THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: SAINTs – WEEK 12
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
Gary, as far as RB Justin Forsett, you signed him in April. When he was released from Jacksonville, was he a guy that you thought immediately that he could help, or when did he really get on strong on your guys' radar do you think? (Jamison Hensley) "I can't really remember. I just know he got let go, and I just mentioned to John [Harbaugh] that I thought he was a really good football player, and I knew he was a really good special teams player and had been. I guess as a coach – I think I've said this to you [the media] before – if you're going to recommend somebody, you have to know that he fits what the head guy is looking for, and I knew he did. It's a compliment to him and what he's gotten done here. You know you're going to get everything he has, and he's fit in real good with this football team. He plays hard; he plays like a Raven."
For a guy that bounced around, typically you don't all of the sudden in Year 7 become a Top 10 rusher in the league. Did he change at all? (Jamison Hensley) "No, he's playing the same way he played a few years ago, in my opinion. It's just all of the sudden the opportunity was there, and he took advantage of it. Through the situation [of], 'Who was going to step up? Who was going to be our back this year – our feature back?' we went into it thinking we were going to play a lot of guys, and all of the sudden with his play, he said, 'No, you're going to play me.' You have to give him the credit for that happening."
What makes you feel like [RB Justin Forsett] can keep it going? (Garrett Downing) "He's a tremendously conditioned player when he works out here. He takes care of himself. I don't see any reason for him not to keep going. It's always important that we take a little bit of the pounding off of him, [and] we try to do that with Bernard [Pierce] and Lorenzo [Taliaferro] a little bit. But we're getting down to the last six weeks, and you're not saving much for anything, right? It's time to go. I know Justin wants to be out there every down, and if he can hold up, he's probably going to be out there quite a bit."
Gary, you've been around a lot of really good offensive linemen over the years. Is G Marshal Yanda right up among the best you've been around? (Childs Walker)"Yes, I've told John [Harbaugh] that. He's as good as any [offensive lineman] I've ever been around, and I've been around some great ones. I'm so impressed with the technician that he is, how hard he plays, how tough he is – the things he plays through. He's a consistent body of work. All those guys that I've been around that, to me, achieved that type of status as a player – which, in my opinion, his has got to be as good as it could be – they're all kind of the same in how they work and how hard they play, and they're all very smart. I knew he was a good player when I came here, but man, is he impressive – not only as a player, too, but as a person – how he goes about getting ready to play."
You looked back over and studied over the bye week the first 10 [games]. [Did] anything really surprise you in going back and looking at [the tape]? (Pete Gilbert) "There are some things that do. When you stop and go back, you'll say to yourselves sometimes, 'Boy, why are we doing that?' or 'Why didn't we quit doing that a few weeks ago?' You have to kind of stop yourself for, 'Why aren't we doing this a little bit more?' That's the biggest thing you're looking for. And then there's always something that maybe you look at and say, 'Well, this player does this really well, so let's give him an opportunity to do that a little bit more within our scheme.' It's a combination of everything, and so what we try to do is evaluate. And when the players came back Monday, we had an extra day to work, and we tried to present basically our findings to our players. As we get started here and go on the back six weeks, we're all on the same page moving forward. But we have some tough ones coming up and we'll have to play really well."
Gary, you guys are Top 10 in the league in red zone trips, but you're 19th in [red zone] touchdown efficiency. Looking from the bye week, was there anything really sticking out in that area of the field that you guys need to get better with? (Luke Jones) "Obviously, you want to be down there a bunch, so we've been able to do that. We need to be more efficient down there. We had some bad games early. I think [against] Pittsburgh [in the] second week, we were like 2-for-6 or something, so that puts you behind the eight ball pretty quick. But the red zone is an interesting stat, because sometimes you may come out of a game 2-for2, and you didn't win the game. It's about the importance of when you're down there, in my opinion, and it's fixing to get very important here over the next six weeks. Usually, we're at our best when we run the ball pretty well."
Just a follow-up on that: One thing I noticed last year [was that] WR Marlon Brown was involved [in the red zone] quite a bit. Now, clearly there are some different weapons around this year, but is he someone in that area to go to? (Luke Jones) "That's a good observation. Marlon is getting more involved with what we're doing. He's played really well the last couple of games. I remember he missed a few games; Michael [Campanaro] came in and played real well for us. And I think, actually, Marlon didn't suit for like two or three games. He's much more involved right now, and you're right. He has a big body, a chance to make some plays. So, it's going to take all of us, and I'm sure Marlon will get his opportunities."
As an offensive coach, what's your, I guess, opinion on using defensive players in goal-line [situations]. In Houston, they're using DE J.J. Watt down there a lot. (Jon Meoli)"I think you always look at it – opportunity, who that player is. You're always trying to prepare offensive linemen to go in there if you get in situations in a game. Obviously, with our tight end situation, we have been playing some big guys – just not defensive guys. But I think I better ask permission on that one before I go throw in Haloti [Ngata] or somebody back there, so we'll see." (laughter)
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
When you're going against a tight end like TE Jimmy Graham, [who is] obviously athletic [and] fast, is there anything comparable to any of the other tight ends maybe that you faced this year, or is he kind of a unique [player]? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, he's unique. He's pretty special because of his size. But like [Delanie] Walker [from] Tennessee, [he] is a really fast tight end. He's a really talented guy. We've seen the guy from Carolina, [Greg] Olsen. There have been some really talented tight ends [that we've faced, but] none of them are as big as he is. Like all those teams, they split him out and try to do some things with him [to] get you singled up on him, but there's nobody that is quite that big and that big of target and [has] that good of hands. He's a special tight end, no doubt about it."
