Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
September 15, 2016
Q: A lot of talk about how this is probably going to be a track meet. Do you see it that way?
A: Last year, as coach McAdoo says, is in the rear-view mirror. I think our defense, having faced them all spring and summer, Iím glad we donít have to play them. We have great confidence in our defensive players and coaches. They have a mission. Our focus on the offensive side is the New Orleans defense. Itís a new year and there are no expectations other than just to make sure weíre at our best. Home opener.
Q: With your three-wide package of Cruz, Shepard, and Odell, did you get a sense of how Dallas played you, to try and get some ideas on how teams might try and attack you?
A: Itís really hard to say. Every coordinator and every team has variations and ways they want to take away your best players. They also have a core identity. Dallas, having played them twice a year, itís been the same coordinator. There were some adjustments and new wrinkles as there always are. In terms of if there is a blueprint, if you will, or something that we foresee, it varies from to team to team. There are certain aspects that a lot of teams will do. Itís hard to answer that and say, ĎHey, is there something that Dallas did that we would expect to see over and over?í Thatís a good problem for us to create. To have a situation where teams canít just zero in on any one player, particularly in a three-wide receiver set. They have to account for all of the three guys.
Q: How realistic do you think it is that Odellís numbers maybe wonít reach what they were in the past because you have so many weapons this year?
A: Thatís hard to say. I know it goes along common sense lines. If theyíre going to take him away and commit an extra defender, or two extra defenders, that creates opportunities for others, but then, where does a team stop the bleeding. If thereís opportunities, all of a sudden at some point, ĎHey we canít allow this other player or other scheme to beat us.í Thereís going to be opportunities for him and weíre going to do everything possible, imaginable, to move him around and do things schematically to get him the ball. Heís obviously a dynamic playmaker and someone that we want to make sure we do everything we can to get him the football.
Q: How much did Dallas come over the top on him, doubling him outright?
A: Hard to say. Iíll put it this way: there were a significant number of times where that wasnít the case. It certainly wasnít every snap, every play, 100 percent commitment. I couldnít give you an exact number. I would have to go back and look at that. Iíll tell you in next February or March.
Q: Besides multiple fronts and young corners, what do you see from the Saints defense?
A: You hit the nail on the head. That does jump out. The multiple fronts, the number of looks that you get. Not even just upfront but the multiple coverages and the coverage disguise. It is a Rolodex. I think the disguise component is one that weíve really had to work on. Very rarely what you see is what you get. There are some things that we have to be very smart with, both from the quarterback position and the perimeter with our post-snap recognition. The picture is going to change. Thatís a challenge and is something that weíve had to work on all week to get ready for these guys.
Q: Where did you see the biggest jump in the run game last week?
A: I think there was an emphasis going into that game. We wanted to do everything that we could to establish two things in the run game. Physicality and a finish. I think you certainly saw some of those things. From the standpoint of some of the blocking, guys were making initial contact like we wanted, then they were finishing the blocks. The ball carriers were finishing the runs. Guys in the perimeter were trying to cover down and finish. Thatís something weíve been preaching about and talking about. It was very gratifying to see that unfold. It wasnít all the time, we certainly have to get better. We still had four runs that were zero or negative gains and that has to be eliminated. To take strides in that process from the standpoint of the finish and the heavy-handedness was very nice.
Q: How do you grade the offenseís performance in that first game?
A: Every game we take a look at barometers that we have. Very detailed. Everything from things as easy to see as turnovers, all the way to percentages on various down distances, how we do in various field zones. Certainly getting 3-for-3 touchdowns in the green zone is a great start. Thatís what we want to do. Having a two-minute drive for a touchdown is excellent, thatís what we want to do. We canít have the turnover, or the near second turnover with the backwards pass/fumble. That has to be eliminated. Some of the runs, while we showed some improvement, some progress made, we have to eliminate some of those negative plays. The two pre-snap penalties, canít have that. Hard to say. Did some good, did some bad, have to get better.
Q: Can you score a touchdown too fast?
