Sean Payton confident in running game at season's halfway point

Sean Payton confident in running game at season's halfway point

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - The Saints' running game took a blow Sunday against the Giants when Khiry Robinson fractured his tibia, ending his season, but the team has picked up Tim Hightower, who spent the preseason in black and gold.

Sean Payton discussed the veteran's role going forward and other topics in his Thursday morning teleconference with reporters. The following is a copy of that conversation, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:

What kind of role do you envision for Tim Hightower?

"We'll kind of see how the role develops. I do think generally a guy like him will have a little bit more juice in his step and yet there are some things he has to pay close attention to, you know, getting into a live game, ball security, there are some things (for him to focus on) having not played since the preseason. He has to be on top of (those points) and I know he will, but he practiced well yesterday and you know we'll see how it kind of goes over the course of the game."

What has gone into the process of running the ball better and stopping the run?

"Well, I think two things, last week was a little different in regards to the type of game. We went in wanting to throw it more and mix in the run and be able to finish with the run, but the Indianapolis game was a good springboard offensively. Defensively, we did a really good job against Indianapolis. Last week it seemed like half the battle was neither offense wanted to give up their rhythm. If they were throwing it as effectively as they were, they weren't going to attempt to run it. I think it's the right fits and proper tackling and population to the ball. There are a handful of things that contribute to playing better run defense, and you flip it around offensively, you get with angles and you have to block the perimeter and have that mindset, so we'll be challenged this week with this team."

There were no sacks allowed Sunday against the Giants; what has allowed that to improve from earlier in the season?

"Some of it is timing and tempo of the types of throws that you are making. Some of it has do to with playing with a deficit and you're one dimensional. We chose the pass last week, and it wasn't because we had to, and then mixed in the running game. I think the timing and the tempo of what we were doing (helped improve that). I also think that we have been mindful of having a little variation in our protections, so it is not just one or the other, to help those guys up front. That is one of the hardest things to do now in our league, is to consistently protect the passer. I would say that it has been a combination of the protections and guys doing their job and doing a great job, and then also being in a position where you're in a little bit more control of the game, as opposed to the game being dictated to you. I think this team we're playing, defensively, is in the tops in the league in pass defense, and I think a large part of that is due to their hurries and pressures. Their front is very active and they'll be a tremendous challenge."

What did you see out of Mike Mohamed? Does he play kind of the same linebacker spot as (Hau'oli) Kikaha and (Kasim) Edebali or is he more of a conventional linebacker?

"I would kind of see him more inside or the conventional role. I am sure that we'll have a plan if we have to back up one of those players outside. He is a guy that we're familiar with. He played at Houston (and) he has been in Denver before. I believe this is his fourth season. (He) Made the Texans (53-man roster) and then he was hurt the week prior to their first game. He is smart (and) he is tough. There were a lot of things that we liked about the player and now we have the opportunity to see him here practicing. I think he brings value to our team."

I know one of the things that you wanted to do was simplify the defense; after a few games in, what are some of the things that you have liked about that process or some of the benefits you have seen?

"It is still a work in progress. There are some things technique-wise that we have to improve on. I think the penalties is something that comes up in the backend. I think we're getting more hurries and pressures from the front which has really helped us. Just within the framework of the zone coverage scheme, there are a handful of details that we're working to improve on."