"For an injury update from today's practice, Jeff Charleston (rib) was full; Jason Kyle (ankle/knee) was full; Jahri Evans (toe) was full; Malcolm Jenkins (ankle) was limited; Jeremy Shockey(shoulder) was limited; Leigh Torrence (hamstring) was limited; Jonathan Casillas (hip) was limited; Thomas Morstead (ankle) was limited; Scott Fujita (calf) did not practice. Today was first and second down, our base installation."
How is Morstead?
"I think he's going to be alright. He punted today. He did more today than we thought he might be able to. We put him at limited, but he feels a lot better. I was encouraged with his progress."
Do you expect to see Fujita practicing this week?
"We'll see. We're hopeful; we're day to day. We'll see where Scott's at tomorrow with his calf. We held him today."
Did Morstead get hurt on a kickoff?
"It ended up being a tackle. But like I said, I was encouraged with his progress today."
With so many weapons on this offense, how important is it for Drew Brees to keep everyone involved?
"I think just in the nature of what we're trying to do offensively, we're trying to do a number of things and with his progression and who we get out in the pattern, all those things are important so you're not one-dimensional to one player. I think the other players understand that."
Were you considering any moves as the trade deadline came up yesterday?
"Not really. I think we're set and we feel good about this roster."
Have you ever considered running the Wildcat offense?
"I've been asked that a lot. I think there are a number of teams that dabble in that phase of offense and the team we're playing this week runs it and executes it at a much different level. When teams begin to look at or try to study and possibly emulate someone else, this is certainly one of the teams that you want to put the film on. They do a great job of it."
Has Jabari Greer been better than you anticipated when you signed him?
"We went after in Jabari in free agency to give us another quality cornerback. He's come in and he has competed well. He has good transitional speed, good ball skills, and he has done a real good job for us. We're encouraged with his play. Week to week he has been very consistent."
How has Remi Ayodele played and what did you see in him when you signed him last year?
"He's physical. He has done a good job getting his weight down and he has really found his niche at that nose position. We rotate a lot of guys in and out on the defensive line, but he's one of those guys that has gotten better since we acquired him last year. To his credit, he continues to work and continues to improve."
You said that last week Kendrick Clancy was a healthy inactive. Is Remi the starter at that position now?
"Right now we feel like we have two guys that are able to play at that position. Each week we have to de-activate ‘X' number of players. Kendrick is finally getting back to where he's close to 100%. Last week he was probable for the game and yet we just couldn't get him up because of the numbers in regards to our game day activations."
What is the biggest impact that Gregg Williams has made? Is it in preparation or style of play?
"It's hard to point to one specific area. If you tried to statistically say what's different, we're taking the ball away and we have been able to minimize the big play opportunities that had plagued us. But I think more importantly than that, there's an environment and the way that we're playing, Gregg and his staff have done a real good job of fostering that and being very demanding and yet flexible enough to realize who we're playing each week and answering the challenge each week of slowing down the different offensive looks we get."
Do you sometimes have to tone him down a little during practice?
How important has the turnaround you've made in time of possession?
"I think it's important. It helps you play better defense. There are two statistics that go with that though - the third down conversion statistic, both offensively and defensively have a direct tie to time of possession and winning those third down battles, getting an offense off the field and staying on offensively allows you to run more plays. The turnovers allow you to run more plays and defend less plays. When you start doing those things well, I think the time of possession and all those things contribute to that statistic. Certainly it's an important number."
How important is it this week to hold on to the ball for more time?
"I think that you have to defend the run. They do a good job; they're first in the NFL in rushing the football, and that's really not by accident. They are right now running the ball better than any other team in the league. They're also a team that's in the top ten defending the run. Those numbers can relate right to time of possession and that's a big challenge for us."
"There's some flexibility in the course of a game. I thought we had pretty good rhythm and I thought the way those guys got their snaps worked out. Each week that can vary some though. There isn't an exact formula, but I thought they handled those roles pretty well."
Being an offensive guy, are you surprised with the success that the Dolphins have had with the Wildcat in the NFL?
"No, I think they're doing a great job with it. You have dangerous runners, talented runners that are involved in it and it's well coached. They're very thorough in their preparation so I'm not surprised."
What added dimension does Robert Meachem give you with his big play ability?
