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Saints @ Panthers: Scouting Report

Here is your dose of quotes, links, video and the whatnot to prepare you for this Sundays game. It also includes quite a few transcripts. Enjoy that.

Game Predictions later this afternoon so start thinking up your crazy guesses.

Brees on the Panthers

Q: Can you discuss a John Fox defense?

Drew Brees: "They usually don’t give you the same thing twice. It’s hard to anticipate what they’re doing. They are very well-coached and disciplined. They typically give you a lot of looks. That’s a John Fox defense."

Q: They have typically had a great defensive line in the past. Is that true again?

Drew Brees: "Yes. They’re solid up front and they’re playing very well up front. Their linebacking corps is one of the best I’ve ever seen. They’re pretty solid all the way around."

Q: Does it affect your three step drops and what you typically try to do?

Drew Brees: "No. We try to mix it up on them as much as they mix it up on us with formations, personnel groups, three steps, five steps, play-action, run the ball, inside-outside. We try to do everything."

Q: Did it seem like Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey missed a step in their return to practice?

Drew Brees: "No, they looked good. Every Wednesday with new install and everything else, there’s a little hesitation on everybody’s part, but I felt like those two guys looked good today. I know they were happy to be back out again."

Q: What will it be like to get those guys back again soon?

Drew Brees: "It will be great. They bring a lot to the table. It’s a great match-up. Marques on anybody, Shockey on anybody. You just feel like those are some go to guys. I know when they do come back, they will be healthy, spry and ready to go. I’m excited to have him back."

Q: Is it hard to say goodbye to someone like Terrance Copper?

Drew Brees: "He’s never been given anything. He’s had to earn everything he’s ever gotten, worked extremely hard. In 2006, he started half the season for us when Joe Horn got hurt and he really did a great job. He stepped in whenever he’s been asked to at every wide receiver position over the last three years and from a special teams standpoint, he’s been one of the best special teams guys. Unfortunately you are at the point in the season where with some injuries it’s a numbers game and we’re getting some guys back healthy, but it’s just kind of one of those tough moves."

Q: How much is there to a quarterback's personal clock to getting rid of the ball?

Drew Brees: "There’s a lot to it. It’s important. You just have to realize what sacks do to a drive. A sack is typically at least a five to seven yard loss and you lose the down. That’s worse than a holding penalty. At least with a holding penalty you get the ball back. When you understand what sacks do, you have more of a clock in your head about getting rid of the ball. Throwing it away is okay or even a check down for one or two yards is better than no gain."

Q: Does the clock work differently for when you’re under center or behind shotgun

Drew Brees: "It’s really the same, maybe a little different, because when you’re in shotgun you’re already back where you’re a little bit more relaxed whereas under center you’re really trying to drive for depth and then step up. It’s similar and according to the play, according to the defense. If they’re bringing pressure you might have to get it out a little bit sooner. It all depends."

Q: Are you counting in your head?

Drew Brees: "Yes. It’s subconscious. It’s never simple, but you try to make it that way."

Q: Do you adjust the clock when you go against Julius Peppers?

Drew Brees: "You feel it. There’s times when he’s on you faster than you anticipate and there’s times where we’re getting him blocked. You just try to feel those guys, feel where they are. Every play is different. I can’t tell you this play I know I’m going to have three or four seconds to throw. You never know. The fact is if you know where you can get rid of the ball, you can keep out of trouble."

Q: Does the clock vary for different teams with different pass rush schemes?

Drew Brees: "Yes, you just understand that guys have to be extremely crisp in their routes. I have to be getting the ball out of my hands with great anticipation. It’s nothing that we don’t practice everyday. I always try to throw the ball with anticipation. I always try to be accurate and feel like I know where to get rid of the ball. If my receiver’s not open and I don’t want to force it in there and the guy’s on me, now I’m thinking about taking a sack or throwing the ball away. Where can I throw the ball away? I know my check down’s right here, so I can throw it to this."

Q: What problems do Carolina represent on defense one, two three?

Drew Brees:: "I don’t know, that’s hard. They can give you some problems with the pass rush. Their linebackers are fast guys that make a lot of tackles and a lot of plays. Their corners and safeties are very aggressive with good ball skills and all those things. I don’t know. I really can’t say on, two three, they’re all solid."

Q: Do you know what is different from what you saw last year from them?

Drew Brees: "I think they’re playing with a different energy. I think it’s a lot of the same guys, but they’re 4-2, playing with a lot of confidence. I know coming off that loss at Tampa, they’re going to be salty. Coach Fox is a very good coach. Coach Payton knows him very well. They’re going to have those guys ready to play. They’re coming back home for a divisional game. All those reasons are why they want to win this game are reasons why we want to. We both need a win."

