November 15, 2017

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On practice participation:
“Did not participate was: non-injury for Crowder, personal reasons; and then Jordan Reed, hamstring; and Trent Williams, knee. I have a bunch of limiteds. You’ll get the report here in a minute. If you have any questions about anybody, I’ll let you know how they’re doing. [Ryan] Grant is still in the concussion protocol, [Zach] Brown with his Achilles, so on, so forth.”

On if he expects WR Jamison Crowder to return tomorrow:
“Yeah, he’ll be back.”

On TE Jordan Reed’s progress:
“He’s progressing. He was with the trainers today for the most part. Said he had a good day, we’ll see how he does tomorrow.”

On T Trent Williams’ status:
“Yeah, it’s going to be a week-to-week thing for him, for sure. The challenge will be Sunday, Thursday, Thursday. The next three weeks will be a challenge. Hopefully we’ll get him this week, then take it week by week.”

On planning practices for three games in a short span, especially for a team with so many injuries:
“Yeah, we’re OK right now. We have guys on a limited basis but we have enough bodies [that] we’re having good practices. And then after this game, we’ll adjust the schedule – probably shorten practice, maybe a walkthrough-type tempo and go from there, get ready for the Thursday night game.”

On RB Samaje Perine’s improvements:
“Well, I think he’s getting better looks. The more you see in practice and the more you get in a game, the better you’re going to get. He’s a guy that never ran out of the I-formation in college, so this is all new to him. He’s good out of the shotgun, but we’ve just got to keep giving him the ball. Like I said the other day, I think he’s a guy that’ll get better with more carries. He’s such a physical guy that I think the more carries he gets, he’ll wear down a defense. He’s not so much a spell guy, he’s more of a ‘run it, run it, run it,’ type guy. Hopefully we get him some reps, get a great look at him, and he performs well, which we think he will.”

On Perine’s ball security:
“He’s had two missed hand-offs. I think the exchanges are the issue, the tracks. Not necessarily all his fault, sometimes the quarterback might’ve been a little bit too tight. But we’ve got to get that cleaned up. Time will tell on that but I think we’ve got it fixed, hopefully.”

On if there are benefits in facing a difficult early schedule:
“Well, I don’t know. We’ll see. I think every team in the NFL has serious weapons and things to… you have to prepare for, work toward. Just when you think you’re not playing somebody that’s not very good record-wise, they have a lot of talent and good coaches. This is a week-to-week league, for sure. We know we’re playing against a team that’s won seven in a row, and they’re playing excellent football on both sides of the ball and special teams. But as far as how that will treat us later in the season, we’ll have to wait and see.”

On the decision to sign RB Byron Marshall:
“Yeah, we did some work on him. Our scouts did a good job on him and sent the tape to [Running Backs Coach] Randy [Jordan] and made the decision that he was our top guy. He does a little bit of everything. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he’s thick, he’s 215, 220 pounds. He played running back in college, played receiver in college, did some good things on tape in Philadelphia in the preseason, so that’s the guy we went with.”

On the difference in New Orleans’ offense:
“They’re balanced and I think they’re running the ball extremely well. They have two powerful guards in [Andrus] Peat and [Larry] Warford and [Max] Unger is doing a good job at center. And then the backs. They have a good combination with [Alvin] Kamara and [Mark] Ingram, obviously. They do a good job of mixing it up, and that opens up the play-action passes with [Ted] Ginn, taking the deep shots and [Michael] Thomas across the middle, and obviously [Coby] Fleener. So they have some great weapons across the board. Kamara is another great threat out of the backfield. They do jet sweeps, screens, all that stuff. Very balanced football team. They’re playing with a lead this year a lot more as opposed to last year and the year before. They were playing from behind because their defense wasn’t very good, so they were very pass-happy. You see the same situation with us from time to time. But when they play with the lead or close, they’re very balanced and Sean Payton does a great job of calling plays.”

On DL Matt Ioannidis’s hand:
“He had a nice club on today at practice. Limited basis but he looked good. Hopefully uses that to his advantage… Be like ‘The Longest Yard’ [laughing].”

On if Ioannidis could be available Sunday:
“Yeah, we hope so. We’ll see. He’s trying it out, felt pretty good today. We think he’s got a chance.”

On New Orleans’s defensive success this year:
“They’re doing a good job in the running game and they’re getting you in third down and they’re very good on third down. Third-and-short, they’re excellent. Third down, they’re doing good. They’re very multiple in what they do. They jam fronts, double-As, and a lot of different fronts that you have to deal with. And then they’re playing great man coverage. [Ken] Crawley, I don’t know how to pronounce it, him and the first-rounder over there, they’re very good. They’re very good corners and they’re getting good secondary play along with the pass rush.”

