Training Camp Day 5: 3rd day in pads.
At 9:50AM Heat Index of 94 degrees. Louisiana football weather.
Remember the primary objective of training camp is to assemble the best 53 man roster possible. It is amazing the hysteria the start of training camp creates, where most of us want answers when we barely know the questions and only partial answers.
I can say this without fear of contradiction: If you do not have the video, you cannot properly evaluate the players. Only the coaches have the video and the ability to adequately compare players competing with each other. Any other information you get from observation is simply speculation.
A roster move announced Tuesday involved the signing of wide receiver Tim Toone and the release of WR Brent Leonard, a rookie from UL-Monroe. Toone (5'10, 185), a second year player from Weber State, will wear number 19. He did not participate in drills Tuesday.
Linebacker Martez Wilson has a dislocated elbow from Monday's practice. He will be out for 2-to-4 weeks and then fitted with a brace to manage the injury.
Inside linebacker Curtis Lofton was held out of practice as a precaution with back soreness. Also held out was DE Tom Johnson (hip), who may be out a week. They joined the PUP list members Marques Colston, Patrick Robinson and Victor Butler as well as the aforementioned Wilson in missing practice.
The emphasis on both sides of the ball was third down situations as well as Nickel and Dime defenses.
Special Teams drill work started practice and displayed Coach Greg McMahon's ability to teach kicking team skills. Today's emphasis was on kickoff coverage, namely taking on blocks, shedding the blocker and tackling. This segment became an extra period of controlled tackling practice with each repetition ending in correct tackling form. Anytime a player failed to accomplish that task, said player was directly addressed and the correction made.
This was a great illustration of multiple skills being practiced in a limited amount of time. It also showed the lesson that demonstration or "show" players have to be coached as well. If they are not presenting the correct picture to the defenders you are wasting repetitions. These players were also corrected as necessary.
When asked after practice what he liked about the Rob Ryan version of the 3-4, linebacker Jonathan Vilma immediately replied "flexibility." This flexibility arose in the Saints Nickel (five defensive backs) and Dime (six DBs) defenses. Will Smith and Junior Gallette, although listed as linebackers, were in three-point stances rushing off the edge. Vilma was even utilized as a stand-up edge rusher. In Dime, Roman Harper was able to come down in the box as a linebacker, utilizing his talents in that area.
Cameron Jordan played inside most of the practice. By all accounts, he is having an excellent camp and is considered by none other than Sean Payton as a defensive leader. Jordan plays with great energy and has a work ethic that clearly stands out. While the coaching staff may need him to play some inside, Jordan is clearly more comfortable in coming off the edge at the defensive end spot.
Another big "hit" of camp is safety Kenny Vaccaro. The rookie is bringing to the table exactly what the Saints needed on defense: passion, speed, intensity and physicality. A big collision by Vaccaro with running back Pierre Thomas raised some eyebrows since there has been an emphasis on not bringing players to the ground in order to decrease the chance of injury.
No one spoke negatively about the incident after practice, though Thomas was not available for comment. It should be noted that the contact occurred at the end of a nine yard run after a terrific cut by Thomas to the outside.
My big question of the defense personnel is: Who is the defender that opponents have to scheme for? Or, do opponents have to scheme the scheme? Answering those questions is where Rob Ryan will earn his money.
On the offensive side of the ball, both tackle positions deserve attention, not just the obvious hole at left tackle.
Zach Strief is the incumbent at right tackle and may be in the best shape of his career. Along with his intelligence and experience, he was a part of Payton's first draft class in 2006, Strief would appear to be solid. But do not sell first year player Marcel Jones short. The 6' 7" 320 pounder from Nebraska is on the verge of breaking out after sitting out last year as a late-round pick. He has excellent feet and what I call spacial awareness. His pass sets are outstanding and Jones does a good job of positioning himself in pass protection.
If Strief leaves an opening, Jones is ready to jump through it.
