Can you talk about the growth of Charles Brown as your starting left tackle?
“He’s been great. Ever since he got here, he’s stepped in at different times to start on a few occasions and has really done a great job. He was bitten by the injury bug a little bit earlier in his career, but every time he’s stepped in there were a lot of good things and a lot of positive things happening. Just like every guy who has stepped into that role the last few years, Jermon Bushrod after Jammal Brown went down during that 2009 season, we go on and win a Super Bowl and he’s a mainstay at the left tackle position for four years and then he leaves in free agency. Charles Brown, next man up and he’s been kind of waiting for this opportunity and he’s earned it. They didn’t just give it to him. A few guys battled at that spot this offseason and Charlie Brown came to work every day to get better. There’s a repor he has with the other guys on the line. He’s played both left and right on that line the last few years, so there’s some familiarity there. He’s continued to get better and it’s been fun to watch him grow and mature.”
What does it mean when he said earlier in the offseason that he has to continue to learn to be a pro?
“A lot of young guys have to learn that and to be honest with you, there are a lot of young talented guys that come into this league and because they don’t learn to become a pro, they end up out of this league. They could have stuck around a lot longer and enjoyed a ten-plus year career if they had just learned to be a pro and what does that mean. It’s the way you practice, the way you prepare. It’s doing all the right things in the film room and weight room, your recovery, getting in good habits and seeing and paying attention to what a lot of the veteran guys are doing in the room and picking up on those good habits and applying that to your game. You see improvement and growth. He benefits from a great room (offensive line) too. Guys like Zach Strief who has been here since 2006, Ben Grubbs is a mainstay, Jahri Evans, a guy who’s been here since ’06, Brian de la Puente a guy who’s an undrafted free agent elsewhere, played on practice squads, bounced around and has earned a spot and been tremendous. All of those veteran guys around him that have been around for a while and have had to learn to be a pro as well. Zach Strief, Brian de la Puente, before they became a starter. Those are all great guys to learn from.”
How much pride do you take in that you have never missed a game as a Saint for health reasons and that you are out there everyday?
“A lot of pride. Some of that’s luck. Some of that’s just certain elements of being healthy that are out of your control, as far as what happens gameday in the pocket. You always want to be available. That’s one of the parts of being a great player in this league and playing the quarterback position, you always want to find a way to make yourself available. At times you’re battling through injury. A big part of staying healthy and durable is taking care of your body. I have a great routine for what I do in the weight room and training room with the body work that I get done, all those little things to make sure that as the week goes on and gameday rolls around that I’m in the best physical shape that I can be as well as mental and that along the way you’re going to have to battle through things. There’s some luck that is just preparation.”
Was your knee injury in 2010 maybe more serious than a lot of people thought?
“We reported what we needed to. But it’s something a lot of guys have to battle through. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It’s labor-intensive throughout the week with the rehab. That was challenging.”
Do you see any intangibles this week in practice with the team coming off the bye week and having received some time off?
“Yes, I felt practice was really fresh. Today guys were flying around. Not just the starting groups, but the look teams. You felt like guys were giving a great look, flying around, doing what they were supposed to do. These were physical practices, which is good. You have that time off, you can refresh mentally, especially physically as we had some guys banged up and are getting some guys back. It was great to see that.”
Is Jonathan Vilma flying around?
“JV’s flying around. It’s great to see him back out there too. Yes, he’s one of them, but there are quite a few.”
What stands out about Buffalo?
“They are getting all kinds of pressure on the quarterback. You see that and they’re tops in the league in sacks. They’re tops in the league in interceptions. That’s a product of playing man coverage and getting pressure on the quarterback. Quarterbacks have tighter windows to throw it and he’s got to get it out sooner than he wants. They’ve done a great job in that regard. It’s certainly something we need to have a plan for, but they have some really good players, big guys up front. Kiko Alfonso’s a great player. He’s a very instinctive player. He’s all over the field. They have Jairus Byrd back, he’s an extremely talented, athletic football player. There are a lot of guys that you see are well-coached, disciplined and make plays.”
Is this the best Mario Williams has looked given how much you have seen him over the years given the times the Saints have practiced and played against the Texans?
“Yes. We played against him a lot, practiced against him a lot when he was with the Texans at those training camps and we played against him, that type of thing, but just twice during the season. He’s always been a physical presence, but over time you just develop certain skills and techniques and master certain things and I definitely think he’s gotten better as the years have gone on. He’s always had that big physical presence, but he has the tools to go along with it and you see the results.”
Is that a challenge Charles Brown is up to this week?
“Absolutely. He has to doesn’t he? No, every week in this league you feel like you’re going up against a pass rusher or a pass rush in general that is formidable you need to have a plan.”