Dean, in terms of what the Bengals did, how much can that be a blueprint for teams to watch how they defended [TE Jimmy Graham] and just the Saints in general? (Aaron Wilson) "You always try to look at what everybody does against somebody, and if they're successful and if it fits into your plans. I remember all the time, if you played a close game, people would say, 'Well, that's the blueprint of that team now. Everybody will use that.' That's kind of an overused cliché a little bit in that it has to fit your scheme. You can take some things, some ideas from it, but all of the sudden they're in over defense, we're in under defense; say we're going to play over defense – we can't do that, and neither can a lot of teams. And a lot of teams watch what we do against some team, and they can't say all of the sudden, 'OK, we're going to come out and play under this week.' You can use some ideas as far as maybe zone or man or some matchups and some things like that, but really scheme-wise … The other thing is you don't even know if New Orleans is going to attack you in the same fashion. I mean, they have so much stuff. It's not so much a blueprint. You can take little things from everything, just like offenses do. If somebody is running a reverse on you, you can probably figure you're going to see a reverse the next week on you if you didn't defend it. Stuff like that you can take little things from."
This week [will be] CB Anthony Levine's second game playing cornerback. How big of a challenge is this for him? What is it that gives him the ability to move around in that secondary? (Garrett Downing) "What gives him the ability is actually playing safety, because when you're back there in safety, you have to really know what everybody is doing. You have to control everybody. And it takes a certain talent to play corner – you're looking for a certain skill set and things like that. I would hope that there are probably not too many safeties in the league that don't know what the corners do. There are probably a lot of corners in the league that have no idea what the safeties do, truthfully. The transition is always easier as long as your skill set is such to go from safety to corner. Everybody says it would be the other way around, but that's not true. Corners usually rely on the safeties to tell them what the coverage is, the technique, a lot of things [of] what it is. It's an advantage with him because he's a smart football player. Having played safety, he knows what the corners do. Now you still have to have the skill set, like I said, to do that and be able to play man and be able to roll up and jam guys and do things like that that he didn't have to do at safety. But as far as the mental part of it, it's an advantage having come from safety."
Is it as simple with OLB Elvis Dumervil, just that he's more rested now and the production is kind of staying up, whereas last year it fell off more? He's just not maybe getting as many snaps. He seems fairly happy with that, in regards to just being fresh. … Like he said, maybe him not playing as much [or] as many downs [has helped him feel] more refreshed. Is it as simple as that? (Pete Gilbert) "It could be. If that's what he feels, it probably is the right answer. When you look at those four guys we play outside with – Elvis [Dumervil] and 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] and Pernell [McPhee] and Courtney [Upshaw] – almost every week their reps are almost identical. They're in the 30s-40s. Nobody is really playing 65 and the other guy 20 – they're all 30-40. It really keeps all of them fresh. We've had some good matchups with [Dumervil] on certain things. But if he feels that way, that probably is the truth."
Just looking at Saints QB Drew Brees, he looks like he's one of the best at moving guys with eyes and kind of manipulating guys. Is that true, and is there any guard against that if you're trying to defend him? (Clifton Brown) "You just have to be patient in the back end. We look at every quarterback, and there are some guys that do not look off receivers. As soon as they go back, they already have in mind who they're going to. He is not one of those. Really, the elite guys, none of them are that way. Peyton [Manning] is not that way; Tom [Brady] is not that way; Joe [Flacco] is not that way. There are a few. There are not many in the NFL that actually are like that, but [Brees] certainly is not that way. The other thing about him is it's not only his eyes: If you ever watch him when he drops back, his feet never stop. You watch Brady sometimes drop back, and he'll just stand there absolutely flat-footed just standing there. And he'll be moving guys with his head, but he's not moving his feet at all – because he's not going anywhere. It's almost like he's a statue sometimes. I used to laugh, because there was nothing moving, and then all of the sudden, boom! It's gone. Brees is absolutely the total opposite. If you watch him, there are times when he'll actually throw the ball this way standing this way, not this way, because his feet are always moving. He's always moving around in the pocket. And so, that's also hard, because when you're trying to read the quarterback and he's moving around and his head is moving all the time … [Brees] finds guys. There is a reason why they are [No. 3] in the league [in total and passing offense] and No. 1 on third down, and he's the reason. And I know they have good talent in 12 [Marques Colston] and 80 [Jimmy Graham] and all those guys – 84 [Kenny Stills] – but the truth of it is 9 [Brees] is the guy that makes it work."
You mentioned OLB Pernell McPhee. He had those couple weeks where he was really filling up the stat sheet. Is it a case of teams adjusting to him and accounting for him more? (Jon Meoli) "Well, sometimes it depends on how we're using him, too. We're going to be using him to pick for Elvis [Dumervil] or pick for 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] or somebody else, too, and we've actually put him in coverage a couple times, too, recently. We're trying to kind of move him around, because we don't want to get real predictable where he's in the same spot all the time – make them have to account for him as the fourth rusher or maybe even sometimes the fifth rusher. The way our scheme goes, guys could be up for a couple weeks and have a bunch of production. The next couple weeks, they might not, just because when we try to change things a little bit, people are going to adjust to what they see, too. If 90 [McPhee] is wrecking the game, I would say if I'm an offensive coordinator, 'I'm not going to let him wreck the game next week.' You have to keep an eye on him. It's a combination of both of those."