"He has really improved. A lot has been said about his health, but he's playing with a lot of confidence now. The one thing he does is that he's able to make plays above his shoulders so when those balls that are thrown up - we've seen this against Detroit and we saw it last weekend against New York, those proverbial jump-balls - he's able to high point and does a good job of coming down with those. He's fast; he's physical; and it's great to have him as one of the guys that we can locate each week in a plan and put in a plan. He's pretty good with the ball in his hands and we have to keep looking at ways to get him the football."
Are those things the things you saw in him when you drafted him?
"Yes. The one thing you saw on him on his tape at Tennessee was that he was very good after the catch. You saw a player that was very explosive when he caught a hitch or caught a screen, and he was able to turn a five-yard throw into a big play. To his credit, he has gotten better each year and has been able to incorporate new things into his skill set. He can run and he has become a lot better receiver rather than just a target. That has helped him a lot."
What are your impressions of Chad Henne?
"He's a talented player. He's a guy that we liked a lot when he was drafted. He has won a lot of games when you look in his past. He has a big arm; he has good size; he's smart; and you can see his location. I think he has a bright future. He's a talented player."
Brees always seems to find the open receiver. What makes him so good at that?
"I think his ability to decide quickly - from the time the ball is snapped, and obviously there's a lot of pre-snap that goes into the recognition of each defense and then his ability to set and deliver. He's someone that studies very hard. He has good feet and that's one of the things that helps him in regards to moving a little bit in the pocket. When you combine all of those things, you get what you have and that's a quarterback that makes good decisions very quickly."
You've opened the last few games with some hurry-up offense and no-huddle. Is that just you trying to dictate the pace of the game to the defense?
"We've tried throughout the course of the game to have a handful of plays that we're able to run at any given time right at the line of scrimmage. You're just always trying to change the pace if you can. We have done it so much that our players understand it. Oftentimes it's really nothing fancy in regards to the play design as it is just getting back up to the line of scrimmage and trying to get the next play off. It's something that we have done for a while and we've incorporated it really into any point in the game."
How much do you attribute the early success you're having to the scripted plays and being able to run through those during the week?
"We usually script those plays toward the end of the week, but when you do eight plays to start or ten plays or whatever it is we put together each week, it's hard to stay on that script because of down and distance. You want to pay attention to what's happening in the game, but it's really a credit to the players in starting that way. I've been involved in games where you have your first group of plays and then all of a sudden you're not having success. It really gets down to the execution. The purpose of those is really to get them to understand the night before here's how we want to start the game, and they're able to sink their teeth into the first eight or nine probable plays and it helps and gives them an early study of what to expect to come out. You can't go real long there but we try to put eight, ten, twelve plays down to start a game and review them Saturday at the hotel. By the time the week is over, you get an idea of what looks good and what we have done well. The other purpose is to maybe try to gather some information as to how they're going to play certain formations. There are a few things you're doing it for, but to their credit - talking about the offense - the execution is really what makes them successful."
Do you stick with the scripted plays no matter the situation?
"Generally. If you get to a third-and-one, you might get off of it to run a short-yardage play. Sometimes you get down in the red zone - we played Detroit and our first possession took place in an area of the field that really wasn't suited for some of the plays that were on that list. So it's not etched in stone."
Have you been around a team that has been hotter than this team before?
"Just looking back, when you end up on a team that gets into the postseason generally there's a stretch where you play good football and you stack together wins. You referenced the 2000 Giants team and that was the case there where we were able to stack wins together. Even in '03 with Bill (Parcells) in Dallas, after losing the first game we stacked some wins together. That's generally what happens when you look at a team that is in the postseason and winning double-digit games. I said after the game that it's good to start 5-0, and obviously we feel good about that record right now, yet we still understand that there's a lot of work ahead of us. It's real early in the season."
Do you have to have that conversation with your team every week or is it understood?
"I think it's understood. There are times when you bring out points of emphasis in regards to the next opponent and make sure the focus is shifted. You've heard me say before that in this league you get roughly 24 hours to digest a win or a loss and then you better get ready for the next game you're playing. That's something we have really worked hard at."
Q: A lot is being made of the Wildcat. What makes it so effective for you guys?
A: I think the people that are handling the football for us. Certainly with Ronnie (Brown), Ricky (Williams), Pat (White), with any of the people handling the football, Pat Cobbs before his injury...Any of the people handling the football for us were people that we trusted and second of all that I think are pretty good players. I also think that there's some misdirection involved in the Wildcat. It helps create a few blocking angles for the people up front.
Q: Is it the single wing or a derivative of the single wing?