Q: Did you ever think about it that you and Jake Delhomme have a lot of similarities in playing style, character and medical histories?

Drew Brees: "What I like about Delhomme too is the road that he traveled, being a guy who I know was here. I remember him being here and bouncing around a s a backup. Finally he gets an opportunity and he makes the most of it. He’s taken them to a Super Bowl and an NFC Championship game. He’s shown that he can play at a very high level. I’ve had the chance to meet him a few times. I love his attitude and his personality. He’s a fun guy to be around. You can tell by the way he interacts with his players that he’s a good leader and those guys respond to him. When he’s in there, he can make a lot of plays."

Q: Is it interesting that both of you have had comebacks from major arm surgeries?

Drew Brees: "His was a major surgery too. I don’t think a lot of guys are able to come back and play as well as he’s played after something like that. When you witness his attitude and his personality, there’s no doubt. He’s just that kind of guy. I’m happy for him. He’s a guy that I root for, except for the fact that he’s in our division, we’re battling it out and there’s good competition."


Q&A with Jake Delhomme

Q: It’s been a while since you’ve been removed from playing for the Saints. Do you still get amped up to play this team?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "I just finished talking to our media, and honestly this is the honest truth as I’m not trying to feed you guys an anything, it’s another division game so you get amped up, but it’s so different because there’s no more connection. There’s no more coaching staff connection. It’s Deuce (McAllister), Charles Grant and Kevin Houser. I don’t believe there’s anybody else that I played with. It’s so totally different. I know Drew Brees, I respect the heck out of him as a player. Sean Payton the same thing. When I visited Dallas as a free agent, Sean was the quarterbacks coach there. That’s who I spent the majority of my time with. It’s more of a respect I have for those guys."

Q: How does it feel being healthy again and leading this offense right now?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "It’s nice to be back. This first time I’ve ever missed anytime in my life whether it was high school or college with an injury (was with the elbow). I was put on injured reserve. It’s nice to be back. The elbow’s fixed. That’s the biggest thing. I had some issues for a while. Just to get that over and done with, that’s what I enjoy. I think it gave me more of an appreciation of the game, because I think it kind of got away from me. It was more of a grind and the season was a grind, a different grind. I wasn’t having that true fun I was having. We’d win a game and I’d come in the locker room and it was more or less of a relief than an excitement of us getting the job done. Last year I was able to sit down and watch a ton. I was still traveling with the team. I was able to get an appreciation and see how much I missed it and how special it is to play in this game. As tough as losing is during the season, especially after a loss this week, you have the opportunity to go out and play a kids game still at my age."

Q: How much did you appreciate the fact that the team didn’t show any doubt in you and didn’t really have a backup plan in the case that you couldn’t recover?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "I did in a way, but even if they had wanted to go in a different direction or to protect themselves, it was no big deal in my mind, because I felt that way the year before when they brought David Carr in, I was told early on that they were getting another guy to back me up. That was fine, I appreciated them telling me, but they didn’t need to. I’ve been around a few years now that if I have to worry about someone to take my job to get me going to play good football, there’s a problem. If someone’s better than me, that’s one thing. You have to be realistic in this league. If they want to go out and get somebody that’s fine. I just needed to worry about doing what’s best for me."

Q: Defensively, the Saints seem to improved the last few games from where they were at, especially last year. What do you see in them?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "I know they were kind of nicked up with some injuries, here and there, but I think that front four’s very solid certainly Will (Smith) and Charles (Grant). I’ve always thought those guys were really good football players. Brian Young and (Kendrick) Clancy, I know Sedrick Ellis who got dinged up was playing well too. These guys get after it. They’re like some Energizer bunnies. They can go and Bobby McCray comes in there and he flies around, but I think they have some veteran linebackers in their veteran linebacking corps in (Scott) Shanle, (Scott) Fujita and now (Jonathan) Vilma. Not only was Jonathan hurt last year, but he’s been playing a good month and a half now and that does wonders. You can practice all you want in the preseason, but playing in those games is what he’s doing. Certainly getting Mike (McKenzie) back--he’s the same Mike. He’s a great cover corner, plus some young kids they started as rookies and now they’re in their third or fourth year, those two guys. Certainly you lost 22 (Tracy Porter) to a wrist injury I believe a couple of weeks ago, but Randall Gay has played some big games I think and Aaron Glenn, I know he was nicked up, whether or not he’ll be back. There is a lot of talent there."