On the left side, Charles Brown appears to have settled in place as the starter. He is well ahead of free agent Jason Smith who appeared to struggle. Terron Armstead is third for now, but shows great promise. I was especially impressed with the rookie's ability to take coaching and immediately implement the correction. In one situation, Armstead was successful against OLB Eric Martin in pass protection but did not use the proper technique, leaving him vulnerable. After meeting with Assistant OL Coach Frank Smith, Armstead used the proper form the next time and stopped Martin cold.
With Brown's history of injury, Armstead's progress is critical. Hopefully, Brown will physically hold up and take charge of that position. If he does not, Armstead has to be ready. Jason Smith does not appear to be the answer, even though he still has the opportunity to resurrect his career.
The quote of the day came from running back Mark Ingram, when asked about the fans yelling "Roll Tide" or teasing him with "Geaux Tigers." He said, "It's all in fun, but at the end of the day we can all agree on "Who Dat!"
NOTE: The New Orleans Saints announced that the Black and Gold Scrimmage will take place on this Saturday from 8:50 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. at the club’s Metairie practice facility. The scrimmage will be open to the public, and gates will open at 8:00 a.m. Admission is free of charge.
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
"We signed wide receiver Tim Toon, he is number 19 and we released number 86 Brent Leonard. Martez Wilson yesterday, dislocated his left elbow. The timetable is going to be somewhere in between two and four weeks. When he returns we will fit him with a brace, hopefully that is sooner rather than later. Today we were in third down. There was a big emphasis (on) nickel."
With all the injuries, it seemed like you were mixing things up at linebacker?
"Well, we have enough numbers. It is really just about getting a chance to see these guys in the team drills, but also in the one on one pass rush drills and some of the individual stuff."
Is an opportunity for the rookies to get some time?
Can Cameron Jordan be a leader of this defense?
"I think so. I think our players would consider him one of our leaders. He stepped up and probably played as well as anyone last season. He came in and he's in great shape. He's doing well. He is in great condition and he is a big part of what we are going to do."
What was wrong with Curtis Lofton?
"We just sat him out with a sore back. He will be fine."
Any update on Marques Colston?
"He is making progress. We will see where he is at."
What are some of the things that Chase Thomas has shown you to give him an opportunity to see more playing time?
"One thing, he is productive. If you watch the tape, you saw him make a lot of plays, so the productivity was something that stood out."
Any update on Tom Johnson?
"He has a hip (injury). He was in the pass rush drill yesterday and he too, might be a week. Lofton, like I said, we just kind of took a conservative approach and sat him."
What is it like to have a guy like Zach Strief with all that experience?
"He's smart and he has a lot of experience. He is probably in the best playing shape he's been in in a while. He is injury-free. He had an offseason where he wasn't really rehabbing an injury, but he is in the best shape he has been in in a while. He is trim and he has played a lot of snaps for us. He is on year eight, he was in our first draft class and he is doing well."
What is your plan for Kenyon Coleman?
"I think his role and I was in Dallas when we signed him, he is a player that understands exactly what he does well and that is the early downs. He plays the run well. He can come off the block and still rush the passer. But, his strength would be defending the run on first and second down, those run situations, short yardage, and goal line stuff. He is stout. He is very strong."
Do you expect Darren Sproles' role to be about the same in how he fits in the running and passing game?
"Yes, he is a guy that we treat a little differently. We understand his strengths. He is very smart. He is elusive. We just have to watch the amount of snaps, but yes I think for us his role is pretty defined and pretty clear."
A lot of you teammates are raving about conditioning especially after practice and running with the DB's and you showing them up a little bit?
"I'm not here to show anybody up. I'm just here to try to contribute to the team. Honestly, if I can get in better shape, I think I can last a little bit longer. Just in relative of last year, I had to play a lot of snaps and I'm looking forward to this year."
Are you in your best shape ever?
"I wouldn't say my best shape ever, but I definitely think I'm in some sort of shape. I mean, I thought I was in great shape until I got out into this humidity and that takes away everything. "
Kenny Vaccaro has had a little swagger early on and especially with Jimmy Graham today, I guess you guys on the defense like that?
