First of all, I’ll mention that Sean Payton was on NFL Network to promote the partnership between the NFL and Zebra Technologies. So, just what is that and what does it have to do with the Saints and the NFL? From Zebra.com Blog.
When the NFL kicked off its 2015 season, all players taking the field were sporting a new accessory. You aren’t able to see the nickel-sized RFID sensors embedded in the shoulder pads of every NFL uniform this season, but you’re definitely going to hear about them. These location-tracking devices from Zebra will provide real-time statistics for every movement of every player on every inch of the field in every NFL game this season. As part of its Next Gen Stats initiative, the NFL selected Zebra Technologies as the league’s “Official On-Field Player Tracking Provider.” The Zebra Sports Solution can benefit coaches, players, trainers, broadcasters, and the fans.
So how does it work? First, receivers were installed in all 31 NFL stadiums, as well as Wembley Stadium for the International Series and the Aloha Stadium for the Pro Bowl. The solution was also deployed for the College Football Playoffs this year.
These receivers are pinged by the two RFID tracking sensors on each player to identify the location, motion, and direction of every player throughout a game. Motion is tracked in sub-seconds and a player’s location can be found within six inches. These sensor tags can blink up to 85 times per second and transmit motion within 120 milliseconds. If a quarterback is being tightly pressured, the solution will tell the story of exactly when and where.
The RFID tracking technology is the same solution that Zebra provides to 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies, giving them real-time enterprise asset intelligence to increase visibility into their operations.
Zebra is giving the NFL more of this intelligence and insight into their game than ever before, including player distance traveled, maximum and average speeds, and accelerations and decelerations.
And, we can’t forget about the fans. Armchair quarterbacks everywhere will be shouting even more at the TV, as fans will have access to insights on their favorite players with live, to-the-inch broadcast graphics. From preseason through to the Super Bowl for a total of more than 330 games, Zebra’s Sports Solutions monitors every NFL play in real-time.
Enter the 2017 season, and the two have paired up for their 3rd year. Payton specifically talked about how they use the technology not only during the regular season, but also during training practices as well. He says this helps them with player health as well as tracking their performance both in practice and during games. That is what is interesting in context for us as fans. One point I’ll bring up, which is directed at the NFL, is with this technology here now and so accurate, why do we still have so many controversies with calls and ball placement? Forget sideline and goal line cameras, place the chips in the actual footballs, and you can know exactly where the forward progression was as well as if the ball crossed the goal line. Take those judgment calls out of the picture please. The refs have to make enough of those.
Okay, after I’ve happily plugged the sponsor, let's discuss the rest of the interview. Of course, Payton was asked about his pairing with QB Drew Brees. It’s been eleven years now and Payton mentioned that there was a lot of continuity in his offense. He said that with the excellence of Brees, it was necessary for him to put forth his best, and give his quarterback the necessary tools and game plans, so he could do his best. Said that Brees' conditioning and work week was so involved that it allowed him to play at his high level and perform for so long.
As for the draft, Payton acknowledged that the defense was the key concern. He stressed that it was important that they address pressure and that they need to grab a couple of players for this. Payton mentioned it was a strong class in this regards, and also mentioned the same concerning safeties and cornerbacks. Well, that’s a relief. At least we know they see the same concerns as we do with the defense. While I consider us fairly deep at safety, a BPA player at the position would be acceptable during the draft. Cornerbacks and pass rushers are a must.
But what does this have to do with running backs? You may ask. Well, the very next words out of Payton's mouth were, "that this is a deep class at the the running back position." So just a fair warning fans, our offensively minded coach may be looking to reinforce his running back stable as well. With his history of under-utilizing the running game, this could signal a change in philosophy. We can only hope. You all know passing is in his genes. Still, perhaps coach realizes we are set at wide receiver, and that while Drew is still amazingly accurate, he may not be as able to make those deep throws. Much has been made about Drew's “decline” and I can concede that the playing field has shortened slightly in this regards. I wrote last offseason that we should hope Drew didn’t lead the NFL in the yards stat, and another 7-9 season seemed to prove my point. We must commit to the running game. I know you’ve heard this from me before, but as a friend of Stuart’s pointed out, if defenses can game plan for Drew’s shorter throws, they make the importance of the running games ability to keep them honest, even more important. Since most of you were working and unable to catch the interview, I hope this gives you some insight into what we can only hope is our draft guidelines. I fairly sure it will be replayed during all the Superbowl hoopla, but there is my take in case you don’t catch it.