A: No. I would say it's an offshoot of the single wing. I think that some of the things we are doing are a little bit different than the good old single wing. I would say it's a little bit different.
Q: Do you guys take pride in that a lot of teams try to replicate and duplicate this offense, but you guys are the most successful?
A: I don't think we take great pride in anybody else running it, particularly when it shows up against us at times. I do think from our end, the guys take great pride in it. It's something that we've been able to put our arms around here. It's a small part of what we do. It's not everything we do, but it certainly gets a lot of attention.
Q: What went through your mind in deciding to run it?
A: I think we are just looking for a little bit of an identity at the time. We were 0-2. We had just gotten beaten pretty badly by Arizona at Arizona and this was something that we had spent some time working on at OTA's in the spring, no different than probably anybody else spends some time working on some things they're not sure that they're going to run during the season. At that time, Ronnie Brown was coming off of an ACL, Ricky (Williams) coming off of a shoulder surgery. We weren't sure if we had the pieces or not. After the Arizona ballgame we knew a little bit more obviously about our team. We were trying to get Ricky and Ronnie on the field at the same time and this was the way to do that and at the same time help our offensive line create a little bit of space.
Q: Did the success of the package in college get you and your staff thinking about running it?
A: Sure, if it was something that had no success, I wouldn't be all for it one way or the other. I'm one of those guys that needs evidence. I need to see it to believe it. We studied the tape; we look at some of the options we thought we might have had to get this thing run. Our problem was we had no idea about how people were defending it and we still don't have any idea how people defend it, meaning every week, there's something different. We're trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Q: Since repetitions are at a premium at a practice, is part of the strategy to force an opponent to spend practice time on it?
A: Sure. I think you have to spend some time on it no different than the time we have to spend on the amount of play action pass that people might have in any of those things that people are doing. You take a look at what the opponent is doing and how much they're doing it and that's the amount of time you can afford to spend on it. Just because we run the Wildcat and maybe we run it nine or ten plays, doesn't mean you can devote 30 or 40 reps during the week at it. I think it's a little bit hard to do that, but you do have to spend time on it.
Q: While you watch other teams try to defend it, do you also have to stay ahead of the curve offensively?
A: Yes, the nice thing about it and I think one of the things that helped us this year is that we had about 100 plays whereas it was on film for the whole league to see last year. They were studying it, which I'm sure everybody did in the offseason as we went out in preseason and some of these things. The more people you see running it across the league, the more evidence there is on tape of how some people might do something against it. When we get in a game for whatever reason it never quite looks the same.
Q: Are you surprised or do you have a response to when some analysts knock it or say it isn't real football?
A: Nothing surprises me anymore. I think that what I've learned in this league yards are hard to come by, so are wins. Anyway we can get yards and get closer to wins, we're going to do it. I really could care less about what anyone else has to say.
Q: When you put on the tape and watch the Saints on offense and defense, what is the one thing that jumps out at you?
A: I think their team speed is one of the things that jumps out at you, also the fact that they are a very physical team on both sides of the football. I think their front on defense is very, very physical. I think their front seven people do ian outstanding job against the run and they get after you pretty good in the pass game. I think on the other side of the ball that offensive line is really a physical group. They do a nice job in there, a good hardball run game that they got going and do a great job of protecting the passer. I think those are the things that jump out at you, never mind the weapons. I think they have so many weapons down there and to me it all starts with the quarterback. He's an outstanding player.
Q: How has Chad Henne handled the transition into the starting role? Did him starting for four years at Michigan help?
A: I hope so. I think it did. I think that one of the things is, it's more with these college kids coming out of these big programs like Chad has, they've played in some big football games before so the first time you roll them out there and they're in front of a big crowd. That is really the issue. What might be the issue is the team speed you're playing against, certainly the level of player. Even there, with Michigan playing Ohio State or any of those people you would think it's a pretty darn good competition out there on the field. It think that's been certainly a help, but I think one of the biggest helps that Chad Henne has had here is that I think he is really well coached and I think Chad Pennington did a marvelous job in helping with this process.
Q: What helped lead to your team's turnaround?
A: I think our players have done a good job of staying the course and keeping their head down. They understand that hard work is what gets you there. They understand that the way to turn things around is to put your head down and keep grinding. Out on the practice field there are some things we know we need to get better at as a football team. We continue to try to do that each week as we go along. Some of those football games, could have, should haves, would haves, all those good things. We felt like we did some decent things in some of those games, but we didn't win and at that time as I told them, we're a 0-3 football team. You are what your record says you are. You're a 0-3 team. We had to do something to change it. These guys to their credit, just kept grinding away and never lost focus on what we were trying to do, never worried about the second guessing and all those things, just kept their head down and concentrated on one win at the time and that was against Buffalo.