"Oh without a doubt. I definitely like the pep he brings and he definitely has a little sauce to him. He is a small guy, but he has a lot of energy and a lot of speed to him. "
What are some of your goals this year, your third year in the league?
"Without a doubt, I would like to be the anchor of the D Line, but that being said, I'm just proud to be a part of the D line. We have so much talent, so much immense talent. Guys have not even touched their ceilings. I mean, I'm just looking at Akiem (Hicks), trying to learn all I can from Kenyon (Coleman) and big bunk (Brodrick Bunkley). Just so much knowledge depth and talent on our D Line, I'm just impressed that I'm part of it."
When you look at the one on one pass protection drill, it seems like if you look on the offense side, how dominant Jahri Evans is and then yourself on the defensive side, do you take pride in that you don't want to let anyone block me one on one like you've been getting on the quarterback on a high level?
"Without a doubt, that's going to be an emphasis on what I do every day. I would like to see myself more in a third down role. I like pass rushing, I love it. I love playing the run, I like the overall game. So as far as just getting on the field, that's where I need to excel at in all phases."
One of the things that Coach (Clancy) Pendergast at the University of California brought up to me is that, he thought you one-on-one against a guard that he has never coached anybody, college or professional level as talented. Now you inside in the 3-4 defense, you're going to be up against some of the guards now. He told me, this is tailor made for you to have a blow up season. Do you agree?
"I'm going to say thanks to Coach P. I only had a year with him out in Cal and I loved him for it and he definitely did a lot for me back then and I just like to take hold of every opportunity that I'm given so if that's on a guard or a tackle...it doesn't really matter. I give my all just like the team is giving their all."
Going up against a veteran like Zach Strief, how much does that help you and how great does he look out there?
"The thing about Zach is, he won't tell me what I'm doing until camp is over. He is not trying to definitely give me any tips or moves on how to pass rush. He definitely wouldn't even tell me halfway through my rookie year what I was doing wrong. He told me like half(time), second preseason game last year. So I won't get any feedback from Big Strief till (we are) out of camp. So, I don't even know what to tell you about that guy. He is just so seasoned and veteran and a great smart tackle. "
He does say that he shares his knowledge with the other fellow tackles.
Just not you?
"He shares his knowledge with young (Terron) Armstead and Charles (Brown) and everybody else except (me). I come over (and say) 'Strief, what did I do wrong?' 'Get away from me, Cam. I'm not talking to you right now.' 'Alright, cool. I'll see you in a couple of weeks then...I thought we were all a part of the team (joking).' "
How confident are you guys on being able to get the rush on the pass?
"Without a doubt, we need to improve from last year. I definitely think with this defense, we're in a position to. "
Cameron, what is your take on this? Cal sure produces a lot of NFL players, but they don't have the success that you think they would in the professional ranks. Is that coaching and how excited are you? Are you deeply involved in Cal and what they're doing?
"I have no comments on that at all. That just, hurts. But the thing about Cal is we do produce a lot of NFL talent so I can go from team to team and start naming off key players that are explosive, fast, quick, smart, intelligent you know. We got them all and we can even dabble into the NBA. Cal just produces great talent. That's how I'm going to answer that question."
So it's coaching then?
"I didn't say coaching. I think we had a great coach you know, my coach Tosh Lupoi is over at UW now and it hurts that he is over there because he definitely was one of the better D line coaches I've ever had."
New Orleans Saints Inside Linebacker Jonathan Vilma
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
How do you feel healthwise compared to previous seasons?
"Healthwise I feel good. Back then (prior to 2011), I think we were doing two a day's back then, two real practices a day. So, at this point I was already tired, but right now it's been good."
How do you balance the fact you're getting older in this game so to speak? It's kind of takes a wear and tear, but from the middle standpoint, you're a better player today than you as a rookie mentally, but the physical part is where it takes a toll after a while because of the wear.
