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What We Learned From Thursday's Media Availability

Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton, Co-Offensive Coordinator Matt Nagy and Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub spoke with the media on Thursday


Q:  How did Justin Houston look at practice yesterday?

SUTTON: "I thought he did good. As you guys know, he did a very limited amount in individual. He did a little bit of scout team stuff. I think it was another step forward in this whole process. Hopefully, he's getting closer and closer to returning. We've got to be patient, and smart and see where he's at."

Q: How do you know when he's ready? What signs can you see as a coach?

SUTTON: "I don't know if a coach can really tell you that. I think he has to be the guy that says, 'Hey, I feel good. I'm okay. I'm ready to roll and go.' There's a process – just like we talked about. EB [Eric Berry] when he came back – even when you get back in there – there's a process you go through with your reaction time, you have to be tested. Your reaction time – that comes back. You just have to see it enough times, see it at that speed. So, I think that's the final step. You get used to seeing things moving fast and you go. Obviously, how hard we do in practice is not as fast as a game."

Q:  There's nothing that you need to see from here from Justin Houston to be ready?

SUTTON: "Well, I think you see him in practice and you make a judgment and say, 'Hey, he's pretty close.' If you see that he can't do certain things – he can't break, or he can't turn, or he can't change direction – then, you're going to know. Those would be obvious to us and probably him as well. I'm sure every player as he gets close thinks, 'I'm definitely ready. I'm ready to go, and I want to get back out here and get going.' That's why I say you have to be careful and patient as a coach, as much as we want him back. As soon as we can get him back – we want him back. So, he can be as close to 100 percent as possible."

Q:  What makes a player like Drew Brees elite? 

SUTTON: "He's one of the really great quarterbacks of all time. When you go ten straight years of 4,000 yards. I think he's the only quarterback in NFL history to have multiple 5,000 yard seasons. You know, you're doing a lot of things right. He's very bright. He understands the defenses and coverages. Even within coverages, he understands leverage. He knows how a guy is playing, 'I know this guys is going to be open or I can get him open by throwing him open.' So, you're not going to fool a guy like him very often. You just try to hope, occasionally, to keep them off balance that way. He makes quick decisions. He has very good pocket awareness and mobility within the pocket. So, I think all of those things go into it. The other part of it is, I think, that he's been in this system so long. It's kind of like a [Tom] Brady. They've played this system so, so long that they know it inside and out. It's not anything that he hasn't seen. He's accurate, smart, gets rid of the ball on time and throws to the people that are open. He doesn't get locked in on a receiver. Over his time there in New Orleans, he's had all kinds of different receivers. I think that's what is impressive to me. He keeps racking up yards no matter who the receivers are. So, that's really a reflection on him – how well he can get those receivers in to the system, and understanding what he wants and that type of thing. Excellent quarterback."

Q:  How do you hold down New Orleans group of receivers like you did in Oakland?

SUTTON: "I think it takes a lot. You've got to be truthful. Some of these receivers, you're not going to take away completely – they're good. The quarterback is good. I think some of it is guys adapting to what they're doing. Sometimes it's adjustments within the coverage and all that thing. I don't think there's one specific thing that you would say, 'hey, boy, in the second half, we did this to Amari Cooper.' We really didn't change our coverages. Sometimes, you just have to play them better, and same as this week. You have to find ways to effect the quarterback."

Q:  With Phillip Gaines' injury, how much improvement have you seen from D.J. White?

SUTTON: "I think he's coming along well. He's obviously a rookie learning how to play. The more he plays, I think the better he's going to get. If that's the guy that we have to go with, we really don't have a lot of choices. We're going to lineup and play. He's got to battle like heck, you know, other guys have to help. A lot of times there are certain things you can do in coverages to help a guy, and other times, you just have to win on your own out there."

Q:  How about the impact of Allen Bailey's injury?

SUTTON: "Well, nobody likes to lose their starter. Of course, Allen [Bailey] has been a really good football player for us, both in base and in sub. He's an exceptional athlete, very mobile, made a lot of plays. Sometimes, the one thing in speed, and speed relative to the position is that it goes unnoticed – the plays that you prevent. Maybe, a screen that was caught for four or five yards stays at that, because he has the mobility to get out there and understanding that is a screen and getting out. Some of those plays, you have to see if you can get them. Those are plays that he made on a pretty regular basis for the last couple of years. So, it's a tough loss for Allen. He was playing good. Tough for us, we don't want to lose him, but we have some depth at that position. Those guys just have to step up and roll."

Q:  Andy Reid mentioned yesterday that Dee Ford is developing other moves since his time here. Does that come from Tamba Hali, does that come from you, is that a combination, when a guy comes up with something different than he hasn't done before?

SUTTON: "Yeah, I think it's him learning the position and understanding what he's doing and what happens in this league. As I've said many times, to have Tamba [Hali] and Justin [Houston] as a sounding board for a young guy is awesome. Sometimes, you don't have to learn all the hard lessons yourself. They can tell you, 'Hey, this is probably going to be more effective.' They talk. Justin talks to him all the time out here. I think he's fortunate to have those kind of guys. They're in each other's shoes. They understand exactly what they are saying. You have to give Dee [Ford] some credit for absorbing that information, and you have to figure out, 'Okay, how am I going to use that within my game? What am I going to do?' He, obviously, has great outside speed and quickness. I think over the last two or three weeks, he's done a much, much better job of power rushing guys. When you have speed like that, you know, that should be a really good counter for you."


Q:Can you give us a 'quick snapshot' of the Saints' defense?

