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Joe Vitt: Saints put more work than ever into this draft class

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints made their assistant coaches available for the first time this offseason in pre-draft interviews with WWL radio and the team website last week. I already detailed the highlights from senior defensive assistant coach Dennis Allen's interviews in this post and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's interviews in this post.

Here are some more notables from assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.:

Exhaustive pre-draft work: Vitt stressed the importance of the Saints’ 2015 draft class, citing a number of reasons: their nine picks; the fact they are in a “semi-transition” after releasing so many longtime veteran leaders the past two years; and the fact that “we don’t ever want to pick [as high as] 13th again.”

“Our coaching staff, our scouts, we’ve seen more players in person on the road, interviewed more players, watched more film, did more cross-checks on players this year than any time I’ve been here, and maybe any time in 37 years in the National Football League,” Vitt said. “We have left no stone uncovered this year. We know the importance of this draft. ...

“These players are gonna be part of the foundation.”

Vitt on pass-rushers: The Saints have been hard to please when it comes to drafting edge rushers and linebackers throughout the Sean Payton era. They had never drafted any in Rounds 1 or 2 in Vitt’s tenure until this year, when they took inside linebacker Stephone Anthony in Round 1 and outside linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha in Round 2.

Kikaha led the nation with 19 sacks last season at Washington but slipped in the draft in part because of his measurables -- he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds. Vitt gave some insight into what he likes in a pass-rusher in his pre-draft interviews.

“Sacks do not equate to victories, pressures do,” Vitt said. “We’re looking for a guy that’s obviously got athleticism with the physical attributes, but tenacity is what gets sacks in the National Football League. There’s so many three- and five-step drops by a quarterback, if you can get a quarterback to reset and stay after your opponent, you get the sacks on the reset. So tenacity is critical.”

Carmichael on changes: Carmichael was asked how the Saints will make up for the losses of tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Kenny Stills, both of whom were traded this offseason. Carmichael agreed with the premise that succeeding on offense is something the Saints have “always done” in the Payton-Drew Brees era, despite a rotating cast of playmakers. And in both interviews, Carmichael quickly pointed to newly signed runner/receiver C.J. Spiller as someone who could help fill the void.

“Listen, we appreciate everything those guys did for us. It’s part of the business,” Carmichael said. “But we’re excited about the guys we have in this building and some of the additions, bringing in a guy like C.J. Spiller, a guy that you get the ball in his hands and he’s pretty exciting. ...

“We’re excited about the guys that we have in this building. We had a chance last year to draft Brandin Cooks, we’ve got some young receivers, we were able to get the addition of C.J., Mark Ingram signed back, so we feel good with who we have in the building.”

When asked if Spiller will play a “Darren Sproles role” in the offense, Carmichael said: “I think he’ll have some of the same role that Darren Sproles had. I think the one thing you notice about him right away is when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s explosive.”