"I think yes and no. You don't have any wasted movements when you're an old player, you know exactly where you're supposed to go, you know your reads (and) you know where you're supposed to go. You're going to be able to do things more efficiently. So, it's not necessarily wear and tear, its more that you know how to move and direct your body in an efficient way so you're not going to have those wasted movements some of the rookies may have being young."
Being an All-Pro, Pro Bowl 4-3 middle linebacker, when you look at the past, just compare the schemes the Jets had switched to 3-4, compared to what you were doing then, which you weren't as comfortable, but now do you feel you have more flexibility in Rob Ryan's 3-4 system?
"Yes, back then when (Eric) Mangini brought in (the) 3-4 from the Patriots, the way we ran it was a little stagnant. I think that teams were able to pick up on that and as I said before, it was more the way we ran the 3-4 back then. It didn't suit a lot of players on our defense at that time. We came from a 4-3 the year before and the way we were running it just didn't fit us, we were more of a speed flow type of personnel so back then that's probably the biggest reason it didn't work was the way we were running it. Now you look at some of the types (of) guys we have out here, being athletic guys, fast, that can run. Myself, Curtis Lofton, you look at Martez,we're run guys, flow guys. I think that Rob has done a good job of trying to fit in the personality types (on this) defense to play to our strengths (and) cater to our strengths."
Now Jonathan, looking at everything is not always pure, when you look even at the Gregg Williams side, even though you were a 4-3 team, you would be a in a 3-4 situation. Is that the same where they might have a package all of a sudden that looks like the 4-3?
"Right, and that would be up to Rob what he wants to do. Again, he is big on putting players in positions to make plays and catering to their strengths. So, if it means putting in a couple 4-3 packages and things like that, then we'll do that, but we're all on a common goal of getting better and winning games."
What can Cameron Jordan do in his third year now?
"I think the sky is the limit for Cam Jordan. He is blessed with amazing ability, a combination of speed and power (and is) very explosive. For him, it's really getting used to reading the offenses and what they do and getting out there and playing."
So many younger players from the pass coverage part of the game, that's something that you're really excelling at being able to get back at the pass coverage. These guys haven't done a lot, they've been blitz guys so that's something that's new to them to adjust to?
"Right, It's an adjustment period right now for everyone so, whether it be in the pass rushing, pass dropping or run defense, the fits, it's all an adjustment right now and fortunately we have the time right now to get it corrected and get everyone comfortable to their strengths and some of the things that they may not be as comfortable with."
It looks like you were kind of limited in team drills today. Is that the case and if so why?
"You would have to ask coach."
Did you get the stitches from Kenny Vaccaro finishing one of the plays?
"It actually came from Mark Ingram from a 9-on-7. It was the first play 9-on-7 and my helmet came down, busted my nose up a little bit."
I was joking about Vaccaro's physicality but he says he likes it and he says that everyone on defense likes it. Touch a little bit on how he has come out here and made an effect.
"We like young guys that come out and at some point it's not about your knowledge, it's about your toughness, physicality and he's shown that day in and day out. We as in players, older guys, we appreciate that sometimes even more than actual defense, and the x's and o's because we know he'll get that (and) he'll figure it out. He is a young guy right now doing a great job, but the physicality you can't teach and for him to bring it like that every day, it's been very impressive (and) very encouraging. "
With Darren Sproles, have you seen about more of the same out of him in training camp as in previous seasons?
"I definitely have. "
Talking about him, what makes him such a special guy for his offense?
"I think a guy like him you put him in space against unfortunately guys like me...It's definitely a mismatch. With his ability, one he is already low to the ground (with) his ability to cut, change directions from 0 to 60 so quickly. It's a nightmare for guys like myself even for safeties who try and cover him sometimes so I think we do a great job of getting him out in space and don't get fooled, he's still tough. He is still tough between the tackles, but he is dangerous if you get him out in space and let him run around."
Is he the toughest guy in practice on the field you've ever had to cover?
"That I've ever had to cover? Yes, aside from a receiver. "
New Orleans Saints Running Back Mark Ingram
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
How crucial is a veteran tackle like Zach Strief to the offense? How does it look out there?
