So, what are the positive traits that Luke McCown has that has kept him as the backup to Brees?
Payton said, “He is a guy that we got first-hand knowledge of with; if you go back to his days in Tampa Bay, he had a win here in the Dome. He is a very good athlete. I think he is sharp so he processes the information quickly. In the 2012 season when I wasn’t here, he was in our training camp. He ended up getting cut and then signing with Atlanta for that season, and then we had him back in 2013. It starts with him being a good football player.”
Payton says the Saints running game will be counted on to take some of the pressure off the passing game and his main goal is to come up with a game plan to be Carolina on the road on Sunday.
“I think the focus is fairly simple in regards to the game, "Payton said. " We’re getting ready to go on the road and play a division team that won our division a year ago. There were two hard-fought games (last season). They got after us in our last meeting here at the Superdome and beat us real good. We had the win earlier in the year. I don’t think that yesterday was a day where I went back to see, well how did I, it was more about what do we have to do to get ourselves ready to play this game and to win this game, and then what are some of the things that need to be cleaned up, and then if we could put these specifics on a film maybe, in a powerpoint, this morning. Typically, on a Wednesday, we would start with an overview and go through some of the details with the opponent. That has kind of been the approach. This is a good football team that we are playing.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints must keep an extra eye on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Payton says Newton isn't the Saints only concern.
Payton said, “Well, number one they do a very good job of running the football. They have a combination of things that make that happen and they have a very good scheme. Obviously, (they have) a dynamic quarterback and running backs (Jonathan) Stewart and (Mike) Tolbert. They do some misdirection, zone read and really force you to be disciplined defensively. We’ve played some of our better games and some of our worse games ever against them. It’s been an up and down battle, but your eyes have to be good, with regards to defending the run. Also knowing that there will be some shots down the field, I would say it starts with the defense. They’re outstanding and have improved each year. You see them play and can start with (Luke) Kuechly, (Thomas) Davis, and Josh Norman. (Norman), he has had a fantastic start to his season. We’ve seen him grow right before our eyes.”
Whether Brees plays or not, beating Carolina on the road is going to be a difficult challenge. The Saints offensive line has got to protect the quarterback, if not, it's going to be long afternoon in Carolina.
On the bright side, the Saints young defensive players are showing plenty of promise and will only get better with more game experience.
Let's face it...New Orleans isn't the caliber of team it was in 2009. Too many young players have only added to inconsistent play on offense and when a team is unable to deliver the long ball, opposing defenses are going to aggressively attack Brees or McCown.
Unless Payton and his coaches can come up with a game plan to off-set the Saints weak points, 2015 is turning into a year of frustration, possibly a season that will end up being back-to-back losing campaigns.
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