(WVUE) - Two week of organized team activities are in the books on Airline Drive, and so far, Sean Payton is quite pleased with his team's participation and progress.
The following is a copy of Payton's session with the media after Thursday's practice, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints Media Department:
Opening Statement: "From an update standpoint we got through three more OTAs this week, Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, Thursday. We are on schedule right now. I think we are getting good work. We just have to keep advancing with the installation. You saw a lot of third down work today."
What is your initial impression of C.J. Spiller?
"I think a couple of things, he has a unique skillset. He has good speed. He is someone that understands what to do in the passing game and I think he will provide versatility. He can do a handful of things pretty well. It is up to us to find ways to, and I said this a week ago, get him the ball in space. He is also someone in the return game that I think can be a factor for us."
Is David Hawthorne becoming more vocal?
"Yes, I think some of that goes with playing the Mike position because you are calling the defense so there is a change when all of a sudden you are the signal caller. He is someone that I would say is a veteran leader. So yes, from a job description standpoint some of that has been different."
Have you seen a big jump with Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones?
"We had a chance to see a lot of it last year and I mentioned that heading into this offseason, those guys have worked hard in the offseason. They are two of the guys competing for spots out here and obviously both of them are big targets but we have some good depth and good competition at that position."
What have you seen from Garrett Grayson?
"I think he is progressing well. I think one of the challenges when you are receiving reps towards the end of practice, we kind of created a period to get more work for the younger players. But being able to handle, there might be a missed block and all of a sudden a guy is running free, but I think he is progressing well. He is doing well."
How about his accuracy?
"He is doing well. Yes, I am seeing it the same way out here. You can see that that is an asset of his."
(Stephone) Anthony has gotten a lot of hands on balls, is that a product of knowing the defense or football instinct?
"He has good instincts. There's an installation each day or every other day and there have been some real good plays and some plays where he'll go back, watch it on film and try to make the corrections."
Since you drafted Cam Jordan, what have you seen from him?
"He is a versatile player and what I mean by that is he plays the run well, he plays in the sub well, and he gives you some flexibility to where you want to line him up. We thought (signing him to an extension was a priority) and going back to the owners meetings I mentioned it, I thought that that was an important sign for us through this offseason heading into the fall. It is good to see that we were able to get that done and I am sure we will continue to use him. The key is where and how we want to deploy him in the nickel but he will be a part of us getting better on defense this year for sure."
How much of a difference is it for Max Unger to block for Russell Wilson compared to Drew Brees?
"You are really asking to compare the difference between Russell and Drew. As far as the center blocking there are some spontaneous plays that Russell makes outside the pocket and yet from a protection standpoint none of those things are affected. Now if you start putting together movement throws, designed bootlegs and nakeds then there is a certain way you block those plays which is no different than how we would block them. It is good to have him here this week and he is someone that obviously learns quickly and has played a lot."
Is the adjustment period that different when you are switching quarterbacks?
"I don't think so at all."
Are you simplifying the defense this year?
"Yes to improve execution, reduce the variables, reduce the quantity, the amount that we are doing, I think that is something we talked a lot about in the offseason. It is something that we have to do. You are playing snaps a man or snaps a zone but in order to play with speed, improving the fundamentals and all the little things I think you have to look closely at the amount and if you can reduce the amount I think you have a good chance at improving the efficiency."
Can you talk about how it looks like Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones are playing with a lot of confidence?
"Yes, look, they are in their second year. They were two guys that obviously made an impression on us on the practice squad last year. They have had a good offseason with the (on-field) workouts and (in) the weight room. The first thing we evaluate is does the player know what to do and those guys in their second year are getting aligned quicker. If you know what to do it's a lot easier or you have a lot better chance of doing it if you're struggling getting out of the huddle and understanding what route you have. They're playing with a knowledge of the offense and I think you can see that a little bit in their play."
How much attention are you paying to Mr. Benson's trial? Have things changed operationally because of it?
"No we would pay attention much like you but no. We miss having him out here obviously because he is someone that would be out here and certainly the opportunity to visit with him typically for me would be on a daily basis to go down there. But I know he is looking forward to getting back and I am sure soon it will all be behind him."
Are you going to be putting up that Do Your Job banner next to Mr. Bensons?
"No we put up his banner and I mentioned it a few days ago, I think it just made sense for him and what he's done for our organization obviously as an owner. He's a fantastic owner to play for and work for."
Is it a possibility that you would be called on to testify?
Did you guys bring in Jermaine Gresham for a workout yesterday?