"He looks real good. He is a leader on this team, leader on the offensive line, leader in the huddle and just to have a guy like who has a lot game experience. He's just real knowledgeable about the entire offense and is a good person off the field as well. There's just not a better asset to have a guy like that a part of your team."
You're in the best health you've had since you've entered the NFL. Do you think this will help your production?
"Yes, just the fact that I had a healthy off season (and) I was able to participate in OTA's and minicamps, and all of the offseason work outs and I didn't have to worry about rehab or injuries or letting up a little bit because of an injury. It gave me a chance to train real hard before coming into camp, coming into camp in good shape. Just the fact that I'm out here and I'm healthy and I don't have to worry about any injury or take care of any injuries,that has a lot to do with it."
Mickey Loomis said people don't realize how good you can catch the ball too. Do you want to utilize that or show that off a little bit more?
"Definitely, I've always been the guy to catch the ball from high school to college and I can catch it now too. I just have to be able to prove that and go out there and be able to execute when I get those passing plays. I have to be able to show them and give them confidence in me that I can execute it and make those plays happen."
This team probably runs the screen with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles and as well as any team in the NFL. That's something that you can excel at also?
"Yes definitely, (the) screen game is crucial just to keep the defense honest and it brings big plays to the offense. Darren and Pierre do a great job with it and they're always getting big chunks of yards off of screen plays so; I definitely want to help contribute in that aspect as well."
Someone like Pierre has been around with this franchise for a while. How much do you continue to still learn from him?
" He is just a great guy. He helps in the film room a lot. He has a lot of experience going in year seven, was on the Super Bowl team, just had a lot of gametime experience for being an undrafted free agent and to coming in and being a starter. To have his advice, his knowledge, and all of the experience he has on the football field, and I can just go to him with questions as well as Sproles, it helps a lot."
Will Alabama three-peat this year?
"They should. They have the quarterback back, they have (T.J.) Yeldon back as a receiver and they have a lot of good young defenders so, they have a good chance at it if they work hard and they follow what coach (Nick) Saban says. It's all in their hands. "
What is it like to hear some Roll Tide screams coming from the crowd?
"It's always nice to hear Roll Tide where ever I go I always hear Roll Tide, it puts a smile on my face and I Roll Tide back so it's always nice to hear Roll Tide where ever you go."
How much flack do you take from LSU fans who double as Saints fans?
"They chip and poke 'Go Tigers' and little stuff like that. It's all fun. At the end of the day we're all WHO DAT's so we have all of that in common. It just fun and games when its Alabama and LSU, but we all have a common interest and we all want to win a championship so we can all agree on WHO DAT. "
New Orleans Saints CB Corey White
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Where do you feel you're at right now, as you are no longer a rookie. As far as from the middle aspect and what they are asking you to do; do you think your role right now to help this team would be maybe to be that nickel defensive back?
"I don't know yet. All I can do right now is handle my end."
As far as making plays you came up with a big interception. Talk about your awareness as far as recognizing route recognition and being around the ball to be able to make plays.
"It all starts with the defense first. Knowing how Rob (Ryan) wants you to play the defense. It's getting that down first and then working on your technique, running to the ball, and hustling after the ball, and playing 100%."
How would you compare last year, you coming to the NFL and learning coach Spagnuolo's system compared to what coach Ryan is asking you to do and the defense as a whole.
"It's a lot different. Asking me to start at (some) nickel (packages), play a lot of scenarios, a lot of blitz, a lot of drop back. You got to learn the whole defense because you never know when you going to be on the left or the right position. It's knowing defense in and out and knowing every edge."
Jabari Greer brought up about the fact that your confidence and your focus as a player, he was impressed with that. That's something that stood out to a veteran. That has got to impress you?
"Yes, Jabari and I got together in the off-season and we talked a lot about just playing with confidence and extreme focus, getting in the film room (and) learning the receivers and the offensive schemes. He really helped me out along with the rest of the veterans; Malcolm (Jenkins), Roman (Harper), and all of them."
