Saints @ Falcons: Scouting Report

To start preparing you for the matchup against the Falcons here is a collection of quotes and audio pertaining to this Sundays game.

Falcons seek to contain Saints, Brees

“He’s playing the best ball right now, I think, of any quarterback in the NFL,”

-Lawyer Milloy, on Drew Brees

“They have a lot of guys with a lot of speed who are doing a good job of getting the ball up the field,” Falcons free safety Erik Coleman. “That’s going to take a group effort. That’s going to take 11 hats getting to the ball every time no matter where the ball is.”

-Erik Coleman

“Most explosive plays are usually caused by one of three things: one is poor tackling, two is missed leverage and three is a blown assignment,” Smith said. “So we’ve been really concentrating, working on taking good pursuit angles and tackling. We want to make sure we are mentally into our game plan. There will be times they’ll make the perfect throw and the perfect catch, but for the most part it’s more about the defense than it is about the offense.”

-Mike Smith

“I’ve never played a team this diverse in the passing game,” Coleman said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

-Erik Coleman


Falcons-Saints at Georgia Dome sold out

“We need our fans to come out and support us,” Falcons safety Lawyer Milloy said. “I think everybody is seeing that we have good product here. We really feel good about ourselves.

“But it’s really about how we do at home. We really felt like at the beginning of the season if we could defend the dome, and win some games on the road we’ll have a chance to be in the dance at the end.

“This is an important time for us. Three at home. We need our 12th man to be here.”

-Lawyer Milloy

Foxworth looks to make plays in increased role

"They spread the ball around pretty well," Foxworth said. "I haven't really focused yet on one individual (receiver). It's going to be tough to watch film on all the guys and all the concepts they do. They're such an advanced and mature offense that they make it really difficult to prepare for them but I think we're ready for the challenge."

-Domonique Foxworth


Quotable: Head Coach Mike Smith

Q: Do you credit the sacks to a quick release or a good offensive line?
A: “Both. I think they have a very good offensive line, but they are a team that works well to get the ball out of his hands when need be.”

Q: Is it good to be back in your bed for three straight games?
A: “We are excited. It’s been a long five weeks in terms of the last four out of five games have been on the road. It has been a tough stretch for us. We would like to get back to the friendly confines of the (Georgia) Dome. It’s going to be a fun game on Sunday.”

Q: It will be a fun, big game especially since it is against your divisional opponent with your record of 0-2 in the division.
A: “Yes, it is a very big game. Any game in the division is a very big game. We have an opportunity to play our division opponents twice so there is familiarity with one another. Geographically, this division is in close proximity so I am sure there will be some Saints fans making their way to Atlanta this weekend.”

Q: (Lawyer) Milloy said that ever since the bye week you have been working on the explosive stuff. How do you do that?
A: “I think there are a number of things that you have to do. Most explosive plays that an offense is able to produce are caused by one of three things. One is poor tackling. Two is missed leveraging and three is a blown assignment. I don’t mean to take a lot away from offenses, but, a lot of times, it is more about us than it is about them. We have been really concentrating on pursuit and working on tackling. We want to make sure that we are mentally into our game plan. There will be times where they will make the perfect throw and the perfect catch, but, at times, it is more about the defense than it is about the offense.”

Q: What do you mean by missed leverage?
A: “We want to have a certain player outside the ball and a certain player inside the ball. We talk to our defenders all the time about how they are not the only ones out there on the field. We have to have someone who is forced that has to turn the ball back in to the guys who are pursuing the ball inside out.”

Q: A week ago, you mentioned Sam Baker’s status. Has anything changed with him?
A: “Sam is back in Atlanta. The first seven days of his rehab are very limited and he is just staying off his feet. Until we really get him going in the rehab process, we aren’t going to really know how long it will be for him. At this point, we are optimistic. The procedure went well according to the doctors and he has started his rehab.”

Q: Is there a ballpark idea?
A: “Not at this point. We are thinking it will be sooner than later.”

Q: Everyone talks about the Saints offense and deservingly so. Do you think that their defense gets overlooked?
A: “I think they do. They have a very good defense. They have some guys up front that can rush the passer. I think Jonathan Vilma, the linebacker that they signed in free agency this past offseason, has done a good job for them. They have two other linebackers that I think are very solid players. They have a veteran group in the secondary. I know Coach Gary Gibbs does a good job in preparing his football team.”