Q: We know when you watch film, you watch the defense. Have you kept any tabs on Drew Brees at all and his season?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "Not a whole lot besides seeing highlights and there’s been a ton of them, because it just happens with us being on the road or getting back too late, or we might play at the same time, but certainly I know he’s playing outstanding football and I’m not shocked one bit. They do a great job there. Sean and Drew are really on the same page and they do a great job. They use everyone. That’s the great thing. They use everyone and certainly Reggie (Bush) is playing great football. It kind of shows what a great pick it was to take him. He’s a football player simply. You can label him what you want to. I’ll label him a stud. You hear people ask if he’s a running back? I don’t care, I want the ball in his hands as many times as possible."

Q: How big a shock was that loss to the Buccaneers?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "More disappointing, we had a great week of work. We were well prepared in my opinion and we have a blocked punt and it’s 7-0 before we blink. Next thing you know it’s a third down, we have a tipped pass intercepted. They’re in great field position. We’re down again right away and we just never got anything going. That was the disappointing thing and of all the teams in the NFL you never want to play behind against, it’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because they are just fantastic about what they do defensively. It was very disappointing that we played so poorly. It was one of those things. You have to come in Monday, take your medicine and move on. The New Orleans Saints coming in, they certainly aren’t going to feel bad for us one bit."

Q: It seems like you probably had a better feeling than some other athletes about the word "Tommy John Surgery"?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "Maybe I was being naive, but my arm had to be fixed. It was very simple. I wasn’t going to keep going on the way I was going taking the cortisone shots and being miserable, warming up and the process I was going through to get ready and almost couldn’t wait for practice to be over to put some ice on the arm. It was one of those deals where maybe that’s why football became more of a grind. I was just excited to get it fixed. Immediately when I tore the ligament, I had immediate relief from that point on. I had trouble sleeping and didn’t have that anymore. That was because the ligament wasn’t partially torn anymore, it was gone, so those nerve endings weren’t fraying. I was more excited to get back. It wasn’t just that ligament. It was a forearm and a piece of bone floating in the elbow and a piece of bone spur in the back what we did."

Q: Were you not that concerned about the Tommy John surgery even though many quarterbacks haven’t had it?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "It wasn’t well documented because Rob Johnson and Craig Erickson. I was lucky, because our trainer Ryan Vermillion was the one who rehabbed Craig Erickson, so he had kind of already went through it. Our team doctor did an outstanding job, Dr. Connor on the surgery and our trainer. Every way that they said it was going to turn out, everything turned out that way. I’m very fortunate for those two guys."

Q: How is your fastball now?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "I’m just trying to get it accurate. I feel good. My arm really does feel good. Some guys say it’s the best I ever felt. They’re lying. When you’re 22 or 23 and you wake up in the morning, that’s the best you ever felt, but I felt really good. My arm’s stronger than the last two or three years because it’s been fixed. Hopefully it will be okay."

Q: How far back are you saying football had become a grind because of the injury?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "It was more the ’06 season. We were a struggling and up and down football team. The elbow was bothersome, but more or less we couldn’t get anything going. We’d play decent one week and then we were just awful. It’s one of those deals where you put in so much work and you just weren’t seeing anything coming out of the work. It made for a long, long season that year."

Q: When you played the Saints in New Orleans last year, you threw on the sideline that day. Did you know that day it was over?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "When I threw that day it was exactly two weeks to the day that I tore it in Atlanta and I was actually going to throw the following morning to decide whether we were going to have surgery or not. We were trying to repair the forearm muscle to take pressure off the elbow. The way it worked out, my trainer and I talked and I told him if something happens to David (Carr) we’re going to go in and try to throw in the locker room, just to see. And sure enough he gets hit in the back of the head early on and he’s kind of dinged a bit. We had to go do that right away. The adrenaline was pumping and flowing, but I knew right away. Maybe I could have done some three step droops and tried to smoke and mirrors my way through the game, but other than that, I couldn’t play."

Q: Where did they get the ligament from?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "My left hamstring."

Q: Talking about the Saints defense, is the secret to beating them also to get the ball into Steve Smith’s hands?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "We want to get it to Steve as much as possible, but the big thing that I think we’ve done this year is we didn’t have Steve this year for the first two games against some pretty good teams in San Diego and Chicago and we were able to win without him. We feel like we have some weapons and some other playmakers on this team, but certainly we like to get the ball in his hands. We all know he’s a good football player. Basically he’s our Reggie Bush except he lines up at receiver instead of running back."

