Saints Assistant Head Coach / Linebackers Coach Joe Vitt spoke with reporters on Thursday following the team's practice. Here's the transcript of the Q&A:
“Darren Sproles did not practice today. He’s got a hand. Courtney Roby did not practice today. He’s got a shoulder. David Hawthorne was full-go and practiced well. Joe Morgan was full-go today and practiced very well. Today was first and second down. Our install remains the same. We’re getting ready defensively for an explosive and talented offensive unit. They’re got speed at the wide receivers, they’ve got a play at quarterback that can extend a down, and they’ve got an elite running back. So they have what we call a lot of reds on their team, Pro Bowl type players. Defensively it’s a team that’s built on speed, quickness, and penetration. Their two defensive ends, we know about (Trent) Cole because we played against him before. (Jason) Babin is doing a nice job for them. The acquisition of DeMeco Ryans in the middle has solidified that linebacker core. The (Mychal) Kendricks kid out of Cal who we really like fits into their scheme because of his range and his speed, and they’ve got two shutdown corners in (Dominique Rodgers-) Cromartie and (Nnamdi) Asomugha that play coverage very well. So we’ve got our work cut out for us. We practiced well today and we’ll be in meetings in about ten minutes to go over this morning’s practice.”
Did you guys make a roster move?
“Yes, we did. We waived Daniel Graham yesterday morning. We added Greg Camarillo.”
How challenging is it to consistently win shootout-type games?
“Listen, what we always win with around here is complementary offense and complementary defense. There has been, quite frankly, a lot of times around here since ’06 that we have struggled some defensively. When those things occur, Sean (Payton) works as hard as he can to win the time of possession, to have a good mix on offense, Pete (Carmichael) is doing the same thing, and really we’re going to try to learn and we are going to learn as best we can from the past, but this is a new week with a new opponent. This Philadelphia Eagles offense has speed on demand, they’re going to push the ball down the field, it’s a big play offense with a quarterback that can extend any down and be explosive on any down and distance. The best thing that we can do defensively is know who our opponent is, know what they do best and understand where it’s coming from.”
How challenging is it for the Saints offense to know that they have to put up a ton of points?
“I think this is important and I’ve said this before. Our offense is going to play one snap at a time, one series at a time, one quarter, one half and four quarters. It’s one play at a time. These games that we play in from here on out are going to dictate, and the games will be dictated, once the game unwinds. I don’t think there’s one player on our offense that’s pointed a finger or who will ever point a finger and that’s not what we are. We’re going to do what we have to do to win football games and that’s to try to create balance on offense, keep time of possession, get off the field on third down defensively and eliminate some of these big plays.”
How many times have you gone against Michael Vick and how have you faired?
“My biggest nightmare against Michael Vick was in 2004 in a playoff game when I was with the Rams. We snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. We had to win the last two games of the season and we won a big playoff game in Seattle. We played them in the second round in Atlanta. That was my first exposure to him and he ran for 180 yards. I want to say this about Michael Vick, he is truly one of those gifted athletes that, from a coaching standpoint, can keep you up at night. You better know where his launch point is, you better know where he likes to go on the field. If we let him escape to his left and to our right and let him hold the ball, we’re going to get exactly what we deserve. There’s going to have to be a definite flush pattern with Michael to try to contain him.”
Is it a surprise that there’s been a lot of talk about him recently with all his turnovers?
“I don’t listen to the talk. I look at the film. I’ve gone against Michael (Vick) enough. Andy Reid has won a lot of games. Marty Mornhinweg is a very skilled playcaller. Doug Pederson, the quarterbacks coach, has been in the league for a long time. Michael has earned his stripes in this league based on what he’s done. Michael’s a veteran quarterback that’s going to go on to the next game and prepare for his next opponent. I can wholeheartedly disagree that he cannot beat you with his arm. I do think he’s accurate. I think there are some blind throws that he can make that are outstanding. I’ve got great respect for him.”
Do you think Michael Vick’s game is still developing?
“There are two types of players in this league: those that are getting better every day or those that are getting worse. There is no in-between. Drew Brees is working hard to get better every day to develop his game as is Peyton Manning, as is Tom Brady. No one has arrived, not in this league.”
How do you assess your running game right now and what steps are you taking this week to make it better?
“We’re going to work as hard as we can to get balance. This is a good defensive line that penetrates and gets off of blocks. One of the things that I think that all of you are smart enough to see certainly, I guess I can’t say the word assume, but we’ve got runs called in our offense in a game plan that we have enough offense that when that safety drops down, we can kill the play or we can smoke it to the outside lanes to a wide receiver. So that number has been fairly significant. We’re not going to change philosophically what we do. We’re just not going to do it. We’re going to continue to work for balance and do what it’s going to take to win this football game based on the terms and how the game unwinds, the score, the time, feeding the hot hand, and doing those things. We’ve run the ball in the past. That doesn’t mean we’re going to run the ball as efficiently in the future, but we’re working hard towards that. We had a good start today with a good practice.”
Is there any temptation, when you guys are getting the results that you’re getting on defense, to change anything erratically?