On differences in LB Martrell Spaight’s performance last week:
“He just came in, he was fresh-legged, had a lot of energy. That’s Spaight’s strength is he comes in and provides spark with great energy, plays fast and he’s a physical guy. Now it’s a matter of him and Zach [Brown] meshing well together from here on out because those are our two linebackers. And Josh Harvey-[Clemons] is now number three, we signed [Zach] Vigil to be number four. Vigil helps out on special teams quite a bit, but Spaight and Brown, they’ve got to lead the show, run the show.”

On what he remembers about QB Kirk Cousins’ performance the last time they played the Saints:
“I don’t remember anything about that game, quite honestly. I didn’t even watch that tape. I know he played well in that game. We had a great day. That was a great afternoon here at our home game and guys played well, but they’re a totally different team as we are, and they’ve improved greatly.”

On what he’s seeing from WR Maurice Harris now that eyes are on him:
“Yeah, he’s always been a great competitor in practice. In training camp, he was making plays. It just went unnoticed by a lot of people, but not by us. He’s a great all-around football player – very quarterback-friendly. He’s where he’s supposed to be. He just doesn’t there quite as fast as a lot of guys, but he’s got great change of direction. He knows how to set up the DB. He knows how to read zone/man. He can play everywhere. And he’s a great blocker, so he’s another great weapon for us to throw in the mix.”

QB Kirk Cousins

On if he has a relationship with Saints QB Drew Brees:
“I just had an opportunity to get to know him at the Pro Bowl last year, which was a fun experience. I’ve just always admired his career going back to his days at Purdue – the way he has handled adversity, the way he’s carried himself with class, the consistent production year-in and year-out. He’s stayed healthy. He’s just been a consistent force there for the Saints. I love his game and the way he plays and I’ve been able to learn a lot from him, just from a distance, watching film and studying his game.”

On if he can model his career after what Brees has done in New Orleans:
“I think the goal is to just watch other guys and how they’ve had success and study their game. He plays with such a good base and he’s got great accuracy. He sees the field well, has good athleticism, moves around well, avoids sacks, completes a lot of passes. And so all of those things are things you say, ‘That’s a good recipe for success, a good model for success.’ I think in that sense, you do try to pattern your game after great players like that.”

On how he can simulate a live pocket:
“Good question. That’s the question I’ve asked myself a lot, because you can’t go to the local park and play 11-on-11 football, unfortunately, like you can if you’re an NBA player … you can go to the gym and play pick-up basketball and still get a decent feel of the flow of going up and down the court and playing the game. Not the case in football, and so your best chance away from practice is to have a coach throw a bag at your feet and get as close as you can, which still isn’t very close. That’s why practice is so valuable. That’s why two-a-days are valuable. That’s why OTAs are so valuable. You try to get a feel for it – and why game experience is so valuable and why as players play more in real-time games, they play better and better and better, because it’s hard to simulate that in other situations.”

On if he sees his throw to WR Josh Doctson any different after watching it on tape:
“I saw it correctly on the field in the moment, but what I did was, I was nervous about the safety being able to redirect – I call it a baseball turn – and go back and intercept it and he really wasn’t able to when you watched the film. That’s maybe a situation where I’m being overly cautious trying to prevent the critical error by throwing the ball deep enough to where I know the safety can’t make a play, but our receiver also can’t make a play. Had I left the ball shorter where I would have wanted to throw it, the safety wasn’t going to be there and you’d like to think it could have been a touchdown. And on the field, I didn’t throw it there because I was nervous about the safety getting over there, so that’s where you go back and watch the film and realize, ‘I’m giving them too much credit,’ and you can put that ball in there and it would have been a potential six points.”

On the progression he’s seen from RB Samaje Perine:
“I think confidence is always going to be a big trait as you play longer in this league and he’s become a more confident player as he’s gone through different experiences. I think he’s always run the ball really hard and I think he does a great job with that – I told him so after the game against the Vikings. Catching the football, he’s going to get more and more opportunities to do that and gain more experience. He had a great play down the right sideline against the Vikings on Sunday. So just continue to give him those opportunities, those experiences, and I think the pass game is really the growth that a running back needs to take when he first shows up in the NFL because of how many pressures are being thrown at them and how much responsibility we place on a running back in pass protection, and those are the places where he can grow and will grow. He has all of the tools, all the hardware, to be able to do that and become a really complete back in this league.”

On if exchanges with Perine will improve now that he is getting first-team reps:
“I would think that that will get better as we work together longer, that he’ll get a better feel for how each exchange looks and I’ll get a better feel for what he needs. Those are certainly the kind of errors that can quickly change the course of a game and so they need to be avoided at all costs.”