A: I think we just want to score. Whether we get it done in one play or it takes 12 plays. When youíre talking about four minutes into the game, I think thereís a philosophy to have. You want to keep the clock moving and secure the lead. In terms of philosophically, itís hard enough to score and win in this league. Itís certainly not something that has come into the thought process over the headsets where we have discussions saying, ĎLetís not throw that 45-yarder.í It hasnít come up with us.
Q: Itís not something that you say, ĎOk, the defense has been out there a while, we might want to take our time?í
A: If youíre talking about still running your plays, then you want to make sure youíre still doing everything you can to advance the ball. Some plays are going to be shots and some may be explosive plays. Weíre not in the mindset of slowing it down. We have to do our part. We had enough issues trying to sustain the drive. We need to eliminate those pre-snap penalties and tackles for a loss so that we can stay out there longer. We have our slice of the pie we have to worry about. Defense has their slice of the pie, and of course, kicking. Ben gets to oversee all that good stuff. From our stand point offensively, we want to score and stay out there.
Q: Along those lines, the conventional wisdom is to keep the ball away from Brees and try and control the tempo. You guys want the tempo to be really fast and quick but doesnít that play into his hands with arena football?
A: It comes down to the two things we need to do to sustain drives. Itís a major emphasis for us. We canít turn it over and we have to have the appropriate balance in terms of looking at how many times we rushed the football, rushing attempts, as well as completions. Coming up with a formula that suits our goals, meets our goals in terms of giving us the consistency we need to go ahead and stay out there. Again, we have a great challenge ahead of us. We have to improve. We took a lot of strides form the preseason, but as you guys all know from Week 1 to Week 2, thatís the biggest jump. Weíre of the mindset that we can do everything we can to limit our mistakes and stay out there. Itís a long way of saying, weíve done so much where weíre shooting ourselves in the foot. Weíre the reason weíre leaving the field. Not because weíre scoring so fast but because we went three and out or turning it over. That has to stop. Thatís where our focus is.
Q: Obviously, thereís a time in the preseason where you didnít know if you could count on having Victor. Now that you have him, how much difference does he make in the offense?
A: First of all, weíre all very, very happy for the young man as a person. Heís been through so much and worked very, very hard. Itís exciting for all of his teammates. It was exciting for all the fans, everyone thatís been coaching him for sure. Just to see him do the salsa and be back. Itís gratifying. Itís been 700 days. Having said that, he continues this week to get better and to get more acclimated into the system. Being able to move around into various spots. The timing with Eli is showing signs of improvement. Heartwarming, positive, great story aside, which it first and foremost is, having an extra weapon for the offense is tremendous. Weíre excited to see where it goes moving forward.
Q: What was your involvement in the play calling? How did that process work, in your opinion, in the opener?
A: It worked great because we won. Thatís the most important thing: that we win. When we win there is no one happier than I am. Thatís first and foremost. Coach McAdoo called the plays. We had communication during the series, between the series, my communication with Eli and getting that communication to Ben going back and forth. That was a positive approach for us, we won the game and thatís whatís important for us.
Q: How close is Will Beatty to being game ready?
A: Heís still a work in progress. Still trying to get a sense of him being acclimated from the football standpoint and also schematically. Knowing exactly what we do. We do so much at the line of scrimmage, in terms of calls, so thatís going to take some time. Itís really too early to say.
Q: What did you see from Brett Jones to want to put him at fullback?
A: We really donít have a fullback on the roster. We try to find ways. Particularly, we asked about clock situations and so forth. When we get into a four-minute situation where we have the lead, and we had to run the ball, weíre trying to find someone that has a physicality and a snap about him. Weíre always trying to get the most out of our players and put them in positions to show versatility. That was something that we wanted to take a look at. The couple of plays he was in didnít have quite the success, and it wasnít to his fault. Moving forward, we have to do everything we can to maximize our resources. The way weíre built as a roster isnít necessarily a conventional X number of fullbacks, X number of tight ends, etcetera. Weíre more of a heavier, three wide receivers, one tight end type of a set.