New Orleans Saints Tackle Zach Strief
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Zach, your thoughts on being one of the few veterans on the offensive line left when the Super Bowl came and just talk about your leadership role?
"I think those seasons are special seasons, and maybe you see some things in those years that you don't always see or feel. I think more than anything and to be honest with you I kind of learn this from Ja (Jahri Evans), come out and be a good player every day and be an example. At the end of the day all you can do in training camp is work hard, and try to get better, try to grind through some of these days that get hot."
Do you feel fully healthy in this training camp? What is your overall goal of remaining healthy this season?
"It's as healthy as I felt in probably two years. Many things are things that linger and you can play through them or with them, but at the same time you don't want to have to make problems or have problems. My whole offseason was focusing on getting things healthy so I can get through the season. I don't enjoy missing time and I certainly don't enjoy coming back and not being 100%. It's certainly my goal along with many other guys to stay healthy, fortunately right now I feel really good."
The potential of this offense overall, how exciting is it but then knowing that it's just not going to be guaranteed you guys are putting in the work to get the job done on the field.
"First of all, we have a guy standing behind us that is one of the best ever. When you have that guy you have a chance. Much of your excitement comes from knowing you got a captain behind you, a guy who can run the ship; however at the same time he can't do it by himself. We have to be able to run the ball this year. I know we have talked a lot about it, and it's extremely important to us not just from an offensive standpoint but on a protection standpoint; keeping him clean and healthy and feeling good is that we have to be able to run the ball as well as keep people off balance. The years that we have been really good are the years we have done that. Right now that's the focus for us, getting this running game going and really being a powerful running team."
How are you mentoring a young guy like Terron Armstead who is kind of swimming a little bit trying to get up to speed and even with everything?
"Well, I let him bring in my helmet every day (joking). He got me some shampoo yesterday that's all good. Really we are fortunate here, this comes from guys before me, guys like Jon Stinchcomb. We help each other as best we can and I think that's rare. I think a lot of places its a competition, a roster spot; and you don't want to give him the knowledge that's taking you time to gain so he can come and take your job. However, that's not the culture here. We are very fortunate, and to be honest with you; those young guys are very fortunate like I was to have people. I am more than willing to help him with anything, anything he comes to me with, anything I see; and on top of that we have not only Bret (Ingalls) who has done a great job but a young coach. Frank (Smith), who's really taking more of a role this year in helping those guys. They are getting coaching from all over the place and at the same time those coaches do a better job than we do because that's what they do and I'm just worried about getting myself right."
Cameron Jordan is in his third year at defensive end. Have you seen a nice progression from him?
"I think last year you saw him become more well-rounded as a guy. He has versatility as a pass rush(er). He has always been a powerful guy in the run game. He is smart and I think more than anything and overrated his motor is really impressive. We go and run after practice and Cam is beating everybody. That's not D linemen or O linemen that's the team. That's a testament to him and the work he has put in, but I think you can expect good things from him for a long time."
New Orleans Saints Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Where do you think you are at, not just being a special teams guy, but actually contributing a big part as a safety on defense?
"Right now I am just trying to compete for a spot, maybe in the third down situations. Right now it is all about competition and making everyone better."
Are creating turnovers something you are really stressing this year?
"Oh yeah, definitely. Everyone is trying to get their hands on the ball because that is what makes a good defense. If we get the ball back, that are more possessions for the offense."
More about finishing the play?
"Definitely. If we get the ball in Drew's (Brees) hands, they are going to put points up."
What have you seen from Cameron Jordan as a leader of this defense?
"His work ethic is unmatched. He can run with the defensive backs all the time. When he is on the field, he is always running to the ball, trying to get the ball."
What is it like to see Cameron running with the defensive backs?
"First day, it was like dang, he can fly, but now we are kind of used to it. Cam is right there (with the defensive backs). You always want to beat him because as a competitor and he is like a hundred pounds more than us."