Q: How are you health-wise?
A: “We are probably as healthy as we have been. Our injury report is as small as it is going to be for a number of weeks. We had two guys miss today. Sam was one of them and Jason Snelling for a non-football related illness.”


Quotable: Head Coach Mike Smith

Q: Could you talk about the quick starts and what you have been able to accomplish?
A: “I think we have done a very nice job. I believe we have outscored our opponents 68-14 in the first quarter. I think that says a lot about what we are doing as a coaching staff in preparing our players. I think our guys are coming out and executing very well in the first quarter of the ballgame. We spend a lot of time in scripting our first 15 plays and we have done a very efficient job of doing that. Defensively, I think that our defensive staff has a very good understanding of how our opponents are going to attack us. We have been able to start fast. When you are able to start fast, it opens up a lot of opportunities for us.”

Q: You talked about sustainability and how that is the next level. Is there something that you can work on to help you get there?
A: “I think that you have to always make your players aware of it. We talked about the fact that there are a lot of players in this league that have ability, but the great players have sustainability. Whether it is sustaining from one play to the next or one quarter to the next quarter or from one game to the next game, that’s what the good players do. I think it is a process and it is part of the process that you go through when you are developing your football team. You have to continue to speak to the players about this process and understand that it is not just physical; it is a mental process as well.”

Q: We know that Sam (Baker) is on his way back and that, yesterday, Wayne (Gandy) was able to get some work. Seeing the team without Sam on the left side, do you feel positive about the depth on the offensive line?
A: “We are looking forward to getting Sam back, of course. It is just going to be a matter of time before we are able to set the protocol for his return. We were able to get about 53 plays out of Todd Weiner and we got Wayne in there a little bit at the end of the ballgame. Anytime you can get more guys in the game and get them an opportunity to play in game conditions, I think it is positive for us. Wayne did a nice job in coming in on basically three days of practice. He is an old pro and we will continue to try to indoctrinate him into our program.”

Q: Coming from the AFC, what is your impression of the NFC South?
A: “I thought that it was a very competitive division, although I was looking at it from afar. I had always played two of the teams in the preseason the last few years and have had the NFC South as a crossover. I know that it is very physical and it is competitive. I think that it says that by the number of division champs that we have had over the last few years. I think that proximity-wise it has to be the closest in terms of geographically. It makes for very good rivalries.”

Q: Are you up to speed on the Falcons/Saints rivalry?
A: “I know that they have had some really good battles in years past. As a 2008 team, we really concern ourselves with how these guys play in 2008. This 2008 squad has overcome a number of injuries. I think the Saints are playing very, very efficiently. Offensively, they are one of the top offenses in the National Football League so it will be a big challenge for our defense this week.”

Q: What do think about (John) Abraham’s performance through eight games?
A: “John has done an outstanding job rushing the passer. Yesterday, when he had the three sacks, that was a dominating performance. He had some opportunities for some others in the game. He was very disruptive. John has really had an outstanding season up to this point. To have 10 sacks through eight games is truly phenomenal. He is doing an outstanding job not only on the field, but off the field in his leadership. He is the leader of our defensive line.”

Q: Where does Michael Jenkins rate on the roster in terms of the fastest guys?
A: “I don’t really know in terms of what his 40 time was. I know that for his size he has outstanding speed. It showed yesterday in his two long touchdown passes. Michael had two outstanding catches with great concentration and great routes. Matt (Ryan) was able to get the ball on his body. He reached out. If you watch the replays, you can really tell that he was concentrating on the football. I thought he made great catches.”

Q: Do you think Michael is stepping up there on the other side of Roddy (White)?
A: “I think that Michael has done a nice job. When he has had opportunities for balls to come his way, he has made the play the majority of the time. I can go back and talk about the first play of the season, the long touchdown pass. He ran a great route and made the catch and also there at the end of the game against Chicago. Our receiving corps is maturing very quickly. Roddy, Michael, Harry (Douglas), who has done a nice job for a rookie, Brian Finneran and Laurent Robinson who was back in some extensive action this past week. It was nice to see Laurent back out there. We are going to need all those guys through the second half of the season.”

Q: Is your punt returner situation settled or are you still evaluating?
A: “We are evaluating the punt returner. I thought Harry did a nice job. He averaged 6.5 yards and made some good decisions back there. We also had Brian Finneran go back there. I think as we go through this week we will make a decision in terms of how we are going to decide who is going to return punts this week. As I mentioned last week, we are always evaluating. It is an evaluation process. It is day-to-day, week-to-week, not only based on the game tape but how they perform in practice.”

