks one and two but will face a unique challenge Sunday against incredibly athletic former LSU Tigers turned Arizona Cardinals Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
The following are coach Sean Payton's comments to the media Wednesday, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
"(There are) Just a couple of transactions here I want to go through. We placed Patrick Robinson on injured reserve. We signed cornerback Chris Carr to the active roster; he'll be in jersey 31. We re-signed Andy Tanner (to the practice squad) and waived fullback Austin Johnson (from the practice squad)."
Can you talk about what this team will miss about Patrick Robinson?
"Certainly it's disappointing. The way it happened, there's no specific way a player gets hurt. Fortunately, the type of injury he has is one in which he will be able to fully rehab after surgery and recover from 100%. It's a setback and hurts our team as well; he's a good corner. It forces other players to step up and we understand that."
You were down to three defensive linemen on Sunday. How did that work out because it seemed like really no big deal?
"We were down to four actually. Those guys battled and did well. I thought the weather conditions changing prior to the game was helpful, just in regards to the temperature. We have enough packages and flexibility that allows us different personnel on the field."
Is there any concern on how many more injuries you can weather on defense? It seems like you have had a ton of them.
"Fortunately we're getting some guys healthy too. That's the positive news. There are a few guys that have been out that are coming back. With that being said, when we practice we make a point of getting a lot of players reps, not just the starters. That will be something that, at the corner position, we deal with and hopefully the guys coming back now can help and give us a little added juice."
Does that make what you've done on defense even more impressive, considering all of the injuries you have sustained?
"It's two weeks, and we're encouraged. There are a number of things we feel like we can do a lot better. I think we're still in that early part of the season where we're trying to make the corrections, make the improvements. We're going to see some really good offenses. We've seen one in week one. Tampa was different in Atlanta in the way that they operate. Arizona will be much different than both two teams. They're very explosive outside. They're in a lot of sub personnel. They're in a lot of one-back sets. The quarterback is a veteran who can do a good job locating the football, and they have a good running game. This week presents a different challenge from the first two."
After sitting down and looking at tape, what has been the biggest issue in the red zone?
"Number one, we have to be smart in regards to our penalties. When we get inside the five-yard line, particularly the goal line sequence last week, those are plays we need to cash in on. We'll study that closely like we do every week, and make those corrections."
Patrick Peterson is a great defensive player, but has been contributing on offense lately. How do you prepare for a guy like him?
"He plays a handful of snaps offensively, so you have to be alert for the personnel substitution. You're treating him as a wide receiver, and then just understanding the things they like to do with him in the game. Is it an explosive play? Is it a wide receiver screen? Is it a reverse? If he's coming in for five or six plays, it probably involves opportunities for him, or possibly for someone else underneath his route. It's really preparing for what you've seen and the threat of his speed."
Are you surprised at Tyrann Mathieu's relatively seamless transition from college at LSU to the pros?
"He's done very well his first year. On tape, he has very good instincts. I know that is something that served him well when he played at LSU, and it's also evident now on pro tape. You never know how quickly a player is going to be inserted into a lineup, but he's fit in their nickel scheme very well. He's very confident, he has good ball skills, he's very smart on the field, and you can see that on tape."
Have you ever had a player like Patrick Peterson where you've attempted to play a defensive player on offense?
"I can't think offhand of someone we took from the defensive side of the ball. You see a lot of teams, and we've done this before, (and) I've done this before, (where you) take a defensive lineman maybe in a fullback's role maybe in short yardage or goal line. But on the outside, it's usually that unusual player that has exceptional ball skills that you just feel like (you) need to find a way to get a couple of touches to. We probably (have) at some point, not here, but I'm trying to think back to Dallas or with the Giants if there was that case. I'd imagine there might have been; I can't think of one offhand."
Akiem Hicks and John Jenkins played a lot of snaps on Sunday. Is that a good thing for young guys?
"The good news is the overall snap count wasn't as high. The time of possession was something that was important. When you look at the ratio, really, more than the total number, I think that's important. When you get north of 60, then you really start getting into a lot of snaps. Offensively, we had a number of players, the offensive line, Marques Colston, those guys were all north of the 60. We monitor it; we get a rotation going. I thought they handled it well."
What are your thoughts on Dashon Goldson's suspension for the hit on Darren Sproles getting overturned today?
"I wasn't really aware of it, nor do I pay much attention to it."
What challenge does the staff face with roster limitations in finding people to fill in when these injuries occur across the league?
"One of the things we do coming away from training camp is put together a short list of players that we've had that might fill a role if we were light at a position. (Chris) Carr is a good example of someone that was with us and we were familiar with. (Jay) Richardson is another player. That short list, with Ryan Pace, exists not just at those two positions, but it exists at all the positions. If you're familiar with the player, the transition for him being in training camp is a little smoother. Sometimes there will be a veteran player we'll work with in training camp with the idea that he may not make the initial roster, but in the case of an injury he'd be familiar with what we're doing and be able to transition back in. It's constantly in flux and something that keeps you at work. Those guys do a great job evaluating not only the available veteran players, but also every team's practice squad is a pool of players that are available to be signed."
When you have an injury like you had with Tom Johnson last week, so early in the game, what type of involvement are you having in that with your position coaches?
"First off, you cover special teams just in case a player was involved in that area. You also make sure your goal line defense is set. Quickly, the defensive staff understands the rotation (and) how it's affected. You also understand that time of possession is important. I thought, again, that the cooler weather was helpful. You just have to have some flexibility and hopefully it's something that doesn't happen often."
Do you have anything more than a professional relationship with Bruce Arians? What he went through (being an interim head coach) last year, are there parallels to be drawn with what Joe Vitt and Aaron Kromer did last year?
"I don't know. I know Bruce professionally and he's done a great job offensively wherever he's been. Clearly, in his role last year in Indianapolis, he did a fantastic job and is well deserving of a head coaching job. Outside of that though, I know his offenses have been very difficult to defend."
How much of Drew Brees' two interceptions against Tampa Bay were them doing something on defense that maybe you all hadn't seen or weren't looking for?