“I think with the veteran coaches (like) Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, Ted Marchibroda, if you have dramatic changes and you have eratical changes, that’s when panic sets in. All of a sudden you’re going to create a scheme that you have not worked on in OTAs, that you have not worked on in training camp, and all of a sudden all of the things that looked good in OTAs and looked good in training camp all of a sudden start to look bad right now. If you put that panic in, the players can smell the house burning before the match is ever lit. We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to execute better. That’s not the type of coaching that I was brought up in. That being said, if we think that we can do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that’s the definition of insanity. Every week we’re going to have new wrinkles, we’re going to have a couple of auxiliary fronts, we’re going to have a couple of auxiliary looks, but we’re not going to rewrite the play book. We’re not going to do it because we have a long week this week.”
What has broken down with the defense that has surprised you the most?
“I think one of the obvious things, and our team is disappointed in this and it’s something that we’ve addressed and I’ve said this before, missed tackles are killing us. That’s the basic staple of a defense and it’s the basic staple of a good defensive players, your angles to the ball, your hat and your hand placement, your anticipation, is the ball going to the field, is it going to the boundary, where’s your force and where’s your help. There are four elements to a force. Someone has to force the ball, someone has to fill the ball, someone has to get the cutback lane and someone has the reverse. I think the discipline of that is going to be critical and something we’ll continue to talk about, and quite frankly we’re going to be held accountable for it.”
What is the key to containing Michael Vick? Also, are there similarities with Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton?
“I wasn’t here for RGIII. I think you best evaluate a player when you you’re on the sideline and you’re watching him play and you can smell his breath. Cam Newton is probably a little bit stronger. Cam Newton probably has a little bit deeper launch point and probably may have a little bit stronger of an arm. I think when Mike Vick came into the league, he’s the one that kind of rewrote the quarterback position and what you can do at the quarterback position. The similarities are that they both extend the down. The similarities are they can both make plays on the run. The similarities are they both can make every position on a defense miss, from the defensive lineman to a linebacker to a secondary member. These are guys, and I’ve said this before, you’re defending a twelfth player on the field and a sixth eligible receiver because that’s the kind of skill he has.”
Is there a certain key that you hope your defense does to contain Mike Vick?
“I don’t think this is anything like rocket science. You can’t play this game, and our players know this, in a phone booth. There are certain places on the field where you cannot let him get out. We call this the midpoint, from the hash to the numbers, in between that area is where we’d like to play this game. It’s a perimeter running game with a quick, fast, explosive back that makes a lot of plays outside the numbers. This quarterback, if he gets outside that midpoint area, can ruin your party. There’s a certain way we have to do this. We have to have edge force, do the best job that we can of playing this thing inside the midpoint, shrinking these running lanes down and getting our hands up.”
Do you try to keep some players from doing too much?
“That’s a great question. I think because of the nature of the players we have on this team and the nature of the coaches that we have on this team, everybody wants to do as much as they can to help get this thing turned around. It is critical that every player just do your job and don’t do anything than who you are. You’re on this team because we love who you are. We love your skill level, we love your production, and we appreciate that you understand who you are and do your job. And it’s the same thing with the coaching. It’s the natural thing for all of us coaches to do is instead of working until 11:00pm or midnight, you’re going to work until 2:30am or 3:00 in the morning. We have to get this fixed, when in fact you start to spin your wheels. At some point in time, you really have to go back to some of the basics. Let’s do the basics well, hand placement, hat placement, footwork, pad level. Know what the down and distance is. Know what the personnel is in the game. Know what the splits of the wide receivers are. Know how you can get beaten quickest and first by based on what your eyes are telling you. Calm down. Every year, there’s going to be a crisis and a carnival in every season and you prepare for these in the offseason. I’ve said this before, this program is built from the bottom up with a strong foundation. We’ve got the right players and the right coaches.”
How difficult is it to prevent Drew Brees from doing too much when you know he can do so much?
“Drew Brees is Drew Brees. Drew Brees is going to prepare harder than anybody on our football team, Drew Brees is going to be the best prepared player when he takes the field, and Drew Brees is going to do what he has to do to win. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I’ve probably talked to Drew Brees less than any other player on this team since I’ve been back. I’m spending more time on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t worry about that.”
Did you guys use a spy against Michael Vick in the 2004 playoff game?
“We had a spy. The spy we had wasn’t as fast as him. It’s a game of matchups.”
Do most teams try to defend him with a spy?
“I think there are certain teams that will try to flush him to a certain side with a spy. There are some teams that go as far as to get a defensive back because a lot of corners are as fast as Michael, but just can’t tackle him when they get there.”
How do you simulate Michael Vick in practice?
The last time you played against him was in 2006. Was there anything you did back then that you can correlate now?
“The most memorable game obviously was when we reopened the dome on the Monday night and played against him. Our defense did a good job that night. Charles (Grant) and Will (Smith) did a good job of closing down the edges, (Scott) Fujita made a couple plays for us. Then we went back and played him in Atlanta. He had the ball at the one yard line and took the ball out about 40 yards on a naked on us. He’s going to make his plays and he’s going to get his yards. We’ve got to limit them as best we can. When you’re going through some of these growing pains that we’re going through right now, you’ve got to put the last play behind you and move on to the next play. That’s the most important play.”
What do you expect out of Chris Ivory this week?
“Chris Ivory practiced real well today. We’re going to determine our actives and inactives as the week goes on. Chris Ivory is ready. He’s prepared to play. He practiced well today, so we’ll see where this leads us. We like Chris Ivory.”