Q: Is (Domonique) Foxworth completely up to speed on the defense?
A: “I think that Domonique has done a very good job in learning our defense. Anytime you have a guy that you get late in the process—what I mean by late in the process is before the season starts. He did not go through mini-camp, OTAs or training camp. He lost about 3,500 opportunities for snaps and learning our system and being in our system. He is a pro and he has been in this league for four years. He knows how to play the game and I think he is doing a good job in getting up to speed.”

Q: Heath-wise, how are you coming out of Oakland?
A: “In talking with Ron (Medlin), we have some bumps and bruises. Anytime you run the football 57 times, it’s going to be a physical football game. In terms of the guys who were injured last week going into this game, they are continuing to get better. There were no new surprises in terms of injuries coming out of the game, just some bumps and bruises. We will get a better feel of what is going on Wednesday.”

Q: What makes Drew Brees such a good quarterback?
A: “I think that Drew is playing as efficient as any quarterback in this league right now. He has a very good scheme. I think that what they do schematically is very difficult to defend. They have a number of weapons all across the board. If they have all of their weapons, they are very, very good. He has a very good understanding of where to put the football. He gets the ball out of his hands quickly. They do not give up a whole lot of sacks and he has a number of weapons. I think that is really what separates him from the other quarterbacks in this league.”


Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith Q-A

Q: This is not a bad start to your coaching career. Has it been a surprise to you?

A: I really believe that our players have played very efficiently in these first eight games. Our start gives us some confirmation that we are doing things the right way. I think our players deserve a lot of credit, because they have worked hard and understand our system and how we’re going to do business. I think they’ve done a great job to this point.

Q: What do you think has enabled Matt Ryan to play the way he has in his first year so far?

A: I think that Matt is a very talented football player. He has the skill set to be an outstanding quarterback in this league. I think there are a number of intangible that Matt possesses that have sped up his maturation process through these first eight games. I want to caution that it’s just eight games for the season. Matt is a guy that is a film rat. He spends a lot of time on his off day in the office watching tape. He understands the sequencing of the week in the National Football League that you have to move on after that game on Sunday. You put it to rest on Monday and move on to the next game. There’s a lot of nuances and differences from week to week in what he’s going to face and I think he’s done a very nice job along with our coaching staff. I think they’ve put him in some situations he’s been able to manage very efficiently.

Q: Has anything surprised you about your team so far?

A: We really have played efficiently and well. I don’t know if there’s anything that surprises me. I had a real good feeling after the Tampa game in the second game of the season. I think we kind of realized even if we played really poorly in the first half, I saw a team that fought back in the second half, made quite a few adjustments and got back in the game and I think that got our team some confidence and some confidence in our quarterback. He started very slowly in that game, 0-for-9 in the first half and had two interceptions and in the second half he came out and played very efficiently, throwing the ball at one point, going nine for 11. I don’t know if there’s been any big surprises, but I think that was a point early on that showed our mettle, so to speak.

Q: Is there a present player or a player in the past who Matt Ryan reminds you of?

A: No, not really. I know this, Matt has an outstanding work ethic, has all the attributes that you’re looking for. He’s a big, strong guy and he has a sense of getting the ball out of his hands, very similar to the quarterback that you have there in New Orleans. I think Drew (Brees) has a very good understanding of the scheme that Sean (Payton) runs, gets the ball out of his hand. I think he’s only been sacked seven times this year, and I think the good quarterbacks that are playing well are the guys that have a good understanding of the game.

Q: A lot of the veterans on the team have gone through some tumultuous situations the past few years. Have they talked about how different things have been this year? Do you sense a change in atmosphere?

A: As a staff and as a team, we’ve never spoken, or I’ve never addressed the team about what happened in the past. What happened in ’07 happened and we’ve started with a clean slate and I think that’s kind of been the sense all around the building. We came in and we were going to be very systematic in how we approached the offseason in terms of making changes with the roster, going through free agency and the draft. I think Thomas Dimitroff and his staff did a great job of identifying players we were able to add a couple of free agents, big time free agents that were really able to help us and another group of free agents that are really contributing to our football team and then I think in the draft we did a great job. I’m a very communicative coach. Our coaching staff is that way. We want to have open communication because when I think you have open communication you can define everyone’s role and everyone understands what their role is and there’s no griping. It’s black and white at that point.