Q: What was your reaction to Jim Haslett’s admission that he made a mistake in not playing you towards the end of the 2002 season?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "I was told about it Monday talking to the media. I didn’t hear anything about it until media guys told me about it. It is what it is. In the grand scheme of things, who knows what would have happened. If I would have played, hopefully I would have played well. Maybe I would have been in New Orleans a little longer. Who knows? Things have a way of working out.. I’m a firm believe in that. What is meant to be is what is meant to be. I’m glad I’m here. It’s worked out great. I loved my time in New Orleans, but that’s the NFL. You just got to enjoy your time. I’m glad I’m here now."

Q: Can you expand a little bit on the contributions of Jonathan Vilma to the Saints defense this year?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme: "I don’t know him that well, but playing with Miami linebackers like Dan Morgan and Jon Beason, we played the Jets in ’05 and that’s when they were having all the injuries at quarterback and they were really struggling offensively. They had a solid defense. I remember watching film and thinking this is a real good defense and this kid is the heartbeat of that defense. That was something I remembered very well and talking to him after that game, you knew it was a tough season for them because they were having so many issues with the quarterback, they weren’t putting up points and I remember that he was a typical Miami linebacker and I don’t know how to put it. That’s what they are. We have one in Jon Beason. We had another one in Dan Morgan. It’s something about that infectious enthusiasm that they have."


Foxhole: Running game key to success

On injuries: Did not participate: D.J. Hackett (knee). Limited participation: Thomas Davis (ankle), Ryan Kalil (ankle), Muhsin Muhammad (knee), Jeff Otah (ankle) and Adam Seward (thigh). All of those are day-to-day. D.J. Hackett is in between week-to-week and day-to-day.

On how he feels about the Panthers running game: It's a 4-2 running game. It's not bad. It's not a 2-4 running game. It's not an 0-6 running game. Like any area of our football team, we've not arrived yet. It's something that's a work in process.

On only averaging 3.6 yards and ranking 27th in the League in yards per carry: Like I said, it's good enough to be 4-2. I wish it was good enough to be 6-0. We'll just keep working at it as we go, trying to get better.

On how all the injuries on the offensive line have affected the running game: I don't think that's helped matters. I'm not sure we've had the same starting group together for two weeks in a row. That's never helpful, but you know what they say about excuses. It's not an excuse; it's a reality. Hopefully, we can get that settled down.

On the challenges presented by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees: Huge. We've seen him before. He's a tremendous quarterback. I think right now he might be the number-one rated quarterback in the League. They are the number-one pass offense in the league and the number-two total offense in the league and they are sitting 3-3. He's a huge challenge. They are one of the better offenses, in particularly pass offenses, and I believe that always starts with the quarterback.

On what makes Brees so good: He's very smart. I think he works at it very hard. There are taller, bigger, stronger (quarterbacks), but this game is about skill and he has tremendous skills and plays in that offense as fast and decisive as anybody in the league right now.

On what tight end Jeremy Shockey adds to the Saints offense: He's played this season. It's not like he hasn't been part of it. He's just been out lately. Whether he was injured and that groin was bothering him before, I don't know. I just know he's been a tremendous player in this league and we don't expect anything different.

On New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma: When he first came into the league from college, he was a 4-3 linebacker. He came into the league when they (New York Jets) were a 4-3 defense and then they switched to a 3-4 defense. It's just a different position. I think that's why he's now back in a 4-3 defense. Any time you change jobs and go somewhere new, there are some growing pains, and I think he's gotten better every week. In the last couple of weeks in particular I think he's played outstanding.

On defending Saints running back Reggie Bush: He creates problems, because you've got a running back that's like a very mobile quarterback. It's a dimension – he's got receiver skills much like Marshall Faulk did when they were rolling in St. Louis. Coach (Sean) Peyton is doing a good job of getting him out, but he is also catching a lot of those balls from out of the backfield even on check downs. He's been an outlet guy, not a primary guy, and I've seen him running for touchdowns. He's a tremendous athlete at that position in the Marshall Faulk mold.

On how defensive end Julius Peppers has played in the first six games: Good. 4-2.

On how Peppers has played compared to last season: Our body of work is not done yet. I think he's played very well for us, good enough for us to be 4-2. I think right now we are the third-ranked defense in the league and I think he's been a big part of that.

On if he is satisfied being a 4-2 coach: Could be 2-4. Could be 6-0. It's never perfect. I don't think it will ever be.