On WR Maurice Harris and what it means to be a “QB-friendly receiver”:
“I think QB-friendly receivers are guys who make a quarterback more accurate by the way they track the football in the air. They attack the football with their hands. When they’re covered, they can still come down with the ball in a way that the stat line shows that it was as if he was wide open. I think I’ve always felt that Maurice is that, as well as another guy who stands out in that way uniquely is Jamison Crowder. I’ve always felt like Jamison at times makes me a more accurate quarterback with the way that he tracks the football in the air. Those are skills that have to be developed and take time and some guys have it a little more naturally than others, and I think Maurice and Jamison do have a unique trait there in the way they can be QB-friendly. But we have a lot of guys that, you know, you think of Josh Doctson and you think of our tight ends – Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis – we’ve got a lot of guys that can make a quarterback look pretty good.”

On if there is a benefit to having a tough early schedule:
“I think time will tell if that challenge that we’ve had the first nine weeks of the season, 10 weeks of the season, if that will benefit us in the second half. I don’t know, but we’ve stood toe-to-toe with a lot of good teams in this league. We said it before we ever played a game that the margin for error is very small and the difference between teams that go 10-6 and 6-10 is very little. We knew that going into the season and, unfortunately, in some of those tight games we’ve come out on top and some of them we haven’t. Hopefully here in this stretch of seven games, we can be the ones that come out on top.”

On the change in the Saints’ defense this year:
“Well, I think they’re well-coached. I think it’s a good scheme. I think they’re creating pressure. It seems like they’re getting after the quarterback, batting a lot of passes down at the line of scrimmage. It seems that their secondary is covering very well. They’re creating confusion. They’re changing up their looks and just kind of creating chaos and that’s what good defenses do. It is going to be a challenge, especially in their environment and their stadium, to be on the screws and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

On if he needs to change any part of his game when a team is adept at batting down passes:
“No, I don’t know that I change a whole lot. I think the things that you want to do to try to help with that are the things you do every week – negotiate arm angles, hold your eyes, don’t stare down where you’re throwing, have a quick release. I think those are all things that I do pretty well. I think I have a quick release. I think I can move my arm angle to make those throws and so I think those are the same things you try to do every week.”

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

On keeping the team focused during the winning streak:
“Well, look, I think each team, each game you play presents a different challenge in the type of team you’re playing. We have got a lot of young guys playing in our starting lineup, a lot of guys from this draft class and some younger guys that have had maybe one or two years of experience. But we’ve got, I would say, a good presence leadership-wise. We get through that Monday and it’s on to the next week. Now, I think still the process Wednesday through Friday is the key and the preparation and attention to detail.”

On RB Alvin Kamara:
“He’s got some versatility. Both he and Mark [Ingram] are guys that can block the blitz. They are guys that are comfortable in the passing game. We felt when we evaluated him coming out of college, he was someone that we knew was very intelligent. He has comfortable hands and he’s picked things up, a number of these young guys have. When you look at [Marshon] Lattimore and [Ryan] Ramczyk and Marcus Williams, there are four or five of these guys that are playing a lot of snaps as rookies. I think their football instincts have served them well.”

On the success of the defense and if it is a function of a few years of building or if it was more overnight:
“Well, look, it’s probably somewhere in the middle. Obviously the influx of players this offseason we are relying heavily on. Part of it is gaining confidence after the second loss against New England and I thought our road trip to Carolina was really one of our better defensive games. We took the ball away and then you can talk about confidence and you hope for confidence, but it generally starts with some demonstrated ability. I think then over in London against Miami and each week trying to correct the things that are still hurting us and improve overall as a unit. I think that that two-week road trip was important for us.”

On if he has noticed a difference in how QB Drew Brees manages games:
“Well, I think collectively between what we do and how we are approaching the game each week it can vary to some degree. What’s most important – for him and any one of us – is winning. He understands that and I think that… Look, each week you want that balance and there are some weeks where it may tilt one way or the other, and I think that you are prepared to play and adjust during the course of a game. I think he is smart enough to do that.”

On concussions and how difficult they are to manage during a game:
“Look, we have got a great medical staff. Of course, it has happened over the years here and I would say we
are definitely on the conservative side. It’s happened in the playoffs. It’s happened where any sign of a player being dinged or nicked, we are going to follow the procedures and be smart about that. Obviously it’s an important topic right now concerning our game and I think that the players themselves are a big help that way as well. Fortunately, when something like that comes up, we’ve been on top of it and able to get the proper diagnosis.”

On if he has ever had to get personally involved to keep a concussed player from playing:
“That’s come up occasionally because in a critical moment, a player might at that moment feel like he needs to… but I think we are passed that with our current protocol. I think that we rely heavily on our group here on the sidelines and the spotters but our guys do a great job that way.”