"Not for a workout, we brought him in for a visit yesterday. He's a player that we are well aware of coming out of the draft five years ago. We had a chance to visit yesterday when he flew over from Dallas so it wasn't an overnight visit. He is recovering from an offseason surgery. I thought the visit went pretty well."
Is that more a matter of you liking something about his track record or your depth at tight end after not drafting one?
"No, it would be about the fit. I think there's a fit for us if it works out and he's a guy that we've studied quite a bit now in the last couple of months. It was just finding the right time and it was good to have that chance to meet him yesterday."
Is Dannell Ellerbe still rehabbing his injury from last year?
"No he was excused today, without getting into specifics, it wasn't injury related."
I know it's early June but what's your overall impression of this team and the vibe they are giving you?
"Well, I think our work ethic has been good. There's a lot of new faces so we've tried to pay attention to the amount of installation but I think we've put in some good work so far and we still have an important two weeks ahead of us. So far, I think the group as a whole, the attendance has been the highest it's ever been for an offseason program, I know they are working hard in the weight room, early on it's been really positive."
You said a few weeks ago that you guys grade your receivers all the same regardless of size but when you guys got to the process of bringing in undrafted guys like Kyle Prater or Brandon Coleman is size something you look at?
"Yes, you are looking for some redeeming quality, something that stands out. Going back as far as Marques (Colston), he had size. Sometimes when you are signing a player late in the draft or in free agency there might be one thing that stands out. The player runs exceptionally well, but is smaller or he plays special teams or is a returner, he has really good size but his speed may be a tad off of the averages. You factor some of that in and you are looking for some of those measurables. To have a bigger target or a bigger radius is something that we value and yet it is not something that eliminates players but it does stand out when your comparing maybe two possible guys you want to sign in free agency."
Benjamin Watson is the second oldest guy on the team but how much younger does he play just because of the shape that he is in?
"Benjamin is in really good shape, he takes care of himself. I think that his preparation and there's a general wellness about him that I think serves him positively, especially at this stage of his career. For some players maybe that drop off can happen quicker but I wouldn't say we've seen that with him and that's a credit to how he trains, prepares and lives."
Is there anybody in particular or a few players that have stood out to you on a daily basis?
"Well, it's hard now. Each practice a guy might step up and make a few plays, it's harder for the front seven because we're not in pads and the minute we try to create more competition often times you can create more contact so there's a fine line there. I think that will begin to become more apparent when we are in shoulder pads and we're actually playing football."
With (Garrett) Grayson, what would you say you have been the most impressed with? Would it be his accuracy or his anticipation?
"Probably the accuracy ahead of the anticipation. The anticipation will come with product knowledge and him understanding what we're doing but he is someone that I think can move around and locate the ball pretty well. He has picked things up pretty quickly and to have a chance at quarterback all of sudden and to see him move with the group as opposed to being a three rep rotation. It's a little different when you get in the huddle and the number one goal for the quarterback is to find a way to get your team in the end zone. Sometimes you just see a guy enter the game and be able to move his offense so I think that will be something that we will look forward to once we get into the preseason and the scrimmage."
Do you see him competing for the backup job or do you see this kind of as a redshirt year?
"We're not redshirting anyone right now so I wouldn't want to put a ceiling or a bottom on him. He is competing right now to improve and then as we move into this, I think that we wouldn't be doing ourselves justice if we just said right now our vision in this first month being here is this. We'll see how he does and that's no different for him then it would be for any of these other younger players. If we would have taken that approach with (Marques) Colston his first year he wouldn't have played and after that first spring, him coming back in shape the way he did that fall then earning a starting position (wouldn't have happened). A lot of it is a competition that they have with themselves, the quarterbacks especially."
Were you surprised by some of the punt catching ability from the big guys today?
"It tells you a lot doesn't it. You learn who continued to play baseball and who didn't. Yeah it went into like triple overtime, it was like hockey."
Has Mark Ingram missed this whole week of practice?
"We just sat him today. Like you know, I don't want to get into it, there is nothing significant. It's this time of the year that we're smart about what we're doing and kind of going from there."
Stanley Jean-Baptiste looks a lot more confident this year. Anything with that?
"Well, he's had a pretty decent week. I think he's another guy much like when we talked about Brandon (Coleman) and Seantavius (Jones) now he is in his second season and there's certainly a lot less that we are doing defensively. We're playing man, we're playing zone, and here are your alignments so it's benefited someone like him."
It seems like you've have tried to create so much competition out here at every position. Has that worked out the way that you wanted it to? Has it had an effect like you were shooting for?
"I think so and I think it's important for teams generally to find their ceiling or to find your best team, I think there needs to be that sense of urgency and we've been able to create that and then the players themselves are handling it well."