Q: What does a happy and healthy Ricky Williams mean to your program?
A: It means a bunch. I think first of all, the relationship that Ricky and Ronnie (Brown) have back there is outstanding. The fact that Ricky since the day I walked through the door here, my slate was clean with him, as I said, it was 0-0 kind of coming into this thing and Ricky has done nothing but be an outstanding professional since the day I walked through the door here, so I think what it does for our football team is it gives us another veteran leader on this team that has been through some of this before and sets a real good example for our young players.
Q: Is he playing at the best level you've been at right now?
A: Yes, he really is. A long time ago, I had a chance to play him in Thanksgiving day when I was in Dallas. Sean (Payton) was with me on that staff at the time. Ricky ran up and down the field that day, just killed us. Getting a chance to see him right now with two full offseason programs under his belt, certainly I think he's in the best shape he's been in an awful long time. I think that this right now that time is the best I've seen him.
Q: You spent time with Sean in Dallas. Is there too much made sometimes of coaches that have a lot of familiarity with each other?
A: I'm sure it is. Sean, first of all, I have a great deal or respect for him and I know he knows that. I have not been with Sean in a few years and he has not been with me in a few years. They're doing different things. He has his team going one way. I'm trying to get my team going in that direction. We have been together for a little while. We're good friends, but I think some of that stuff can get overplayed?
Q: What's one memory that stands out about coach Payton?
A: Sean and I. There's a few. I should keep those to myself.
Q: If I forced you to use one word to describe him, what word if you were describing him to another person that had no idea who he was, what would the word be?
Q: Would you consider him an evil genius on offense?
A: I consider him an evil genius, yes.
Q: You look at the New England game last year and that's when the Wildcat burst on the scene. Are there games where you haven't used it?
A: Yes. There's been some games that we haven't used it. Maybe we didn't think via film we had the right look, those types of things, but usually if we're preparing it, we'll put it out there for a player to see how people do. It just depends on how things are going in the course of the game and how people defend it with whether or not we use it. We might have two plays worth, we might have 15 plays worth. We might have no plays.
Q: Do you want to tell us how many plays you're going to run it against New Orleans?
A: Definitely not.
Q: Last year Miami might have snuck up on teams. Do you see teams treating you any differently?
A: I don't really think so. I think the last year, coming off a 1-15 season and trying to get things going in the right direction, whether we snuck up on people, we didn't sneak up on people. It's my feeling initially that if you show up and your teams not prepared to play than shame on you. I just think that in some of those ballgames our guys really had to grind into the fourth quarter to win games. I don't want to take anything away from my players. I think that my players do a tremendous job in doing that to change the culture. You guys went through it down there yourselves and now you're sitting in a situation that's pretty darn good. When you're trying to change a culture, you need to give your players some credit. I don't do it very often, but in that case, I will. The NFL set them up for us and we were able to go out and play the games and do what we needed to do and win some football games. Here we are a year later and whatever they say, toughest schedule, whatever the case is, that's what you do this for. We're in the business of trying to win football games. Whatever it takes for us to do that, we're going to try to do that and we're not really worried about who we're playing or any of those things.
Q: Is one of the benefits of the Wildcat being able to maximize what you have playerwise?
A: Sure. Anytime I can get Ricky (Williams), Ronnie (Brown), any of those people out there at the same time, that helps me instead of worrying about how many touches somebody's going to get here, there or any of those types of things. So, I have Ricky, Ronnie, my quarterback. I have all of those people out there. That helps me.
From the New Orleans Saints official website
Sean said that last year after the Bucs game in the rain that you decided to be dedicated to running the ball more. What has that meant to you as an offense and what did you learn from that game?
"If there's one game that I specifically remember walking out of - and obviously I was frustrated for a lot of reasons, the fact that we didn't win and the fact that we had a chance to drive down and we threw the ball a ton of times and I ended up throwing a pick at the end of the game. Just from talking to everybody and getting the general feel of the linemen and everybody, we all felt like if we want to be the type of offense that we want to be, there has to be that type of balance. Our ability to not only run the ball effectively, but situationally in short-yardage we have to be able to run the ball to convert. I recall in that game having a third down-and-one and a fourth down-and-one where we could've gotten some points. I definitely remember that game as being somewhat of a turning point in that regard. And then obviously it's something that we've worked extremely hard at through the offseason, coming up with that set of run plays and that mindset to carry forward into this season and make sure that we're effective with that. I feel like we have done a good job with that thus far."