On if he thinks there is a difference in the NFL today in how rookies have been able to make an immediate impact:
“I think there are a lot of differences between today and 15 years ago and yet I think one thing that would be constant would be [that] you’re always hopeful when you have a draft that this class can contribute early. I would say over the years, the players that have that football instinct and the makeup that learn quickly probably have an advantage. Yet there are some players that might take a couple of years and we’ve seen that happen where all of a sudden they come on and become real big contributors. So you’re measuring that in the evaluation process and I don’t think that in itself has changed, but certainly the way rosters change today versus 15-20 years ago, that’s entirely different.”

On what was special about the Saints’ draft class this year:
“Well, the first four or five were grouped in a position where you rarely… it’s not often that you’ll take four players that were graded in your first 32. I think to your point, the rhetoric after the draft is always interesting. You hear the head coaches and the GMs, you always got who you wanted and yet you wait until you really have a chance to evaluate them. This year’s class – having two first-round picks, Lattimore was one and then Ramczyk in the [Brandin] Cooks trade. Marcus Williams was the safety we had real high grades on from Utah. Kamara, Alex Anzalone, who actually started for us at the beginning part of the year until his injury in Week 4, Trey Hendrickson, these guys are guys that when we selected them at the time we felt real strong about and to their credit they have come in and picked things up and contributed.”

On how high Kamara was on their draft board:
“He was real high. We had… The runner right up the road here, shoot, is playing extremely well in Jacksonville. There’s these tiers of players but we knew that he was going to get taken early. I think for us having been at the workout myself personally and having a private workout that there were a few targeted players at running back. He was one of them. The young player up at Chicago, Tarik Cohen, was another guy we liked, but Kamara certainly was high enough to where we traded back into the third round to get him.”

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees

On Saints RB Alvin Kamara:
“Well, I think he’s obviously a great talent, but he’s a guy who is very intelligent and he’s mature beyond his years. I think he just understands his role and the opportunity that he has here. We do a lot with our running backs, and both him and Mark [Ingram] are very versatile players that can play in a lot of different situations and do just about anything for us. So it’s kind of plug-and-play with both of those guys.”

On if rookies are fitting into systems better now than they did previously:
“Yeah, I think everybody, and whatever you want to credit that to – 7-on-7 passing academies to just the style of offenses that they run in college, I’m not sure – but guys seem to come in even more prepared now than they ever have been. I think just the… what they’re able to do, I think their versatility is something that you see with so many of these young backs that come in. They can run the ball between the tackles, they can catch the ball out of the backfield, you can split them out and almost treat them as receivers sometimes. Just really talented players.”

On how having two versatile running backs helps him:
“Listen, it’s great. Obviously what they’ve been able to do in the run game and also the pass game, I think they’re matchup problems when you get them out on the perimeter and obviously they’re very effective at running it as well.”

On the biggest difference in the Redskins’ defense since the last time he faced them:
“Well, it’s obviously a new defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky, who I know from my Charger days. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and the defense that he runs. The times that I’ve played against him, I think they’re very talented, think they get good pressure with their pass rush, I think they’re very active in the secondary, lot of guys that have good ball skills, very opportunistic. You turn on the tape and you see them making a bunch of plays.”

On CB Josh Norman:
“I think he’s a very instinctive player. He’s very talented. Again, very opportunistic. You see him punching the ball out a lot and obviously he’s got great ball skills and instincts. Played against him in Carolina for a long time. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him.”

On how much it helps having played against Norman so many times:
“Obviously the schemes are different, you know, but then again, you know the player. You know he’s just a smart football player. He’s a smart, instinctive football player that’s going to study film and I think he’s going to try to anticipate what’s happening at times. So you’ve just got to be aware of that and ready for that.”

On concussion protocol in the NFL and improvements the league could make in the protocol:
“Well, it’s obviously changed pretty significantly over the last three or four years. I think you see more and more guys going into the protocol just because that has become more of an emphasis. And I think that there is a much better system in place to make sure that guys are cleared to play and that they’re healthy and ready to come back and not come back too soon. In many cases, you’ll see guys even sit out for a week, two weeks, three weeks, sometimes four weeks or more before they’re able to come back and play. Again, I think you just… Different than when I first entered this league and certainly before that where I think the mentality was, ‘Just get back in there, you’re fine. Don’t worry about it.’ There’s obviously a system in place to make sure that guys are doing the right thing for their health – their short-term health and long-term health – when it comes to that.”

On how having an improved defense changes practices:
“It’s been highly competitive all offseason and into training camp and certainly during the season here. We’ve got a great mix of veteran guys, great leadership and some really talented young guys. Guys are competing, guys are flying around, there’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. And obviously, the more that you win, the more that builds.”