NAGY: "This defense for us is going to be a matter of going out and getting first downs. Their defense is trying to find an identity right now -- you'll see some different coverages that they roll. They're going to mix some things in with different blitzes and you saw all of that last week against Carolina. They came out, played physical, got ahead, gave the offense the ball and did some good things."

Q:The effectiveness of the screen plays in the red zone, why do you like those plays and why are they so effective? NAGY:"We've had success with some of that in the past. Obviously, this year, it hasn't been as successful and we understand that. Teams have seen it and they've scouted it. Now it's our job to go back and decide if it's something we still want to do. We can see if we want to do it a different way or get out of it and do something else. We're well aware of it. Like I said, we've had success with it in the past and there's a lot of things that go into these plays now. It might look like the play doesn't work but there's reasons behind some of that."

Q:Is there a balancing act that goes into the personnel groupings? DO you ever worry about making a guy 'too obvious' when he does go in the game?NAGY:"If a guy goes in that doesn't play a lot -- for instance Tyreek Hill -- is he running around? Is he running a jet sweep? Is he running vertically down the field stretching it out that way? We have to balance that door in a week and make sure there's no tendency with it. That goes with every player -- not just Tyreek."

Q:The little screen to Poe, how many times did you practice it before using it in a game?NAGY:"Probably close to 1,500 times [laughing]. It's been a lot. It's fun in practice. There's a lot of details that go into it. You don't know exactly what they're going to give you so you try to prepare as much as you can. You take your chances of having a big 300-plus pound guy that might be going one-on-one against an opponent. There is the questions of, 'Was it a backwards pass? Could there be a fumble?' And then you add in the rain element to it. But, we've practiced it, we trust the guys and that was a big play in a crucial situation from the one-yard line near the goal."

Q:Having the opportunity to give the ball to Travis Kelce or another big body that's used to catching it, how nervous were you with the play call?NAGY:"I wasn't at all -- we've been waiting for it. Coach did a great job of putting that play together and designing it. The guys did a good job executing it. We've been waiting a while for that one and we got it."

Q:When you lined up and saw the Raiders defense, did you know it was going to be a touchdown right away?NAGY:"We said it all week -- 'catch the ball first and then it's on you'. When he got to the sideline, Coach Childress asked him if he got into the endzone and Poe replied, 'Yeah I was way in the endzone.'"


Q: Do you mind giving us a quick snapshot of how these guys [Saints] look on special teams?

TOUB: "Very good, would I ever say anything different? But really they're very well coached, they have good returners on both sides. They have a young kid, Lewis, a punt returner who is pretty dangerous, had a 59-yarder last week. Good on kickoff return, good coverage guys, they picked up this guy off the street last week, number 19, he got three tackles on punt. The kid is Lampman. He's a good player, so we have our hands full. Across the board they're all good."

Q: The kicking problem you had in Oakland, was that because of the bad weather?

TOUB: "I'm not an excuse maker, but I'm going to tell you what happened. The tarp was down on the field and they had the tarp on the field until about a half hour before the kickoff. Usually we're out there an hour before kicking and warming up. Cairo [Santos] didn't have his normal warmup. He was on the sideline trying to kick. His first kick was like a 50-yarder because they took the middle section of the tarp off first so that whole thing was disrupted. His first three kicks were out of sync. Even the first one was tipped. It was an extra point and it was tipped and it went through, but he didn't hit it well. His next kick he obviously missed and then the third kick. The good thing about it was in the second half those guys went out right before we started the half time and got it back and he was able to come back and make his last three kicks. He kind of redeemed himself. If you're going to miss you want to miss early and make the ones late. He was able to bounce back and he'll be able to build off of that."

Q: Not that any of us are groundskeepers but what could you do? The rain was falling all during pregame and they kept the tarp on I think.

TOUB: "They did what they needed to do for the game. It wasn't great for the kickers, but for the whole overall game they kept the tarp on as long as they could and it really helped. I guess if they would have taken it off early it would have been a sloppy mess."

Q: I thought there was a league rule that they had to take it off at a certain time?

TOUB: "I don't know. I'm not familiar. Someone asked me about that and I wasn't sure."

Q: Is that something you talked to Cairo [Santos] about in the second half?

TOUB: "We didn't hit the panic button, we weren't going to give up on Cairo. We just knew he was out of sync, get over in the net. He needed to kick on the field with the hold and the snap and everything and they were able to do that at halftime. I could tell on the first extra point in the second half that he was back. The kick was high, it was normal for him, the rotation, everything else looked good."

Q: On tailoring returns to returners, how does that change with not having Knile Davis?

TOUB: "Right now our backup kick returner is going to be De'Anthony [Thomas]. He's the next guy up so obviously our number one guy is number 10 [Tyreek Hill]. We'll have design returns for both of those guys. Knile [Davis] was a north and south guy. We had returns for him and we're trying to make 10 do everything. He can be a north and south, he can run around, he can do it all, so we'll keep doing the same thing that we do. We tailor make returns for the traits that we have."

Q: Tyreek is still obviously a little green, where is he in his progress of what you guys are asking him to do?

TOUB: "As a punt returner he's way above any rookie that I've seen. He's way advanced there. The kick return, that's where he's still developing and he'll continue to get better the more touches he gets."

Q: With Knile [Davis] no longer in the fold, who's the number three guy in case you need him?

TOUB: "That would probably be Chris Conley, maybe Demarcus Robinson. The good thing is we have a stable of guys. We have a lot of guys that can do it."

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