NFC South: Brian Young

Payton's injury shouldn't hurt Saints

October, 20, 2011
Sean PaytonKim Klement/US PresswireSean Payton will be working from the press box during the Saints' game Sunday night.
Sean Payton doesn’t need crutches.

Less than a week after tearing up his knee, the coach of the New Orleans Saints might not be walking well, but he’s got perhaps the NFL’s best stable of assistant coaches to lean on.

Payton’s injury was an accident. Tight end Jimmy Graham plowed into Payton as he was being pushed out of bounds by a couple of Tampa Bay defenders. But it’s no accident that Payton has a virtual all-star team of coaches, who began preparing for Indianapolis about the same time the head coach was getting out of surgery, to help him through what should be only a minor and temporary crisis.

Payton’s expected to return to work Thursday; he’ll be in the coaches’ booth in the press box for Sunday night’s game with the Indianapolis Colts and on game days for at least a few more weeks. And while that will mean some adjustments, this is a staff built to handle a situation like this.

One thing Payton understood when he took the job back in 2006 was the importance of surrounding yourself with a good staff. He still has eight members of his original staff, nine if you count assistant special teams coach John Bonamego, who left for three seasons with the Dolphins but returned to the Saints this year. Even the “newer’’ members of the coaching staff are very much part of the family. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, a former head coach, came in 2009 and brought along his son, Blake, as an assistant. That was also the same year Brian Young joined the staff, after playing defensive tackle for the Saints from 2004 through 2008.

Payton might not be strolling the sidelines anytime soon, but his system remains very much in place and everyone from the assistants to the players knows how things are done.

“We reminded the team that his absence in the earlier part of the week and not knowing how much he’ll partake in the latter part of the week is not an excuse for us to lose,’’ assistant head coach Joe Vitt said. “It’s not an excuse to not prepare. Because the excuses are out there if you want to take them.’’

The Saints aren’t going to be making or taking any excuses on Vitt’s watch. His style is that of a drill sergeant and his NFL coaching experience runs all the way back to the days when he was with the Colts, who were then still in Baltimore. He’s respected in the Saints’ locker room and all around the league.

“Ninety percent of the time in the NFL, that just means more money or a title to keep someone happy,’’ Payton wrote in his book “Home Team.’’ “But if you went to the dictionary and looked up 'NFL assistant head coach,' you’d see a picture of Joe Vitt.’’

[+] EnlargeJoe Vitt, Sean Payton
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire"It's not an excuse to not prepare," assistant head coach Joe Vitt, left, said of the injury to Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Vitt, who did a stint in 2005 as interim head coach of the St. Louis Rams, was one of the first coaches Payton hired — a move that set off a celebration at the time because most veteran coaches were hesitant to move to New Orleans in the uncertain aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“Other than the signing of (quarterback) Drew Brees, this was the most important acquisition we made,’’ Payton wrote about Vitt’s hiring.

Vitt is also the linebackers coach, so with he and Gregg Williams running the show, Payton’s injury shouldn’t have any real impact on the defense.

But having Payton upstairs instead of on the sideline will create some logistical challenges for the offense.

“We’re going to work through all the mechanics,’’ Vitt said. “One of the things around here we take great pride in is our preparation. We’ll see what works for us. This coaching staff has been together a long time. We need to work through these challenges for our football team to win a football game”

But the experience of the offensive staff should be able to help cushion those challenges.

“(Payton) empowers our assistant coaches a lot anyway,’’ Brees said. “I think for all of us it’s business as usual, and then if there are adjustments that need to be made along the way, then we’ll make them and we won’t even think twice about it. That’s the way we operate.”

Brees already is anticipating one change. Brees said he expects Payton will call the plays from above and relay them through offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael on the sideline. In the past, Payton has communicated plays directly to Brees via radio.

“I think the fact that it’s going to be Pete’s voice now and he’ll be actually relaying the plays into me, that won’t be all that unusual for me,’’ Brees said.

That’s largely because Brees has at least as much history with Carmichael as he does with Payton. Brees played in San Diego when Carmichael was an assistant there. Carmichael came to the Saints as quarterbacks coach in 2006 and later moved up to offensive coordinator. And it doesn’t hurt that Brees is somewhat of a coach on the field.

“I’ve done that before, so you understand where the challenges are and it’s just the fact that (the play) has to get relayed,’’ Brees said. “There are a couple seconds earlier that you have to get the play out. I don’t know the setup up in the box, but I’m sure Sean will have it all laid out. I’m sure it will go off without a hitch.”

