WEST SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (WVUE) - The Saints' first practice of training camp was nearly rescheduled due to an onslaught of rain in West Virginia but the fields cleared in time for practice Thursday morning.
Afterward, coach Sean Payton discussed his initial impressions of the team with the media. The following is his discussion with reporters, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Are you happy with the first day of practice?
"Yes, (the) first couple of days here with the conditioning test yesterday and (then) this morning's work. At 4:30 a.m. or so when it was raining the first thought was we were going to move to the lower field, but I was real pleased. The (field) crew here and Terry (Ashburn), our guys, and all of these guys that put work into these grass fields. You guys are out there and you see it. It is outstanding."
Did the rain have much of affect in what you guys did today?
"It was a little sloppy at times, you saw a snap on the ground, a couple dropped balls but it is kind of our game though. There really wasn't any threat of any lightning so getting acclimated to it is important."
Will you try and get Mark Ingram more involved in the passing game this year?
"Each week, depending on the plan, we try to package plays formationally as well as what we are trying to do scheme-wise but he does have that versatility. So the challenge every week is just looking at the plan going into the game you are going to play and then trying to look at what personnel groups you are going to utilize. They are different type backs (Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller) and yet our job is to take advantage of what we think they do real well."
What does Dennis Allen bring to the defense?
"Well he has had experience with us here before. He was on our early (coaching) staffs all the way up past the Super Bowl, I think up until (January) 2011. There's some experience that I have with him. I think the fit has been outstanding, (with) Rob (Ryan) and those guys on that side of the ball. We've had a couple of changes. Dennis comes in and he is a guy that can assist with the big picture but his background is in the secondary and so I think there are a handful of things we benefit from having him. But knowing exactly what type of teacher he is, what type of coach he is, it helps me in a decision like that."
Is bringing in a long snapper a short-term thing?
"I don't know that you always go into camp and have two long snappers and go four weeks and yet having seen him snap as a rookie in our minicamp and having some experience then with what he can do made it easy when we knew that with Justin (Drescher) we had to back off a little bit until he is healthy. I look at it two fold, it gives us a chance to see a young player do it in kind of a day to day setting with all the reps and we will kind of see once guys begin to get healthy and we will kind of see where we are at."
What about Anthony Spencer makes you think he can take the place of Junior Galette?
"Well no one specific player (will) and I do not think I have said one specific player like Anthony Spencer. He's just a guy that we feel like can be a pressure player. With as much of the game (with nickel and dime packages that) is spent in sub offense and sub defense those guys are valuable. He has been healthy. I thought his spring was good. He has a good feel for what we are doing and the key will just be getting him acclimated once we are in the pads and seeing him doing it."
What's the vision with Kenny Vaccaro this year?
"It is pretty crystal clear, he is definitely a strong safety and then also a player that if we feel like we need to we can play him in that nickel role."
How much do you talk to Drew Brees about the future beyond this season?
"Oh not often. We certainly wouldn't be talking about it with training camp. Without speaking for Drew our focus is always on that upcoming year that is approaching us. I can't think of many conversations where he and I would be talking about two or three years from now."
Can you talk about Brandon Browner's day?
"He has long arms. He's experienced. He's smart. He understands releases so he had his hands on a handful of slants. He's instinctive. He's one of those guys that finds the football. Obviously we feel like he is more effective when he is closer to the receiver press because of his length."
What are your thoughts about the deep ball today from the quarterbacks?
"With the amount of some press coverage we're playing you're going to have some of those opportunities. Early on we got our hands on a few, Keenan (Lewis) made a real good interception and then we were able offensively to hook up on a few. Overall I thought, overall the first practice in, guys did a good job. I was encouraged with how we practiced, staying off the ground without any pads."
Looking at the quarterback competition, did you have two drills going on at the same time so you can get all four quarterbacks reps?
"Well we split a few drills. With 90 right now, numbers are at the highest point right now in the season. We will two spot some team and 7-on-7 work just to get guys more repetitions. Not just the quarterbacks but it gives the DBs, the linebackers, so instead of waiting to get four plays in a 12 play script I might get six or eight plays. That is really the purpose of it this early in camp so when we plan practice each night we will make a decision whether we want to two spot it or one spot it. You will see that especially with the number count right now."
What are the biggest improvements do you think Drew Brees needs to make?
"I think he is probably his biggest critic, (with) his (high) expectation level and what he wants to accomplish. I think specifically always having that balance I think obviously leads to better quarterback play. I think he obviously has a great grasp to what we are doing. I thought the balls coming out of his hands real well. It did in the spring and it did this morning. I think just the details and the small things. I am sure overall you want to reduce the turnovers, we talked about that as a team goal and increase the takeaways. That number I think has to change for us to be successful."
Do you have any advice to the Patriots on going through adversity?
"I think that is a good question, I think Bill (Belichick) certainly has a good grasp on handling his team. I think we have experience with going through some of those things. I think the focal point you will hear certainly from us all the time is looking at this season, getting the right 53, making the right evaluations during training camp to start the regular season. That is the most important thing that weighs on our minds, finding the right 53 guys."
How much growth have you seen from Stanley Jean-Baptiste?
"We have seen progress, yes, I thought today he had a handful of plays. I think what we are doing defensively suits him. I think he is someone that is obviously new to the position relative to when he started playing in college. I think because of that you've seen this improvement now and you see his confidence up. He knows what to do and that is half the battle. When you are fully understanding your scheme and you know exactly what you are doing you tend to play a little quicker and with confidence."
Do you envision Cam Jordan changing his positioning a little bit?
"Yeah he will play some man. We will call it the Jack linebacker position. We felt like some of his best production has come obviously when we are in sub he is an outside player but I think his versatility is a plus. I see him as a guy that can play that end position for us."
With two different personalities, how do you think Dennis Allen and Rob Ryan working together will work?
"It is going to play out well. I don't expect it to, it will. Those guys, number one, they are focused on winning and both of them are unselfish guys. It is one of those things that I think is important as a coach, not just as a player. I think not just those two, the defensive side of the ball have done a great job this offseason in preparation and really looking closely at what we feel like we can do well. I see those guys as passionate about the game and guys focused on winning."
Is setting the tone the first couple of days of camp one of the most important things you want to do out here?
"I don't know, listen, last night our meeting was important. We talked about this team as we are going forward so I think that happens over a period of time and it is really about getting good football practices in and getting good work in."
You said Cam Jordan will play some at Jack?
"Yes which is an end position for us."
And you will continue to use three man and four man fronts?
Does ability trump experience sometimes?
"Look, all of those things factor in. You want players that know what to do and can do it well so the best players will play. I don't know that one trumps the other. The most production would be the thing you are looking for. We feel like that position group overall has gotten a lot better and has a chance to be real good."
Is a four man front a good fit for Jordan?
"Depending on that four man front, he can play an end but it is going to be a tight position with probably an outside linebacker at his size. His weight is down. He is in good shape. I am encouraged by that. I think that he has played some of that and if you go back to two years ago, three years ago in some of our under fronts you've seen him line up in kind of that tight six technique so you will see him in some of those positions."