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Sean Payton says Saints have to be at their best facing the Panthers

Sean Payton talked about the importance of guarding Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin on Wednesday.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints have their work cut out for them against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. While quarterback Cam Newton’s status may seem a bit questionable while he goes through the concussion protocol, the reality is that he’s getting better and the Saints are preparing to face him. Despite what their 1-4 record says about the defending NFC Champions, they still possess a fairly lethal offensive attack.

On Greg Olsen:

“You can watch him play each week and see passion. I think that there’s a toughness element to him. He takes on the task of blocking the D gap or getting down the field on a post or a double move or a seam with the same enthusiasm. He’s a very good foot (speed) athlete. He’s flexible. I remember him coming out of high school and then coming out of college. He’s from New Jersey, of course went to Miami, so the first thing I gave you wasn’t even the athleticism, but all those other things you look for at that position I think he possesses. You clearly see the respect of his team and he’s a big player and he comes up big for them in moments. He’s extremely, extremely talented. You just stack that line up at Miami with tight ends that have been really good.”

How the Saints plan to defend against Olsen:

“Oftentimes if the quarterback’s got time to pass and they’re in a second-and-five situation or third-and-two, it becomes that much more difficult because there’s so many things you’re defending now when all of a sudden it becomes a little bit of an easier task. He does a good job. There’s a run-pass conflict with him and their offense that exists that’s very good. A thread of (Jonathan) Stewart and Cam (Newton) and how they run the football with those guys and the play action that comes off of it, the screen game, those are the challenges that become problematic. With Greg, it’s compounded. He’s over to one side, much like we did with Jimmy (Graham) and if you’re playing corners over to the receiver, you’re going to have him isolated over to the safety or linebacker.”

On Kelvin Benjamin:

“He’s a tremendous athlete. He has size. His body type makes it very difficult not only in the field. You start getting in the red area, so he’s a target that becomes tough to defend that way in the seams. Obviously there’s a strong confidence level the quarterback has in him as well. It’s another weapon you have to account for.”

Don’t expect the Saints to treat this game as one where they believe Ron Rivera’s squad will simply rollover. Payton said, “I don’t think our team’s going to take any team lightly. I think our team’s been in this locker room, players who have been here know that it’s a division game. We’re coming off a win in San Diego and we know the team we’re playing is a championship-level team that has lost some tough, close games. We’re going to have to be at our best. I think our players know that.”