What does that do to a defense when you're balanced on offense?
"Obviously when you're running the ball effectively, defenses feel like in order to stop you they need to put an extra man down around the front. So you're talking about taking a safety out of the field and putting him in the box to help with run defense and now you're leaving your corners one-on-one with one middle of the field safety and you're exposing yourself somewhat to the passing game, and I'm an opportunist for big plays in the passing game. Then the more effective you are at throwing the football, the more they feel like they have to take that safety out of the box and put him deep again so that they can protect against big plays in the passing game and now you have the numbers again to run the ball effectively. If you're able to do both, it's kind of pick your poison - what's the defense going to do and that puts them in a tough spot."
Does that take the edge off of aggressive, attack-style defenses also?
"There are pressures that are considered run pressures and others that are considered just getting after the quarterback, but all in all, if you are able to hit them with big plays and able to run the ball effectively in short-yardage and able to throw enough at them to scare them a little bit, then it adds a whole other element to your philosophy as an offense and your ability to be aggressive."
What is your thought process from the snap of how you find open receivers?
"Obviously there's the play call, and according to that play you have somewhat of a progression of one to two to three, or if it's this coverage I'm going to read this side of the field or if it's this, I'm going to read this side of the field. Obviously there's that thought walking up to the ball of which type of play it is and then you get up there and it's your pre-snap look. What's the front? Does that give you any indicators as to pressure? Then you're looking at the secondary and feeling the linebackers. What's their body language telling you? You can look at them and see that something's not right, it doesn't look like it usually does so maybe here comes some kind of pressure. You're looking at the defensive backs and finding your match-up. I like Colston on this guy or I like Lance on this guy or Shockey on this guy. There are all those thoughts that go through your head according to the play and then once the ball is snapped, you just kind of confirm what you have seen. Maybe all of a sudden they do something else and that might switch up your thought process a little bit, but for the most part I'd say I know where the ball is going before the ball is snapped."
Why was it good to have Lance Moore back playing like Lance last week?
"Because Lance can be a big part of what we do. He's a guy I have a ton of confidence in. He's a true professional. There's not much that Lance can't do. No matter where he is on the field, what receiver position he's playing, what route he's running - I count on him on a lot and there's not a time where I wouldn't go to him. He's a clutch guy and like I said, a guy I have a lot of confidence in him."
Is Devery Henderson having the best season he's had since you've been here?
"I guess I haven't thought about it other than he has been where he's supposed to be and he has made a lot of plays. I'd say he's farther along now than he ever has been, just in regards to the fact that he plays multiple positions according to the personnel group. He's really becoming more of a complete route-runner, ball-catcher, deep threat - all those things - a good blocker in the run game. I'd say he's as good a player now as he has ever been."
What is it that he's doing with his blocking in the running game?
"First of all, it's just knowing who to block and blocking the right guy. And then it's just very much a mindset. I think he takes on a pretty aggressive mentality and takes pride in getting down there and shadowing a guy, getting in front of him, helping our running backs be able to get to that second level and turn a 10-yard gain into a 25-yard gain."
What type of challenge does Miami's defense present?
"They're extremely physical. And any time you play a 3-4 team, the personnel that it takes to play in that system - you look at guys like Jason Taylor and Joey Porter that have been guys that easily could put their hands down and play defensive end but all of a sudden they're these stand-up, pass-rush linebackers and they bring a physical presence. Both safeties are very aggressive, get up in the front a lot, make a lot of tackles. Both corners are very solid. I think all the way around, it's probably the most complete defense that we have played against in regards from man to man. You just don't look at them and see any weaknesses."
How do you channel the success you had last week against the Giants defense into confidence this game against the Dolphins?
"That was a big win for us last week in a big atmosphere, a big-time game. I think that the more games like that you play in, the more confidence you build and the more momentum you gain and that's what you can carry over into the next opponent. Anything else is just wiping the slate clean each week. It's a new team, they run a totally different scheme, really offensively and defensively. For us it's right back to the drawing board in regards to game plan and how we're going to attack these guys. The fact is that we don't look at the Miami team that played the first three weeks of the season; these guys in the last couple of weeks have been as strong as any team out there. For us to be a good team and a great team -which is what we're trying to be - we have to be able to put victories back-to-back against really steady and tough opponents. We knocked the first one in the Giants and now we have to go to Miami and take care of business there."