Q: How important has the addition of Michael Turner been to your team?

A: Michael has been very, very integral in what we want to do. In fact, he was the first part in this changing process. We knew our philosophy was going to be that we were going to want to run the football and to be able to run the football in this league I know it’s a cliché to say you have to be able to run the football and stop the run, but it really to me is at the core of what successful football teams are able to do and Michael has a lot of the traits that we were looking for. He was a guy that can run the ball between the tackles, but also has enough speed to take it the distance. Over the last three years, prior to this season, Michael was a guy who had three touchdown runs of over 75 yards, so with what we wanted to do with Mike Mularkey our offensive coordinator is very philosophically the same in terms of what I like to do, we needed to do that and get a running back. Michael is very young, five years in the league and had only 251 carries, not a whole lot of wear and tear on his body and as we did our due diligence, we felt he gave us our best opportunity to set a running game in place.

Q: What do you think of the NFC South so far in terms of the style of play, the division and how it compares to other divisions?

A: From top to bottom, it is a very, very competitive division. I think the records of the teams indicate that. I think week in and week out when our division goes out and plays against other teams in the NFL, it’s going to be a battle. I think geographically the way the teams are located, makes for great rivalries. I’ve had an opportunity to go down and play Tampa and Carolina and you see the fans getting energized. Falcon fans make the trip to Carolina and Tampa and I’m sure there will be some Saints fans that make the trip up here to Atlanta this week. I think it’s very competitive and I think it’s a difficult division that plays very good offense and defense.

Q: Do you have any sense halfway through of how many wins it’s going to take to get a playoff spot in this division and how many teams from this division could make the playoffs?

A: I can’t even think about past this week. We try to break the season down into four quarters and that’s the furthest time horizon that I look at. We’re beginning to start the third quarter of our season, the Saints are up this week. We do know that of the next three games after this week, that two of the next three games will be at home and that’s kind of how we break this down. I think it’s really too early to talk about anything like that.

Q: It seems like teams have keyed on Will Smith this year. With Charles Grant being out, is he a guy that you will have to key on more?

A: Yes. I think Will is an outstanding defensive end and you have to know where he is on all snaps. I’ve been very impressed with the job coach (Gary) Gibbs and his staff has done with that defense, not only Will, but I think Jonathan Vilma has been a great addition to the defense. I think you’ve added Bobby McCray who I had in Jacksonville. Bobby had a ten sack year for us one season. We know he can rush the passer. I see where they’re moving him around a little bit and getting him some rushes inside to create some mismatches. The linebacking crew with (Scott) Shanle and (Scott) Fujita I think are good, hard nosed football players. I think it’s a good group from top to bottom.

Q: How has the addition of Michael Turner aided in Matt Ryan’s development?

A: I think not just for Matt Ryan, but for any quarterback, when you’re able to run the football and force teams to add a defender to the front, whether in playing an eight man front or adding a guy for depth to stop the run, it’s going to open up opportunities for the passing game, where now there aren’t going to be opportunities to roll to a certain receiver or play double coverage. I think when you’re able to run the ball efficiently, now you’re able to take the opportunities to take shots down the field, because you’re going to get a lot of one on one opportunities.


Atlanta QB Matt Ryan Q-A

Q: You hope for good things when you get drafted as the third pick, but could you have asked for a better scenario?

A: You don’t know what to expect coming in. As a rookie, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job so far. With that said, I think I have a lot of room for improvement to do. That’s been my focus. I haven’t thought too much about what we’ve done in the past. I’ve been focusing more on this week and trying to get better.

Q: There have obviously been comparisons of you to some other highly drafted quarterbacks in their first year and there have been comparisons to you having a better statistical year than Peyton Manning in his rookie year. How hard has the transition to the NFL actually been for you?

A: I think it’s been a pretty good adjustment. There’s a lot of difficult things that you have to learn in the NFL. I think I’ve been taking it in stride and learning things week in and week out. I’ve been applying them to the practice field and I feel like I’ve been getting better. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment. There are certainly a lot of things that you have to learn when you come into this league and I still have a long way to go.

Q: Do you think you’ve made it look easier than it actually is?

A: I don’t know what other people think, but I think that my only impression is that when I look back at the tape, I feel like I can do a lot of improving.

Q: What do you need to improve on?

