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Saints Head Coach Sean Payton after Thurs. Practice



Opening Statement: “We just finished our third practice.  It was mostly nickel.  It was a very typical Thursday workout.”
 
How has Malcolm Jenkins developed on this defense?
 
“I think the first thing is, he is very, very instinctive and very smart football wise.  He can take several packages and in one play a certain position, maybe a nickel covering down the slot and in another package play in the back third or the back half.  He has good football instincts and I think he has exceptional leadership skills and is doing very well.  He is someone that is important to what we are doing defensively and is having a very good season.  You receive versatility with a player (like him).  I was talking about Marques Colston yesterday being able to play the X, the Y, (and) the F in different personnel groupings.  Malcolm has that ability on the defensive side of the ball.”
 
It seems like he is enjoying that blitz role too?
 
“Yes, you would say in the past there were a lot of opportunities where Roman (Harper) was involved in some of the pressure looks.  We do a good job where Kenny (Vacarro) is involved in it (and) Malcolm is involved in it.  A lot of these guys depending on the formation sometimes and how the defense is going to align to it will be asked to be a rusher and he has good anticipation.  When you are at home there are some pluses with the crowd noise and the mechanics of the snap whether it is a heel by the quarterback or the second head by the center, some of those things are more problematic on the road.  I think that Malcolm is a guy that can study the tape and see that and recognize it.”
 
How much does Kenny Vaccaro and Rafael Bush doing what they are doing free Malcolm Jenkins up?
 
“Well, in our three safety package there are some similarities to what we are asking those players to do and yet each week there are some obvious differences.  I think just the nature of good team defense is the reliability or the accountability that each player has.  So knowing that if you are coming into a sky position, the other safety is getting back to a third, or the challenge at home really is the crowd noise in regards to communication.  With that noise defensively we know it is an advantage for us and yet we have to be able to communicate formation change or potential coverage changes that take place maybe spontaneously within the framework of a play.  It helps when you have guys that are smart football players.”
 
How much of practices would you feel comfortable with Jimmy Graham missing to play on a Sunday?
 
“He is day to day.  Tomorrow will be an important day.  We will just kind of go by that.”
 
Are Josh Hill and Benjamin Watson the type of guys that you would have to do a different offensive approach if Graham were not available or can they do what he can do?
 
“I don’t want to speculate what we would and wouldn’t do.  There are two players that we are very comfortable with.  In Ben’s case, he has a lot of experience.  In Josh’s case, he has received snaps and he is a player that knows exactly what to do and he is athletic.  They have done a good job of handling the work through today and we will see what tomorrow brings.”
 
Is there anything new on Mark Ingram’s injury?
 
“Same thing, without discussing injuries, you will receive the status at 3:00 pm.”
 
What do you gain the most with having Lance Moore back?
 
“He has real good football instincts. He knows how to separate. He’s an exceptional route runner, an exceptional route runner with good hands. It’s another player that can get in and out of cuts, can change direction, and against a team like Buffalo that plays a lot of man-to-man, he understands that and understands leverage just as he does when we play a team that gives us a lot of zone. He’s someone that gets into those zones and creases. He’s very sharp within the framework of our offense and he has strong hands.”
 
As a group, the wide receiver’s numbers have been down this year. How much has the absence of Lance Moore affected that?
 
“It’s hard to specifically point to maybe one player being down. If you really look over the last seven years, there have been a lot of weeks and games where one of these receivers hasn’t been healthy. I can recall a stretch early, maybe in ’06 or ’07 where (Marques) Colston was down. By and large, the group picks it up if there’s someone that’s not able to play. Balancing the snaps when everybody is healthy is another challenge, but these guys do a great job with that.”
 
What does Buffalo do that allows them to lead the league in interceptions?
 
“Generally that back end and front in go hand-in-hand. If you’re applying pressure an you’re getting to the quarterback, the time he has to make decisions goes from that traditional four-Mississippi that we all grew up with or whatever the term was that you used when you were playing in the street and all of the sudden it’s three-Mississippi now. Guys are rushing earlier now, so the clock in his head speeds up and it becomes more challenging to play the position and if you’re getting pressure on the passer, all of the sudden you’re receiving these opportunities. The other thing I would say on the back end, even at the linebacker position, they’ve got good ball skills, good awareness, and you see them get their hands (up). They’ve gotten their hands on a number of other plays. (They play) Tight man coverage, (and have) a good pass rush, (and) you’re seeing the benefits of that.”
 
Obviously you guys had developed a lot of faith in Kenny Stills through the preseason. How impressed were you by his touchdown catch in New England and how big is a play like that in a rookie’s development?
 
“I think both he and Nick (Toon) have, in the preseason, demonstrated and came up with big plays. Now in the regular season (it is) the same way. It’s happened. Nick had a big play in Chicago on their sideline. They just keep improving and keep making plays with their opportunities. But that was a big play (by Stills) on a third down, a third and long that put us ahead. Especially as his first touchdown catch, that was a pretty special catch to possess the ball even when he hit the ground, with the rules the way they are. He did a good job.”
 
What’s the balance between preparing for a quarterback where there’s not a lot of tape on him like Thad Lewis and the balance between maybe studying their system overall?
 
“I think the bigger challenge is when you get a change of quarterback that involves a system change with only four games of tape. With our preparation, fortunately we’re not the first game. We have enough tape to where you also understand that it’s hard for a team to completely change after one week to the next. He’s made some big plays. I think, most importantly, his players believe that they can win with him and that’s half the battle at quarterback. You try to prepare with what you see on tape. You’re ready to make adjustments during the flow of the game, whether it’s at half time or even on the sideline but, fortunately, we’ve been able to at least see him play live in games and get an idea of what we feel like he does real well.”

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