That goes for the defense and special teams as well. The only real difference you’ll see will be a few television shots of Payton sitting up in the booth.

Like always, he’ll be supervising his system with the people who put in place to help run it.

Saints part ways with DT Thomas

April, 29, 2009

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas


For the second time in two days, the Saints have parted ways with a veteran defensive tackle. This time, it's Hollis Thomas, Mike Triplett reports.

The release comes a day after the Saints let Brian Young go. This could just be a routine post-draft cleaning process because Young and Thomas were aging and have had some injury problems. They've got plenty at defensive tackle with Sedrick Ellis, Kendrick Clancy, Rod Coleman and DeMario Pressley.

But it also makes you wonder if the Saints, who no longer have to pay Thomas the $1.4 million he was supposed to make this season, are up to something? Edgerrin James is out there and the Saints still could use a power runner.

Mailbags on the way

April, 28, 2009

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

I had planned to start the morning off with team-by-team mailbags, but we had a sudden flurry of news around the division with the Saints releasing Brian Young, the Falcons making some roster moves and Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant winning the Halas Award from the Professional Football Writers of America.

Now that we're all caught up on that, I'm going to jump into the mailbag. I have (randomly) decided to start off with the Carolina Panthers. I'll be back in a bit.

Saints release DT Young

April, 28, 2009

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Rather quietly, the Saints have parted ways with veteran defensive tackle Brian Young. The team hasn't announced the move, but it passed through the league office Monday afternoon.

Young's release saves the Saints a little more than $3 million in salary-cap room. Young, who like the rest of the team's defensive tackles had injury problems last year, was expendable because the team previously signed veteran Rod Coleman and has a bunch of young defensive tackles.

Second-year pro Sedrick Ellis is the guy the Saints want to build their defensive line around and the other starting spot will be determined in camp. Coleman is likely to be a situational player and the Saints will let Kendrick Clancy, Hollis Thomas and DeMario Pressley compete for the other starting job.

Saints add veteran DT Coleman

March, 27, 2009

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Rod Coleman is back in the NFC South.

The Saints agreed to terms with the former Atlanta defensive tackle Friday. Coleman, 32, spent last season out of the NFL, but has decided to rejoin New Orleans defensive line coach Bill Johnson.

Coleman was coached by Johnson when the two were in Atlanta. Coleman played for the Falcons from 2004 through 2007 and led all defensive tackles in sacks in 2004 and 2005. Coleman spent the first four seasons of his career with Oakland.

The Saints also released safety Kevin Kaesviharn.

Second-year pro Sedrick Ellis is set as one starter at defensive tackle. Coleman likely will compete with Hollis Thomas, Kendrick Clancy and Brian Young for the other spot.

Saints looking at D-line help

March, 14, 2009

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Despite limited salary-cap space, the Saints continue to be active in free agency.

Mike Triplett reports the Saints are interested in defensive lineman Paul Spicer and center Nick Lickey. They also had defensive lineman Shaun Cody in for a visit last week. Spicer can play end or tackle and Cody is an interior lineman. Pursuing them shows the Saints are looking for insurance in case starting ends Charles Grant and Will Smith have to serve suspensions at the start of the season, after reportedly testing positive for a banned substance last year. Spicer also has a history with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The two were together in Jacksonville last season.

Third end Bobby McCray and Spicer could be suitable starters for a four-game stint and Spicer's versatility could help the rest of the line the rest of the season. Cody could be viewed as an upgrade over Antwan Lake, who is a free agent and the Saints could consider releasing Hollis Thomas or Brian Young if they sign Cody.

It looks like the Saints are working to shore up their needs before the draft. If they make moves on the defensive line before then, it appears there would be only one glaring need to address with the 14th overall pick. That's the defensive backfield, where Malcolm Jenkins could be a prime target. Jenkins is a cornerback, who some project as a safety.

New Orleans' biggest need is at free safety and the Saints could consider moving Jenkins or cornerbacks Usama Young or Mike McKenzie there. They've also visited with free-agent safety Darren Sharper. He remains a possibility, but no deal appears imminent.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Fine work by the Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan in getting the full 2009 salary cap breakdown for the Saints. With the Saints already over the cap, there's going to be some major movement.

Just scanning through Duncan's list, here are some guys I think could be out of New Orleans because of their salary-cap figures: Receiver David Patten, running back Deuce McAllister, guard Jamar Nesbit, defensive tackle Brian Young, cornerbacks Jason David and Mike McKenzie and safety Kevin Kaesviharn.