What is it like to work against Drew Brees, Lance Moore, and Jimmy Graham? How much better does it make you guys?
"I feel like we are getting the best work in the NFL when it comes to that because Drew is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the NFL, Jimmy is a matchup because he is so big and so fast and Lance's routes are unmatched. So I think every day we are getting the best work possible."
What is your take on some of the younger receivers that are out here?
"They are playing really well. They are all learning the offense really quick and they are shifting and stuff, so they are playing really well."
What are your observations on Kenny Vaccaro?
"He is aggressive. I like how he plays. He comes down, he is ready to hit you, but he is also patient when it comes to the plays he has to make. He is smart."
Can you talk about tight end matchups downfield?
"We have to make sure we have a guy of decent size and speed to cover tight ends nowadays."
New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Joseph Morgan
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
How is training camp going so far?
"Hot. Training camp is good besides the heat and all. That is something that comes with being down here. I've been down here for three years, so I am used to the heat by now. I guess I should get used to it. As far as training camp goes, I'm good. The first couple of days everybody gets the rust off, just a little time off. Everything is clicking right now. We put the nickel in today and we looked a lot smoother. The numbers are kind of down so the reps are a little bit more, but it's only going to make us better."
You look at the challenge into the training camp was working those intermediate routes. How do you think that has been going as far as going up against some of the safeties and corner backs?
"I believe it's going good. Most of the routes I have been running all camp haven't been deep go routes. I have been running a lot of deep ends, deep outs, short ends, short outs, slants and just working on the little things like that right now will help me more during the season."
It's almost like you were designated the deep guy once Devery Henderson was let go.
"I don't think it was when Devery was let go. I think that was a label that I had since I got here. I'm a 4.3 (seconds) guy so naturally they are going to call you a deep guy, the speed guy coming in; but it's one of those things that Devery is not here anymore. It's a place not just for myself but for any of those receivers that want to step up on the field. It's not just being a deep threat, it's being a complete wide receiver and a deep threat just goes into that."
A lot of wide receivers are having a good camp so far, but you have had that experience. How does that give you an advantage?
"It helps you to go out there and play fast. That's the main thing, you want to go out there and not be thinking and make minimal mistakes. If you go out there thinking, you can't play 100%. If you could just go out there and know what you're doing, then you got the physical aspect of it and there is less to focus on I should say."
The mistake you made off the field during the off season. What did you learn from that? Did you come into camp now as a player that's trying to grow with the team?
"I'm learning man. It was an immature mistake. It's something that is an easy fix and that should not have been done. It's something that I am putting behind me. I'm not trying to focus on that. I'm trying to focus on football."
In getting back to football, are you trying to put that past you?
"Yeah, I love getting back to football. Everybody says they love getting back to training camp, but no one loves getting back to training camp. At the same time, I think what everybody is getting at is getting back to being around your teammates, basically your brothers and everything, doing what you love. That was the main thing getting back to football and getting that burden off my shoulders."
Does it feel a lot easier this year? You know all the plays.
"Yeah, there is no grey area, I guess that's what your trying to get at. Like I said, instead of just coming out and having to think; where should I line up, what play am I supposed to be doing, what am I doing here, what's this guy doing here, that's going to affect what I am doing. I know it fluently to where I can just go out there and play."
Do you know all the receiver positions?
"I know all the receiver positions. If they need me to go out there and play anything, I can do it."
Going back to what we were talking about a second ago, about the deep threat. One of the motivations you had, not just be the deep threat, but to be the number three guy, you know you need to do a little bit of everything.
"I don't want to be the number three guy. I want to be the number fifty three guy. Nobody wants to just focus on one thing. We come out here first and foremost to make the team, and that's that. I'm an undrafted free-agent guy, that's no secret. I came into the league and I was not coming in here to be a receiver. I was coming in here to make the team. To do that, the first thing they tell us, is you got to get on special teams. I'm all in for special teams. Everybody has to do it. Coach Mac (Greg McMahon) will tell you to cover kicks. If they want me to cover kicks, I will do it. That's something that I have been trained well enough to do, so I can do it."
