New Orleans Saints: gregg williams

W2W4: New Orleans Saints

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
12:00
PM ET
The New Orleans Saints (0-0) and St. Louis Rams (0-0) open the preseason tonight at the Edward Jones Dome.

1. Griffin audition: This game will be lacking star power at quarterback, with New Orleans' Drew Brees and St. Louis' Sam Bradford both expected to watch from the sideline. (Brees hasn’t been officially ruled out but will almost certainly sit as he rests an oblique strain). But that’s OK, because at this stage of the preseason, the Saints' quarterback most worth watching is second-year pro Ryan Griffin. So far, Griffin has looked great in training camp, showing poise and polish. But if the 6-foot-5, 206-pounder wants to beat out veteran Luke McCown for the Saints’ backup job, these preseason games will be the auditions that matter most. ... The Saints have obviously been high on Griffin’s potential since they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane last year. In fact, they blocked Griffin from being signed by this very Rams team off their practice squad last season when Bradford was first injured.

2. Bringing the heat: This game won't be lacking star power when it comes to pass-rushers. Guys like the Saints' Junior Galette, Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks and St. Louis' Robert Quinn, Chris Long and highly touted rookie tackle Aaron Donald should all be on display (for parts of the first quarter, at least). And you just know they are all champing at the bit to finally hit a quarterback at full speed. So even if there wasn’t any history between the Saints and Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the pass-rushers would be the most fascinating players to watch tonight. But when you add in the Williams intrigue (he has been known to blitz relentlessly in preseason openers before), it’s must-see TV. It is probably a wise time for the Saints to sit Brees, especially since Saints guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs might also be held out with injuries.

3. Cooks' growing legend: Somehow, Saints rookie receiver Brandin Cooks has managed to keep topping himself throughout training camp, making dynamic plays on an almost-daily basis. So it will be fascinating to see if his legend continues to grow in his preseason debut. We already knew about Cooks’ blazing speed -- which he has demonstrated often during training camp, especially when he burns defensive backs with sharp cuts in the open field. But the 5-foot-10, 189-pounder has also shown an ability to go up and win jump balls and reel in back-shoulder catches, among other highlights. ... St. Louis has a similar dynamic playmaker in second-year receiver Tavon Austin. So it will be interesting to see if the Saints' defense can corral him.
I’ve referenced the rocky relationship between the New Orleans Saints and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams leading up to their reunion in Friday’s preseason opener at St. Louis. For a more detailed account, check out this column by The Times-Picayune’s Larry Holder.

Williams
Williams
Holder referenced past quotes from Saints coach Sean Payton and testimony from Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt during the bounty hearings to point out how their relationship with Williams deteriorated even before the bounty scandal broke.

Vitt testified about Williams' "insatiable desire to talk about himself" and stressed that Payton wasn’t planning to extend Williams' contract after the 2011 season, even before Williams got the opportunity to work for friend Jeff Fisher as the Rams' defensive coordinator.

"It didn't end pretty. It didn't end nice. I’m sure that Gregg has a lot of animosity towards me now," Vitt testified.

When Payton returned from his year-long bounty suspension, he answered a question about Williams by saying, "I have no interest in talking to Gregg."

However, Payton later added that he had no regrets about hiring Williams in 2009 since it led to a Super Bowl victory.

"Listen, we had a good run," Payton said. "He's a part of what we established as a staff and as a team. That's something that can never be taken away."

Payton said this week that facing Williams, who is now the Rams’ defensive coordinator, is "not a big deal." However, the Saints will be prepared in case Williams decides to blitz relentlessly -- as he has been known to do in the past.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has dismissed Friday’s upcoming reunion with former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as “not a big deal” as the team prepares for its preseason opener at the St. Louis Rams on Friday.

“It’s not a big topic,” Payton said. “Really, our players are playing, it’s a preseason game, we’re trying to get guys evaluated. In my opinion, it’s not a big deal at all. ... It’s about the players and us preparing ‘em.”

Payton and Williams, of course, were central figures in the Saints’ bounty scandal, which led to both coaches being suspended for the entire 2012 season. Even before that, Payton opted to let Williams move on when his contract expired following the 2011 season.

Williams is now the Rams’ defensive coordinator. Adding some intrigue to Friday’s game is the memory of the 2011 preseason opener, when Williams blitzed like crazy against the San Francisco 49ers, leading to six first-half sacks.

There was a report at the time (which Saints coach Sean Payton later dismissed as “absolutely crazy”) that Payton was miffed at new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for not calling him before that preseason game to discuss how they planned to approach the game.

Regardless of all that history, Payton said he doesn’t have any plans to talk with Williams or Rams head coach Jeff Fisher about their approach heading into this game.

“No … I don’t expect to have any conversation prior to the game with those guys,” Payton said. “I am sure there are a couple of things that they want to get accomplished. There are certain things we want to get accomplished. Most importantly is evaluating these guys and getting them snaps and paying attention to how many snaps they are getting. I think typically in the first preseason game you work waves, three waves of players and then how many plays they get is really determined in how the early part of the game goes.

“I just finished telling them, this game Friday is a month away. What we’re doing Tuesday, Wednesday, there are a lot of things that we are trying to work on here that are unrelated to that preseason game. I think we have to look at it that way. Obviously it will be our first opportunity to play a game and there will be a good chance for a number of these guys to get reps not only on offense and defense, but in the kicking game.”

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