The Saints also can free up some cap space by restructuring the contracts of some of their veterans, and defensive end Will Smith would be a prime candidate for that.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Here's an update on the significant injuries around the division.


Reggie Bush's comeback from knee surgery will have to wait at least another week. Fullback Mike Karney, cornerback Aaron Glenn, defensive tackle Brian Young and center Jonathan Goodwin also will be out Sunday.


Running back Michael Turner (hand) is listed as probable for Sunday. But don't be surprised if you see a little more than usual of Jerious Norwood.


Coach Jon Gruden said it's likely running back Cadillac Williams will be inactive Sunday.


It looks as if center Ryan Kalil will be out of the lineup.

Saints' injury update

October, 24, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

LONDON, England -- The Saints likely will have to shuffle their offensive line Sunday against San Diego.

Starting center Jonathan Goodwin is doubtful because of a knee injury, coach Sean Payton said after Friday's practice. Matt Lehr filled in at center after Goodwin was hurt in a loss to Carolina and remains a possible replacement. But the return of Jamar Nesbit from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and related substances gives the Saints other options.

Rookie Carl Nicks has been starting in Nesbit's spot at left guard. Payton said he would consider putting Nesbit at center.

The Saints already have declared running back Reggie Bush, who is back in New Orleans recovering from knee surgery, out. Defensive tackle Brian Young is questionable. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, cornerback Mike McKenzie, defensive end Will Smith and guard Jahri Evans are probable.

Friday's practice was the final preparation for the game. The Saints, who have been staying about 40 minutes outside London, will move into a hotel in the city tonight.

Shockey back at practice

October, 23, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

COLNEY, England -- Just got back from the Saints' practice, which was held at the Arsenal Football Club's facility on Thursday.

The Saints practiced at their team hotel on Wednesday, but moved to Arsenal's facility today and are scheduled to be there again Friday. For those wondering what a legendary soccer team's facility looks like, it's pretty comparable to most practice facilities of NFL teams that I've seen. There's a large building with the locker room, weight room, training room and offices.

There are also a lot of soccer fields -- and I mean a lot. Couldn't count them all and some were spread off to the side, but I'm guessing there were at least a dozen fields.

I'll have more later, but wanted to get you a quick injury report from the Saints. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, who sounded pretty gloomy about his sports hernia last Sunday and didn't practice Wednesday, appears to be doing a lot better. He was back at practice Thursday, although it was on a limited basis.

Cornerback Mike McKenzie, guard Jahri Evans and defensive end Will Smith, who were out Wednesday, returned for the full practice. Center Jonathan Goodwin and defensive tackle Brian Young were held out of practice again. In a minor housekeeping detail the Saints went ahead and declared running back Reggie Bush out for Sunday's game. Obviously, that was expected because Bush had knee surgery Monday and is back in New Orleans beginning his recovery.

Injury update from Saints' practice

October, 22, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

WATFORD, England -- Just got done at Saints practice. I'll have much more as the day goes on, but just wanted to give you a quick injury report.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey (sports hernia), cornerback Mike McKenzie (knee), guard Jahri Evans (ankle), center Jonathan Goodwin (knee) and defensive end Will Smith (abdominal strain) did not practice. Defensive tackle Brian Young participated on a limited basis.

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd

There is never a good time for the Saints to lose a player the caliber of defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, but this could possibly be the worst time.

Ellis will miss up to four weeks after undergoing surgery on his right knee Friday, only days before New Orleans takes on running back Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings. Worse, the Saints are entering a stretch in which they face four of the league's top seven rushing offenses over the next six weeks.

And make no mistake about it, Saints opponents will run the ball early and often because the best way to slow quarterback Drew Brees and New Orleans' offense is to strand them on the sideline. Few NFL teams have a more effective run game than the Vikings (141.2 yards per game, sixth in the league), and Peterson will be especially dangerous on Monday night. He loves to run left behind left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who is returning to the lineup following a suspension, and left guard Steve Hutchinson, who will enjoy a big mismatch against Ellis' replacements.

Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs didn't rotate his interior linemen much last week, but it's uncertain whether undersized former starting defensive Brian Young can handle three-down duty like Ellis did. Instead, Gibbs may use a combination of defensive tackle Antwan Lake on run downs and Young on passing downs. Still, that duo can't come close to filling Ellis' shoes.

Ellis was a force against both the run and pass, but opponents now have some flexibility to target Lake (a marginal pass rusher) and Young (vulnerable against the run) with their play calling. And because Gibbs' one-gap scheme requires the tackles to expend a lot of energy creating upfield penetration, the blow to the Saints' depth at the position could be crushing, especially given the matchups on the horizon.