Foxhole: Looking forward to challenge

On injuries: Did not participate: D.J. Hackett (knee), Ryan Kalil (ankle) and Jeff Otah (ankle). Full participation: Thomas Davis (ankle), Muhsin Muhammad (knee) and Adam Seward (thigh).

On tackle Jeff Otah not practicing for the first time since last Thursday: We just thought we'd rest both of them (Otah and Ryan Kalil) and see if that helps. They were a little sore today. We'll evaluate it again tomorrow and see where that is.

On ankle injuries being aggravating: Yep. Sometimes the guys come back faster than others. It's not an exact science for sure. That's why I don't like putting limits on it.

On if this was a setback for Otah and Kalil: No. It was more precautionary. It's what the medical people thought would be best.

On what makes the Saints passing game so effective: They've got excellent players doing it. They've got a good scheme and they've got arguably one of the better quarterbacks in the league running it, at least statistically. They've got excellent receivers. They've got a unique matchup, much like the Marshall Faulk era with the Rams at running back in Reggie Bush. We haven't seen (Jeremy) Shockey a bunch. We saw him early in the first two games, but he's expected back. Of course (Marques) Colston. Those other guys that have been filling in have been doing a good job, too. It will be interesting to see how those guys fit in.

On if expects wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey to play for New Orleans: Yeah. I have no idea; I'm not there. But I expect them to.

On how the Panthers secondary has played this year: They're the (number) two offense and we're the (number) three defense, so something's got to break. We've played very well against them defensively. Even last year in the 31-6 game, that one was a little bit like Tampa Bay where we were playing giveaway as far as turnovers. It will be a great challenge and it will be a good matchup.

On if he looks forward to challenges like facing a top-ranked offense: I like the challenge every week. You are going against the best in the world. You game plan all week, put a lot of time in. Some of them work out better than others; hopefully, more of them work out better. But that's kind of why we do what we do.

On if he is happy with how punt protection has gone this week in practice: Yeah, but I can honestly say that I was happy the other weeks, too. It's like trying to predict the future. If I could do that, I'd probably be at the racetrack. But you don't know. You prepare, and, hopefully, you do well. That's a challenge every week, whether it's defense, offense, special teams – all phases.


Panthers look to overcome issues with tight ends

"They open up," linebacker Na'il Diggs said of Shockey's impact upon returning. "He's another go-to-guy that's available. Brees spreads it around well, and I'm sure Shockey be looking for the ball, and he'll be looking to get him the ball. Bush has kind of been the guy, and I'm sure Shockey, when he's back, will open things a little more, keep some of the double-teams and the pressure off of Bush.

"You have to give Shockey that kind of respect as far as making sure guys are on him. I think it opens their playbook up a little more, but they're not going to do anything extravagant that we haven't seen."

-Na'il Diggs

"I know him pretty well," Beason said. "He's an intense guy, loves to play football, he wants his number called when the game's on the line. I can admire that.

"Competing against the best shows you where you're at. Shockey's going to be fun; I'm anxious to play against him."

-Jon Beason


Panthers braced for game breaker

"You just have to be aware of where is at all times," said Diggs of Bush. "He's in so many different places. You keep him in your peripheral, that's all you can do. He's likely to get the ball, no matter where he is. So you've just got to get him on the ground, because he makes a lot of guys miss tackles."

-Na'il Diggs

"He makes plays," said Panthers strong safety Chris Harris, who is part of a defense that ranks second in the league against the pass. "He's very good in space, especially when they line him up out there as a receiver."

-Chris Harris, on Reggie Bush


Strengths to collide Sunday

"I think we match up well against them based on what they like to do" said Carolina linebacker Jon Beason. "They have a fast-rhythm offense with explosive players. We feel like we play fast on defense with explosive guys.

"It's going to be interesting to see what happens."

-Jon Beason

"They're starting to get healthy and get their weapons back," said Harris. "We feel confident in what we do in our game plan. No matter who is out there, I feel good about what we've got."

-Chris Harris

"This is a high-powered offense," said Harris. "They sling it around all the time, throw it 30, 40 or 50 times a game. I think it could really test our pass defense in the back."

-Chris Harris

"We're playing pretty well on defense, but we know we can play a lot better," said Beason. "When you're facing a top offense, that's a true challenge."

-Jon Beason


Brees the best at throwing deep?

"This week, we have to be tight on our coverage, try to get some pressure and we've got stop the run," said Carolina middle linebacker Jon Beason.  "(Brees is) the most accurate quarterback in the league."

-Jon Beason



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