What advantages does Robert Meachem seem to give your offense?
"Meach is another one of those guys who every day out just continues to improve and I think he's playing as well now as he ever has and hopefully that will continue in regards to being a complete receiver. He has always been one of these raw talents, but now it's becoming a little bit more polished and there are a lot of things that he does extremely well. He's another guy that I have a lot of confidence in. I love his mentality; the way he approaches work every day. He has really learned how to be a professional. He learned that from some of those other wide receivers and being around the veteran guys on our team. I just see his role ever-increasing as we go along here."
As a quarterback, are you surprised that an offense like the Wildcat can be successful in the NFL?
"It's the fact that they can be traditional. Chad Henne, with the way that he's playing right now - I watched the Monday night game against the Jets and I thought he played great. So you have that in their traditional offense, and then all of a sudden you throw Pat White in the game, which is a whole other element. And then all of a sudden Ronnie Brown is in the backfield with Ricky Williams coming in motion, there are just so many things to prepare for and there's only so much time throughout a week where you can prepare for that kind of stuff. Obviously they have the ability to do a lot of things. Anybody could run the Wildcat if they really wanted to, but we're talking about the guys that pretty much invented it in this league, so they run it better than anybody. I think we've all seen the effectiveness it has had. Obviously the guy taking the snap - Ronnie Brown - is a crucial part of it in regards to the timing of the snap and the decision to hand it, the decision to keep it, the decision to run, the decision to throw - with all those decisions that he has to make, you need a smart and capable guy doing that and he has been very successful doing that."
Would you want to run it?
"If it helps us win, then I'm all for it."
Have you caught a pass in your career?
"I have. I've caught a couple in college and in the NFL. For touchdowns."
Would taking an early lead help neutralize their Wildcat offense?
"At some point you have to throw the ball a little bit more if you're down, but if that's what you are then that's what you are. If that's what works and that's what you have confidence in, then that's what you do. I'm not sure what their game plan is going to be, but when you watch film and look at the statistics, you'd say that we're going to see it quite a bit."
With as many weapons as you have on this team, how important is it for you to keep everyone involved?
"I think it's important just from the standpoint of everybody having a role on the team. Your role might be blocking for 50 plays out of the game and running 10 clear-out routes and then you're going to get that one call that's your play. Throughout the week and throughout the game you're just busting your butt hoping that you're going to put yourself in that position to make that big play, knowing that it could be critical. And also understanding that your role as a blocker and as a guy that's clearing out for others, that's important to the success of the team and you'd like to be rewarded with a call your way. I think by being able to spread the ball around and being able to have calls for every guy, I think that's good. Throughout the week, I think guys earn that right by the way the way that they do the other things. All in all, when everybody is getting opportunities and everybody is touching the ball, then you go into every game saying, ‘Hey, today could be my day. I could be the one catching 10 catches for a buck-fifty and two touchdowns.' And then the next week it could be somebody else and the next week somebody else. You just never know and that's what's exciting about it."
How hard would it be for you guys to play at this level for an entire season?
"God-willing we keep everybody healthy and just continue to take the mindset that we need to get better - which we do. There are things that happen in every game that are certainly not perfect that in some cases if we weren't up by three touchdowns they'd get you beat - this penalty or that mental error. But anything's possible. I feel like this is a special group. We could do something that has never been done before."
You have been in the positive in turnover margin all year. How important is that against a team that focuses on ball control as much as Miami does?
"It's really important. If you just look strictly at statistics, you say that these guys possess the ball for a long period of time - more so than their opponents - so the opportunities are less and you need to take advantage of those opportunities and get points. But then again you can't take on such an aggressive mindset that you're going to force things and be giving the ball to them on a short field and putting your defense in a tough spot and giving them opportunities. That's why this is a very tough opponent, because you have to take all those things into consideration. But the fact is that it's still one play at a time; it's converting third downs, keeping drives alive, getting points and then putting an extra emphasis on taking care of the football."
Beyond talent and coaching, is there something that makes your offensive line as good as they have been this year?