The Saints' pass defense could also takes a huge hit. It's unlikely we'll see anything resembling Week 4's six-sack performance while Ellis is on the shelf. Defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith won't face nearly as much single blocking on the edge without Ellis in the lineup to draw extra attention inside. It also affects the back end. Without Ellis, the Saints could be forced to either put a safety in the box to stop the run or blitz in passing situations to get pressure on the QB. Either way, the cornerbacks will be left in single coverage, which is definitely not their strength. The Saints better find a way to get to the QB in passing situations and fast, or there could be big plays downfield in the passing game for their opponents.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for

Evening roundup

October, 3, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas


Receiver Joey Galloway and fullback B.J. Askew have been declared out with injuries for Sunday's game.

General manager Bruce Allen said defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin never asked to go to the Raiders.


Defensive end Julius Peppers was fined $10,000 for a hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.


With Sedrick Ellis out two to four weeks, the Saints will have to rely on the trio of Kendrick Clancy, Antwan Lake and Brian Young at defensive tackle. End Charles Grant also can slide inside on passing downs.

Safety Kevin Kaesviharn drew a $25,000 fine for a helmet-to-helmet hit on San Francisco's Josh Morgan.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints, who already were thin at defensive tackle, now are really thin.

Antwan Lake will not return to the game after suffering a groin injury in the first half. Hollis Thomas is out for at least several more weeks with a triceps injury. That leaves Brian Young as the only backup behind starters Kendrick Clancy and Sedrick Ellis. Bet the Saints are regretting cutting Orien Harris, who had a nice training camp and wound up landing with the Bengals.

Tuesday morning mailbag

August, 19, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Here's another edition of the NFC South mailbag:

Jim in the Twin Cities writes: Regarding your comments about best player in Falcon's or Saints history. It's hard to believe you could leave Morton Anderson out of the discussion. Especially when you are trying to name just one standout on the Falcons. I can't say I know much about the Falcons, but Morton is the first name I think of when I hear Atlanta Falcons. He's the player that put them into the Super Bowl. Certainly the Saints had a few players worthy of mention before Morton, but not the Falcons.

Pat Yasinskas: Point taken. Morten Andersen is one of the greatest kickers in NFL history. He did play a big role in the history of both the Saints and Falcons. With all due respect to kickers, I just have a difficult time naming a kicker the best player in the history of any NFL franchise.

Khary in Atlanta writes: Why isn't DJ Shockley getting more attention? He seems to be the best quarterback for a substandard line and a could-be prominent running game. Honestly when I watch Shockley I think baby Vick. I really have been pondering this question all off-season so, I would greatly apppreciate an answer.

Pat Yasinskas: The Falcons like Shockley and think he has potential. But they've invested the future of the franchise (and a ton of money) in Matt Ryan. Shockley had some first-team snaps in training camp, but the Falcons are working toward getting Ryan ready to be their starter and they're hoping he stays in that spot for a long time.

Adrien C in New Orleans writes: With Hollis Thomas's injury, why isn't the two starters at defensive tackle Brian Young and Ellis? Not taking anything from Klancy, but Brian Young has a lot of experience as a starter for the Saints. I would think that Young and Ellis would be solid defensive tackle scheme for the Saints. Thoughts?

Pat Yasinskas: It's still possible Young could end up in the starting lineup. But they're going with Kendrick Clancy right now and I think part of that may be because they think Young might be more effective as the third tackle in a rotation. He's 31, which is pretty old for a defensive lineman, and only played in nine games last year. The Saints will sort this out shortly. But, either way, Young will play a big role.

Mike in parts unknown writes: When and where will Simms wind up?

Pat Yasinskas: It's hard to say where Chris Simms will end up. The logical spots right now are Dallas, Minnesota and Chicago. And any of those are possible. The Bucs are waiting for somebody to step up and make a decent offer. At best, they'll get a late-round pick for a quarterback who hasn't played in nearly two years. At worst, they'll get nothing in return and be forced to release him. Somebody will grab him quickly because, injury history aside, Simms once showed he could be an NFL starter. There aren't many of those guys on the market and it's worth taking a chance.

Michael in Mississippi writes: If cadillac williams is out in free agency in fantasy football is he worth a chance on taking?

Pat Yasinskas: Only if it's in the very late rounds of your draft. Honestly, I don't think Williams will play this year but the Bucs are holding out some hope because he's been making progress. I think he might open the season on the physically unable to perform list. At best, he might be ready to play around the middle of the season.