Do you notice that you’ve completed less passes to wide receivers this year or is it just that you’re going through the progressions?
“At the end of the game I look at efficiency. So it doesn’t matter who it went to. But were we completing it, moving the football and scoring touchdowns?”
What do you remember about Doug Marrone?
“I have great memories of Doug Marrone and I’ve stayed in touch with him. I actually went up with him to an awards ceremony up in New York two or three years ago and met up with him when he was coaching Syracuse. We were having dinner and catching up. He’s a great football coach. We really enjoyed our time together when he was here. I felt like he was very instrumental in the development of a lot of our offensive linemen and I think you see the results of that now. I think we’ve had a lot of good offensive line coaches from Marrone to (Aaron) Kromer, now to Bret Ingalls. But guys like Jahri Evans, Zach Strief, they started with Doug Marrone. There’s a part of his teaching that lives with those guys. I know he’s proud of them and they respect him a lot. All of us who had him here as a coach do. He’s done a great job.”
Do you guys ever talk about the timing of him missing being a part of the Super Bowl Championship Team by one year?
What does he say about that?
“I hope he knows this, but he was a big part of that. Our entire offensive line were guys that he helped develop. Carl Nicks, (Jermon) Bushrod as well as Goody (Jonathan Goodwin), Jon Stinchcomb, (Zach) Strief, all the guys that were a part of that front that year, he helped develop, so even though he wasn’t actively here, he was at Syracuse, he was a part of that.”
You’re probably aware of this but did you know you lost one of your college records over the weekend?
“I did. I saw that.”
Does it hurt?
“No. Records are made to be broken. The Washington State quarterback threw it 89 times. We threw it 83 times back in ’98 in Wisconsin. How many did he complete though?”
“That’s a lot of balls.”
How many did you complete?
“55. We had a chance to send it to OT, so it could have been even more wild, but Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl that year. That was a wild night.” A lot of things have changed in passing games in the last 15 years?
“Yes, in 1998 that was a bit unusual compared to nowadays. Nowadays if a team puts up 70 points, 500 yards of offense and throws it 80 times, it’s not all that uncommon, but still that’s 89 times.”
Did you need ice after 83?
“No, I could have thrown 100 more.”
If Lance Moore is able to return what would that bring to the offense?
“He’s a guy that can play all over the field. He’s probably the best overall route runner, his ability to set up certain routes, especially against certain man coverage. The way he can study guys and know the certain techniques to kind of play against different corners, his ability to get separation, especially on some of the intermediate routes, you’re talking about a team that’s a heavy man team like Buffalo, that’s a great asset to have.”
What’s your emphasis on the running game coming up?
“We always emphasize balance and our ability to run and our ability to consistently run. It’s not just a second half thing or four minute thing at the end of the game. We’re going to come into the building running the football and we’re going to maintain it all the way throughout. Obviously there are things where we need to complement that. We need to be efficient in the passing game and take our shots. But, typically a lot of your ability to completely open things up, can be established with a great run attack and with as many of the stable of backs we have and the multiple personnel groups, we can run it out of every different look we can possibly give somebody. That’s definitely something we emphasize and talk about.”
What are your thoughts on Ryan Griffin being brought up to the active roster?
“I’m excited for Ryan. It’s a good opportunity. He’ll be ready. For a young quarterback who has worked as hard as he has, that’s a great reward for a lot of hard work.”
Is he a guy that in the preseason you thought showed promise?
“We were impressed with him in the offseason. You’re talking this is my 13th year and with Seneca (Wallace) and Luke (McCown) both ten-year plus guys, so we’re sitting back watching young buck go to work sometimes and it was fun to watch and he had the benefit of being in this offense at Tulane last year with C.J. (Curtis Johnson), so there was some familiarity there, but it was a big change and a big step up to the NFL level, the speed of the game and all those things. He’s handled it real well. He’s a real composed guy, pretty calm, cool, collected and he just continues to get better every day. You love his approach. He makes great shakes in the weight room and gets donuts for us. Everything’s real timely. He’s been a good rookie.”
With the role Jimmy Graham has played in the offense, if his availability were in question, how would you adapt? Would it be another opportunity for young guys to step up?
“Yes, we’re always of the philosophy of next man up. We have guys who are waiting in the wings for opportunities. Lance (Moore) goes down and that’s just the opportunity for Nick Toon to step up and make some plays as well as Kenny Stills has. Mark Ingram goes down, it’s a chance for Khiry Robinson to step up and play really well for us. There’s lots of situations or scenarios to point to where guys have stepped up and done a great job. That would be no different at the tight end position.”
What do you like about Nick Toon?
“Toon is a big, big physical guy who can run, transitions very well for a big man, good feet, good hands. He’s smart and wants to work, learn succeed and work. All of those things are things you like about a young receiver.”
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