A: I can continue to get better in terms of my decision making. I think there’s times when I’ve made decisions where if I continue to go through the progressions, I can find a better spot and you want to continue to get better at getting the ball out of your hand quicker, because the quicker you get it out, the longer you give your wide receivers, tight ends and running backs time to make a play. That’s something I’m continually trying to work on.

Q: A lot of the veterans on the team have gone through some tumultuous situations the past few years. Have they talked about how different things have been this year?

A: It’s tough for me to say that because I really wasn’t here. Since I’ve been here, I think it’s been positive and upbeat and everybody has been working as hard as they possibly can to try and have some success. I think the big thing is that it’s been fun. Everybody’s been having a lot of fun and everybody looks forward to coming into work and trying to get better week in and week out. I can’t compare it to the past and can’t really say what other guys have said. That’s just what I’ve seen so far.

Q: Because of that history with Michael Vick there and the quarterback position, do you feel a lot of pressure coming in?

A: I haven’t worried about it. I haven’t thought about it too much. For me, it’s really just been about trying to do everything I can since I’ve gotten here to become a better player and I can’t really worry about what happened here in the past. It’s just about trying to be the best player I can be.

Q: What players do you try to be like?

A: Tom Brady has a couple of Super Bowl rings, so that’s obviously something you want to have. I haven’t been in the league a while, but that’s the biggest thing. I think everybody loves a winner and someone who has won championships as a quarterback. That’s what I’ve been impressed with with guys in the league.

Q: Is there a quarterback in the league who you feel you have a similar skill set to?

A: I don’t know. I think that I’ve never tried to play exactly like someone. I think that when you watch tape, you look at players that do things very well. When we watch tape of the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees has done a great job down there this year. He’s made as good decisions as anybody I’ve seen on tape. I’ve been impressed with a bunch of people, but really I don’t try to emulate anybody. I try to go out there and play my best.

Q: You have a couple of good skill players in Michael Turner and Roddy White. Have they helped you grow in the NFL?

A: Yes, without question, I think that it’s not only been Michael Turner and Roddy White, but we’ve had guys on offense as well as our offensive line have played really well. They’ve been physical and have pass blocked really well all year. Our other wide receivers, Mike Jenkins and Harry Douglas and Brian Finneran have all stepped up at different times and made some plays, so when you play the quarterback position, you rely on the guys around you a lot and I think that’s the biggest reason we’ve had some success this year, because everybody on our offense has been playing well.

Q: How has the top ranked rushing game helped you out, specifically with a guy like Michael Turner?

A: I think any quarterback in this league would love to have the number one rushing attack behind them. It’s been a huge help since I’ve gotten into the league because it makes defenses drop more guys down into the box and gives you some more one on one matchups outside. We have the types of receivers that have beaten one on one coverage this year and in the past. I think that’s why we find some success.

Q: Doesn’t it also take the pressure off you specifically?

A: Yes. I think anytime you have a good running game, regardless of being a rookie or a veteran, that definitely helps the quarterback.

Q: What do you think of the NFC South so far in terms of the style of play, the division and how it compares to other divisions?

A: With the two games we’ve played in division against Carolina and Tampa Bay, I know they’ve been tough, physical games. Both teams on the defensive side of the ball did a great job against us and played physical. They were tough games. I think it’s a great division. They’re talented teams from top to bottom and it’s a lot of fun to play in.

Q: Do you have any sense halfway through of how many wins it’s going to take to get a playoff spot in this division and how many teams from this division could make the playoffs?

A: No, at this point, I haven’t even thought about that. It’s just about trying to get a win this week and take care of business on a week to week basis. That’s kind of down the road stuff and I don’t think any team is concerned with that at this time?

Q: Is there anything that you see in your mind that distinguishes the NFC South from the other divisions?

A: Not really. I think it’s a good division. It’s a tough division and I think you can see that by the records of the four teams in it, but in terms of distinguishing factors, you see a lot of the same things throughout the league.

Q: Do you think that Mike Smith is kind of flying under the radar as a head coach considering where he’s brought this club?

A: He certainly does a great job with our team. He brings a lot of energy. He’s passionate about what he does, he loves the game of football and he treats us like men. I think everybody respects that and enjoys playing for Mike.


Here is some audio for your listening enjoyment. In order it is wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson, special teams coach Greg McMahon, and Drew Brees.



Scouting report: Saints (4-4) at Falcons (5-3)

Red Hot Falcons Await Saints

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