Listen: Sean Payton discusses Saints matchup with Atlanta, Michael Thomas update

Geaux Black and Gold

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke with media Monday about the team’s upcoming game with the Atlanta Falcons and news that wide receiver Michael Thomas will not be available for the rest of the 2021-22 season.

The Saints play Atlanta at noon Sunday in the Superdome.

Below is the transcript from today’s conference call:

What are some of the things that stand out about Atlanta? *“Obviously when you go through a coaching change you see a different defensive structure, same on offense. I think they’re explosive offensively. They’re using Cordarrelle Patterson in a lot of different ways. He’s having a real good year. I see Matt (Ryan) playing…It’s interesting because I see them doing a few things well with the wide zone scheme that Atlanta has always done, but the ball is coming out off (of) his play action. They are getting some explosive plays. They are a real good third down offense. Defensively, they are real difficult (to plan for), because you’re looking for explosive opportunities. They’re playing with a lot of two-high shell. They get to it in a different way, but it’s still a two-high shell. I think they’re handling the run game when they do that pretty well. So it’s a team that makes you drive the ball playing predominantly zone, but they play man.”

*What happened with Michael Thomas? Did he have a setback? *“I think it is accurate to say there was a setback and he is working his tail off. The setback has more to do with the procedure he had initially that was just done and they went through the scans. There is a chance he may need to have another procedure done. I can’t call in and have Dr. (Robert) Anderson come in on the call with us and explain it to you. Michael is working his tail off to get ready and become available and I think that this isn’t anything he could control. This has more to do with the tightrope procedure. What that is is the procedure that strengthens the ankle after you’ve had a significant injury to that area. The setback is really surgically related and we’ll kind of go from there.”

*Did you see this coming for a little while? Asking the question based on the timing of the trade deadline? *“No. When the trade deadline comes, we’ll take a peek at what we think are players that might be available by trade. We look at them and maybe some positions we won’t look. If you feel like you have a good team you look at all positions just based on who might be trading players. We’ve looked at receivers at the trade deadline. We’ve looked at quarterbacks, we’ve looked at defensive tackles. We’ve looked at a number of players just because there’s a feeling that this team might be willing to move this player, tight end, receiver, safety. You approach that a little if you have an interest like free agency. You look, do your homework. It’s hard in-season, it’s taking away (from preparation). If you look at a receiver you’re still getting ready for a game that week and so that’s not unusual. But that’s as far as that went. There was no…We got down to the wire and couldn’t agree on a price. Nothing relative to any position really. That would be that.”

*You expressed confidence in the group prior to the season? How do you feel about it right now? *“Good. I think they had a good game last week. We have some younger guys. I think the addition of Kenny Stills has helped us. I think Deonte Harris being back has helped us. I think Kevin White is continuing to get better. I think Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s size and strength (can help). Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith’s back. These guys are tough, they’re competitive. I like them. I’m not interested in your PFF grades or any of that other stuff. It just is what it is. I like this group. Obviously you’re better if you have Mike Thomas in that group. But we don’t right now and we don’t have Jameis Winston at the quarterback position. We don’t have a few other things. That’s just how our league can be sometimes. We’re getting ready for this week.”

*What are some things Dennis Allen does in terms of working with coverages and disguising them? *“I think it’s the alignment. I think we try to change looks up, I think we run to the ball well and I think we have real smart safeties. We went through a stretch where we were struggling and I can’t tell you the value of football IQ to that position whether it be free or strong and Marcus (Williams) is someone that’s extremely smart. Malcolm Jenkins’ someone that’s extremely smart. P.J. Williams is very smart. I just think that IQ in the secondary is tough to play with and these guys have really good football IQ.”

*Can you speak to some of the things Adam Trautman has done blocking even if the targets and catches are still developing, seeing it for example on Alvin Kamara’s fourth down touchdown run? *“He’s having a good year. We’re getting him more involved in the passing game as well. It’s kind of an easy release block. It’s not easy to do, but he was able to kind of capture Lavonte David’s leverage and hold onto it. The play obviously took longer than it needed to. That was a big play. We knew going into the game when we wanted to run that. But we also knew it was going to be on David. The challenge with that block is really to execute it without getting a holding call, because it’s so long. It’s five seconds and that’s a long time to stay on a block.”

*If Michael Thomas had undergone surgery earlier would that have allowed him to come back earlier? *“You’re going back to if that happened earlier and this now happened. He’s had a surgery and right now he’s having complications with the current surgery that was done, so it is what it is. I know he’s working his tail off to get back out there and you’re going back to the original…If you’re doing a timeline, knock yourself out.”

*What stands out about Kyle Pitts? *“He’s long. He has real good high point hands, so he can catch those awkward body position throws. He’s someone that is comfortable across the middle. He transitions well. He’s been fun to watch. He’s something else. That’s obviously one of their targets and someone that we will need to have a plan for.”

*Can you share anything on your plans for the quarterback position? *“No, I can’t share anything relative.”

{Courtesy: the New Orleans Saints}

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