The Saints defense conceded 307 yards and 3 touchdowns to Arizona QB Carson Palmer in week one. But in week two, they'll face rookie Jameis Winston - fresh off an underwhelming debut that featured a pick-six, four sacks and a quarterback rating of 64.
The issue is that New Orleans' secondary, thought to be a strong point after free agency is without Jairus Byrd, Keenan Lewis and Rafael Bush. Bush was put on Injured Reserve Tuesday with a pectoral injury.
Sean Payton discussed the matchup with reporters Wednesday morning before team practice. The following is a copy of that session, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
When you met up with Jameis Winston at the combine, how much was it to kind of see what his makeup is figuring you guys could see him a couple times a year?
"We were at the pro day and we had dinner with a handful of prospects but we didn't have the individual sit down time with him like we would have other guys that we were looking at. We were there to see the workout but that included the linemen, the receivers, obviously a bunch of players at that school just like there are at some of these other big schools. But I would say there's a lot of other teams that were in a position for that pick that spent more time in an intimate way meaning dinner or an interview at the school or at home."
So you guys did not meet up with Winston at the combine with one of your scheduled meetings?
"The 15 minute rotational (interviews)? Yes, but that would be very normal but that wasn't in order to pick his brain because he's going to be playing (us in the future possibly)…we're trying to get a feel at the combine for hey, how does this guy learn, does he pick it up quickly? I thought he did. We thought his interview was outstanding."
What do you make of Jameis Winston's first performance?
"When you watch it, you see there are a handful of plays that tilt a game in a certain direction. There aren't many times you get that big of scoring differential by the half, that is unusual and so then generally there is a turnover there, there are some other explosive plays that take place for that to happen. The half is not long enough normally. But I think that is part of the process. You can see his ability to compete. I think he has very good leadership skills and that goes back to watching the workout and watching him win at Florida State and seeing him over the years. That is a tough first game and yet we just finished our team meeting and when you play in this league long enough you find yourself on both ends of that type of game and you just hope you are on the winning end more than the losing end."
When you sign a guy like Brandon Browner as a free agent, how much of the consideration is the big receivers that he will face in this division? How did he grade out from Sunday?
"It very much played into the decision. Tampa Bay has two big (wide) receivers (Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson). You watch Atlanta, they have big receivers. Carolina, although (Kelvin) Benjamin was hurt in this preseason, but I'd say more than any other division you are going to see some of the bigger, better receivers size-wise in our league. Brandon (Browner) did well. He is someone that has a great grasp as to what we are doing. He is smart. He is competitive. He is in the right position and I think that just that time on the task and the snaps he is getting now coming off the preseason knee injury is only going to sharpen him up."
Did Brandon Browner pretty much pick up where he left off playing-wise?
"Well I don't know that anybody picks up where they left off. He just left the only similarities were he was in the same locker room at Arizona and we were on the same sideline as the Patriots but obviously the result was different. But you start the next season, there's a lot that goes into that. But he's doing well."
What did you think of the pressure in general in week one?
"It wasn't good enough. We had some hurries and we had some pressures but obviously when a quarterback can have that kind of time, the very first touchdown the quarterback flushes, Carson Palmer now, flushes to the right and if you count and you watch and you watch and you watch, that wasn't like five Mississippi, that was like nine. That is hard to play backend defense if we can't get to that player quicker and not give him that type of time. Look, there were positive signs and signs that get you encouraged and yet we have to be better."
Where have you seen Kenny Vaccaro develop in year three?
"I would say he definitely plays with passion. I think there is a presence to him. I think he's had a real good training camp. We have to keep finding ways to get him closer to the ball because the closer to the ball he is prior to the snap, the better off he is. He does a very good job as a pressure player and I think his ability to track and tackle has gotten a lot better but I think we just have to keep looking for ways to bring him down in that box. Obviously we look at him as a strong safety. He is someone that has some flexibility that can play the nickel position. That is something that we will continue to utilize in some weeks maybe more than others."
What's the challenge of overcoming another injury at safety, with Rafael Bush now going on injured reserve?
"It is the shuffling of your lineup initially. We are fortunate (Jairus) Byrd is coming along. Kenny (Vaccaro) was here throughout the preseason. We have some experience so it is just (about) being versatile and being smart about how we practice."
Having to make an extraordinary number of personnel moves, is that by design or is it circumstance?
"I think it's by design. I think that's something we have done here quite a bit. I think it happens with a lot of teams early in the season. That's certainly something that I wanted to do as we got started here. Part of it was getting guys up for special teams. When you have a handful of starters injured, that means that there are a group of players that are going to be playing a starting role, offensively or defensively. That may diminish or take away snaps from the kicking game. To offset that, we try to get Seantavius (Jones) up and we try to get (Toben) Opurum up. You have to try to find a way to balance that with a handful of guys out that are starters. That was by plan, for us."
Is the back shoulder throw one of the hardest ones to connect on? What are some of the challenges there of hitting it or defending it?
"I think it is more difficult to defend than to throw. I think the more difficult throw is the ball traveling down the field, hitting the receiver in stride, behind the coverage. You see those go-routes occasionally, you know the bomb. Now, you don't see as much, you see the receiver get under thrown, come back for the ball and the (defensive back) run into him and get a pass interference (penalty). If you are really trying to grade efficiency, one of the things about that throw is your percentage can be far greater, with that throw, than it would be on the downfield long-ball."
For you, as a coach who watches Rafael Bush rehab all offseason from another injury, to see him go down again, how hard is that? On another note, is it concerning to know, going forward, that you are going to have to rely on players like (Kenny) Phillips and (Jairus) Byrd, who have not played in a while for varying reasons?