"There are no selfish guys in that group. They're just a gritty, tough, at times nasty O-line, and that's what you want. They look out for each other. I think the continuity there has been very key. Any time you look at a solid offensive line around the NFL, there's continuity there. Those guys have been together for a while. They know and have great feel for one another. They have great trust for one another. Typically that's the position that takes the longest to develop as a unit because it's the largest number of guys on the field as a unit. Plus what I see with our guys is, they don't just come in the facility and are buddy-buddy and then leave and everybody goes their separate ways. These guys are hanging out all the time; they're doing charity events together. We have an O-line charity - how many other offensive lines around the league have their own charity where they go out and do things for the community? They have O-line dinners, they have all kinds of stuff that they do together. When you have that bond and you have that friendship off the field, that carries over to the field and it just makes it better."
From the New Orleans Saints official website
Q: Right off the bat about the Wildcat, how much do you like it and how much is it working for you guys?
A: I think that our stats show that we've been successful doing the direct snap stuff and it's been a good part of our offense. I think it puts a lot of pressure on defenses to figure it out.
Q: Do you like it as a running back?
A: My thing is Ronnie's (Brown) the starting guy, but when we run some of that stuff I get to get in the games. I'm all for being on the field. We've had so much success that it's good.
Q: Why is your team more successful than any other at running the package?
A: I think we believe in it. I think we were the first to do it a lot. I think a lot of teams see it and think it can be a good wrinkle and they throw it in there, but I think for us, we had success very early and we made it a part of our offense and so I think we practice it more than other teams do.
Q: Do you take great pride in the Wildcat?
A: I think we take great pride in everything we do being successful. I don't think the Wildcat is any different.
Q: How comfortable are you in Miami right now?
A: I would like to be better than 2-3, but we're playing better these past few weeks and the season's starting to look up for us.
Q: Does playing New Orleans motivate you more than some other teams you might play since you played there?
A: I try to get up for every game. None of the same players are there from when I played. It was nice in the preseason to go to New Orleans and see some of the fans and be a part of it. The Superdome is a great place to play and New Orleans is a great city. I think them coming here and I don't know that many people on the team, so it's another team coming in.
Q: You recently received a contract extension. How much longer do you want to play?
A: I don't know. If they want to keep giving me paychecks, I'm sure I'll keep playing.
Q: What's been the difference for your team the last few weeks?
A: I think we had a lot of confidence coming up off the preseason going 4-0. Even though we lost our first three games, I think the whole time we still had confidence we were a good team and we just had to find a way to win and I think we had some things go our way and we put a complete ballgame together. Now we're at a point coming up against probably the best team in the NFL right now in the New Orleans Saints and it's an opportunity for us to show ourselves how good we are. It's a big challenge for us with an offense that scores a lot of points and a defense that puts a lot of pressure on the offense. We're busting our butts trying to get ready.
Q: As your team being the inventor of the Wildcat, what kinds of problems does this offense provide for a defense in your opinion?
A: I don't think we look at it that way. I think the way we approach it is we try to get our best athletes on the field and in positions to make plays. For us, Ronnie (Brown) and myself are on the field at the same time and I think our offensive line has been playing great this season. We think just that challenge right there, teams have to prepare.
Q: Do you devote segments of practice to the Wildcat?
A: I don't mean a lot more time. I imagine other teams throw it in as a wrinkle, but we run different formations. We have a bunch of different formations we run to us. The Wildcat stuff isn't something separate. It's just a part of our offense. If we like it, we'll just run it in practice with the other stuff.
Q: When you look at the Wildcat it seems like 90 percent of the time it's the run. What is so difficult about defending it?
A: That's true. I don't want to take anything away from our offensive line, because in the Wildcat and out of the Wildcat we've been doing a really good job of running the ball when it comes down to it. My guess is for the most part is that NFL defenses aren't used to seeing it. It hasn't been around long enough for defensive coaches to have a really good handle for what's going on, but even our coach says as time goes on and we do it more, we're going to have to deal with the law of diminishing returns and have to find other creative ways to get our playmakers in open spaces. We know that if we block it up and do a good job, it doesn't matter what we call. We'll have success.
Q: Do you go into a game with a certain amount of plays in the Wildcat or do you wait and see how things unfold?
A: With coach (Dan) Henning you never know. It basically is however the game unfolds. If teams come in and have a good gameplan against it, we're not going to try to run it to death, but if teams have trouble with it, we're going to get the most out of it.