Joe, you're a 4.3 guy. Saalim (Hakim) may be a 4.2 guy. Who is faster?
"He's not maybe a 4.2 guy, he is definitely a 4.2 guy. He is faster than me. I guess he is a short quick guy. I am like a long stride deeper guy. If we would race, for me it would have to be 60 yards. He would definitely beat me in a 40 for sure."
You know the road you traveled to get here. He has kind of had a similar path. Just talk about what impresses you about Saalim. Talk about the speed.
"The biggest impression that he has on me is that you could tell he is kind of similar to me, speed guy, raw, he has that athletic ability, but not polished as a receiver. It's just one of those things that when you are running fast, you want to transition your hips and stuff like that. That's hard for us to actually do that. We are always thinking, I got to run, I got to run, I got to run; but at the same time you got to think, well I can't be running full speed every time, I have to be deceptively fast. It's one of those things that he is still learning. He has a long way to go, as myself, I have a long way to go. I help him out the best I can, just like the older guys have helped me."
You have made some great catches, great plays last year. Do you have a favorite play from last year?
"My favorite play was probably my first touchdown. It doesn't get any better than playing in the Superdome. Playing somewhere like Lambeau Field, a historic place like that, and getting my first touchdown and being a deep threat guy and it's an 80 yard touchdown. It doesn't get any better than that. It was like a surreal moment for me. It didn't hit me until I got back to the airplane and I was like, 'Oh man I just scored a touchdown."
If it's possible to get a feel for what the biggest challenge has been learning the routes, not just learning them but mastering it, whether it's the getting in and out of the breaks, is it locating the ball, or is it like you said not running that full speed?
"I think it's all of that. I think it is hard trying to gauge speed. That was the biggest thing for me because I wanted to run. You know coming up, chip on my shoulder, trying to make impressions, I'm running everything 4.3 speed, full speed all out. Trying to do that and then run an in route because they did not want us to break down but just roll them in, and you would sometimes catch yourself falling. Coming in, that was the main thing, trying to transition in and out of routes. I think the hardest thing was the route tree. The route tree is just on paper and it's going to be like it is like that. What you want to do is read the defense that does not have that end to it. I think that's one of the hardest challenges coming in to the NFL because everybody disguises a lot of things. You're running a lot of your routes based on what the guy in front of you is doing."
I know Lance Moore is one of the many guys that have helped you with that.
"Lance, in my opinion, is one of the best route runners there is. To have a guy like that trying to teach you how to run routes, it's something that you have to listen to. To get better you want to learn from the best. He has taught me a lot since 2011and I'm just going to try to keep listening."
Let me talk to you real quick about another fast guy, Darren Sproles. What are your thoughts about seeing what he has been able to do the last couple seasons?
"Sproles is a different guy. I don't think anybody can emulate the things he does. He could do some in full speed, make those cuts in full speed and not lose anything. Trying to emulate some of the things he does is going to be hard, but it's just amazing watching him play. Just ask all the other guys out here. Watching these guys, Pro Bowl caliber players, the players we grew up watching."
What are your impressions of the secondary the last few days?
"They are aggressive for sure. Trying to learn this 3-4 defense is a lot different and the best way to do that is to run around full speed. If you are going to mess up, do it full speed. These guys, they look good right now, and that's a good thing, especially early in camp. And as the weeks go on and we get through the pre-season, we will see a lot more from them."
Anybody in particular? Aggressive?
"Aggressive? 32. Kenny Vaccaro, he is very aggressive."
Coach Payton is here, obviously was not here last year. What's his message to you? Does he expect more out of you this year? Does he say you have an opportunity to be a balance to this team?
"The opportunity is out there of course. There is, I guess you want to say, two veteran receivers right there, right now, Marques Colston and Lance Moore, and there is a slew of us younger guys right behind them trying to just get in and play that role. He has told us all there is an opportunity in front you guys, it's all about just going in and working for it."
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