From the New Orleans Saints official website
(On watching the New Orleans Saints defense) -
"I think the extra week studying their defense and [watching] them early with the NY Giants helped us out; get a good picture of what they are, especially against a team like [the Giants] and see what they are going to bring to us."
(On what concerns him the most about the Saints Defense) -
"They definitely pressured [New York Giants quarterback] Eli [Manning this past] Sunday, made him make some decisions that normally a quarterback wouldn't make. They are going to pressure the quarterback and put pressure on him because they want to get the ball back to their offense as quick as possible because they are a threat. They are going to pressure you and come at you quick."
(On how much confidence he has after handling the pressure that the Jets threw at him) -
"Definitely gives you confidence but it is all about execution. They will bring some different stunts on us, different blitzes and we need to be aware where they are at and where their safeties are at because they have good safeties and corners to cover. We will have to evaluate them and see where they are at."
(On if he feels like a different quarterback after the Jets game) -
"Well, I mean you definitely feel different because you won a big game, but you need to go right back to where you started. Preparation was the key to that game, understanding where their blitzes where coming from, where to go with the ball. We put that game behind us now; we are worried about New Orleans. This is a big step for us, this is an undefeated team coming into [here] and we need to take care of it."
(On if he talked to Bill Parcells after the Jets game) -
"No, I haven't. I didn't get a chance."
(On the confidence the team has to come from behind after the success against the Jets) -
"As a quarterback you always take each series, take each step for granted. Really, you have to understand where you are in the game, how to make decisions if you are ahead or behind. I think just playing the game out steady. Really focus in on that play at a time, really helps you come from behind and win when you're ahead."
(On setting his ego aside, much like Chad Pennington did, when he has to come off the field when the offense runs the Wildcat) -
"When you think about it, it is part of our run game, it is part of our offense and how we throw off the defense. For us to go off on the sideline for a couple of plays, we have adjusted to that during the week in preparation, so we are use to it. We are accustomed to how we run our offense."
(On how when he exits the field for the Wildcat, it is almost a bonus timeout) -
"You get a play off and get a [physical] picture, kind of like when we come to sidelines after a series, you get a picture of the defense and really understand what they are giving us in different formations and different plays. You get a chirp in the ear from the coach and then you go back out there and execute."
(On if he feels like he is in the rhythm of being the starting quarterback now, meaning the amount of meeting time, film time, and overall time spent in the building) -
"Yea, it is two games underneath my belt; I am the starter so preparation is the key during the week and really acting like it. Really being the leader in the offense is showing. The guys are looking up to me in the huddle. It feels comfortable and I'm getting use to it."
(On what his schedule is like now compared to what it was before) -
"I actually purchased one of the computers so I can watch film at home which is a definite plus so when I am sitting down at home and have some free time I can watch some extra tape. Definitely here a lot more than I was before, preparing a lot more."
(On how they don't just give you a computer) -
"Nothing is free I guess. You have to pay for it." (Laughing)
(On his view of the rules that in place to protect the quarterbacks around the league) -
"Any rule that they apply to protect us is a great opportunity and keeps us safe. As you think about it, you do not really think about it in the game if ‘that' is a foul or a penalty. We play and I don't the defense means to do it, but you just go out there and play as a quarterback. If an injury happens, it happens but if it doesn't we don't look for the penalty. For me it is just running and I know I am going to get hit so no matter what I just need to be prepare for that."
(On if he has been setting up the meetings with the wide receivers that Chad Pennington use to have) -
"Yes, I pretty much took the same schedule that Chad did. The coaches pretty much said ‘be yourself, be how you go about your business, you don't have to do everything Chad did.' But I thought that was so valuable. Really, me getting into the wide receivers and getting on the same page with them and talking protections, our game plan with the [offensive] line, really helped out."
(On if he sat in those meetings when he was the backup) -
"Yes, I was always in them, but Chad [Pennington] would be speaking."
(On looking at the Saints defense and seeing Darren Sharper) -
"You definitely have to be aware of him. I think he is very instinctive, he reads the quarterback's eyes. I heard that he prepares very well. You always have to be aware where he is. He reads your eyes so sometimes you got to trick him and sometimes you have to go with your straight progression, but that is how I prepare. You have to be aware of him and prepare for how to attack him."
(On where he stands in his ability of being able to look off defenders with his eyes) -
"I think as a quarterback it is all about experience and how comfortable you feel with it. I feel comfortable knowing where to go with the football right now and understanding our offense. There will be certain times when you can do it and other times when you can't. So you just have to pick where you can do it at."