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Leftovers from Sean Payton at Sloan

Sean Payton was part of a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday, where he spoke about how the Saints use analytics.

The most interesting thing Payton talked about is how his team uses GPS tracking in practices to prevent injuries and better understand what’s happening in those sessions.

Here is a look at some other things Payton said:

How analytics helps the Saints:

Our own tendencies, being mindful of what our opponents are seeing when they break our film down. That information is coming quicker than ever before. What used to be two or three young assistant coaches in a room breaking down film, we’re gathering this information on Monday. We have it available immediately.

Background on how he uses analytics:

I think just as important for us, in week when we prepare to play an opponent, is the information we’re taking with down and distance, predictability, red zone, what we can expect in the passing game and running game, special teams. It really gets us started with our initial game plan. How we feel like this team is going to play, how they’re going to play us, and what the data tells us they do.

On how film has become more available:

My first year in coaching in 1988 I was in charge of splicing 16mm film. Anymore it’s, the film itself is much like our music. If we want to punch in New England Patriots third down and 2, we can get a season, we can get the last four games, we can get the last eight weeks, sorted by pass, sorted by field position. It’s just a matter of what you’re asking.

On how analytics help:

Every year I think there’s more data available to myself and our staff and we look closely at it. It could be we’ll have the exact percentages of the two-point plays, run or pass. Historically in our league, running the ball on a two-point play has been a little bit more efficient or effective than passing the football. When to go for it on fourth down — what are the numbers that suggest you should? Trying to have a bead on that and still trying to pay attention to what’s taking place in the game. For instance, these variables that your left guard is really having a problem with their defensive tackle. That’s not accounted for in what the percentages are giving you.

More on how analytics help:

In regards to player speed and burst when he’s bumped or when he’s off, it may dictate how you decide to defend someone. … I’m interested to see how we can use it to develop quarterbacks, because the hardest thing we have is giving them repetitions, yet how do we develop a young quarterback?

More on how he uses analytics:

But the idea of our call sheets, 12 or 10 guys on the field is a nightmare for us. It’s not enough or it’s too many. Both of which can result in costing your team a game. The idea that your tablet was red until blue meant you were with 11. Anytime it was red — because it happens. You want to have your personnel correct on the field, and you want to have the right personnel. Offenses are changing very quickly. There are very simple applications that I can think of on game day that would very much apply.

On how he uses analytics:

The affirmation as to this is what we’re seeing and not only is this receiver playing in the nickel, he’s aligned here 95 percent of the time, and the fact that’s what we thought going into the game. There’s something to be said for data that confirms or validates what you think. You become a more confident play caller.

On when he goes with his gut:

I think based on the game, you have to pay attention to your gut. I think there are certain things that are more important to me based on percentages. The percentages of recovering an onside kick are one thing, without it being an obvious situation. I think you have to rely on your gut but I think during the week that data can shape ultimately the way you feel and what your gut is.

Saints TE Orson Charles receives diversion for ‘road rage’ incident

New Orleans Saints tight end Orson Charles received diversion at his sentencing in Madison County, Kentucky after pleading guilty to wanton endangerment, according to WKYT.

Charles was arrested in April after being accused of pointing a gun at another driver who made an obscene gesture at him.

Charles’ attorney told the news station that his client is essentially on probation for two years.

Charles signed to New Orleans’ practice squad last September and was signed to a futures contract following the 2014 season.

Saints Draft Prospects: Trae Waynes could be a target at cornerback

BY CHRISTOPHER JASON

Trae Waynes

Position: Cornerback

School: Michigan State

Height: 6-feet

Weight: 186 pounds

Not only do the Saints need an edge rusher but they also need to fill the void at cornerback across from Keenan Lewis. Enter Michigan State’s Trae Waynes,  the clear number one cornerback prospect in the draft, who would bring a dose of physicality to Rob Ryan’s secondary.

Waynes is another player who distinguished himself at the NFL Combine by running a blazing 4.31 40-yard dash, jumping 38 inches in the vertical and bench pressing 19 reps. It also helps that he only allowed two touchdowns in his prior two seasons in East Lansing, per NFL.com.

Prospect Breakdown

If there is one word to describe Waynes’ playing style, it would be “physical.” He is an intimidating player who uses his length to his advantage. He excels in press coverage and takes pride in being on an island, 1-on-1 versus the opposing wide receiver. He does a great job of using his arms and his body positioning to gain inside leverage on the receiver. Although blankets  vertical routes by constantly pinning the receiver to the sidelines, he has the 4.31 40-yard recovery speed to bail himself out, if necessary.

The only downside to Waynes’ physicality is how it is called in today’s NFL. He tends to grab his opponent well over the 5-yard threshold, which will be called on the next level. His future positional coach will have to work with him to use his hands less after the 5-yard mark. When watching his tape, he would be flagged numerous times per game for either defensive holding or pass interference.

The former Spartan is not only physical in pass coverage but he is a willing and able run defender who comes downhill and drives through the ball carrier. He does a good but not great job of fighting off of blocks but he is more physical versus the run than the average cornerback. He can also play special teams, as he was a solid performer on the kick-off team.

Where would he fit in New Orleans?

With cornerback being one of the main priorities for the Saints, Waynes would be a day one, plug-and-play type prospect across from Lewis. With Waynes coming from Michigan State, he played a lot of quarters (Cover 4) defense, where he was constantly left alone on an island. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State’s defensive coordinator, is one of the best in college football, which should make Waynes’ transition to the NFL fairly easy.

With Waynes in the mix, Ryan would be able to call more press coverage with two talented, physical cornerbacks. A secondary consisting of Lewis, Waynes and the monster safety tandem could certainly change the complexion of the Saints’ defense.

Where could the Saints draft him?

With cornerback being a big need for the Saints and Waynes being the consensus number one cornerback prospect, New Orleans would need to select him with their first round pick. He would most likely not be the best player available at 13 but if they wanted to draft for need, Waynes would be the pick, especially if their coveted edge rushers are off the board.

Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis No. 5 in coach/GM ranking

The working relationship and sharing of ideas between Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis is the foundation on which the Saints are built.

This is no secret and more often than not, those two men know how to concoct a winning formula. This is why NFL.com has named them one of the best coach-general manager combinations in the league, ranking them fifth best in the league.

“Since they joined forces in 2006, the Saints have gone 80-48 and won a Super Bowl,” Adam Schien, the author of the article, writes. “And it’s not like this franchise had a pronounced track record of success in the preceding years: Payton has guided New Orleans to the playoffs five times — the same number of postseason bids nabbed by the Saints in their first 39 years of existence, prior to Payton’s arrival.”

The Saints rank behind Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson; Seattle’s Pete Carroll and John Schneider; Baltimore’s John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome; and Arizona’s Bruce Arians and Steve Keim.

It’s tough to have beef with this list since any of these teams could justifiably rank anywhere on the list. My only complaint is that I would like to see the Cardinals win something before being crowned the best anything.

Vic Beasley lands with Saints in Todd McShay’s latest mock draft

Many people believe Vic Beasley worked himself into the top 10 with a strong performance at the combine, putting him out of reach for the New Orleans Saints.

Todd McShay isn’t among those people. The ESPN draft analyst projects the Saints will be able to select the Clemson pass rusher with the 13th pick in the draft.

McShay writes:

“I’ve got cornerback, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and offensive line as the Saints’ biggest need areas, and in Beasley they’d be filling one of those while upgrading their pass rush. He turned in one of the best all-around workouts of the 322 players invited to this year’s combine. He still needs to improve the power element to his game, both as a pass-rusher and when setting the edge versus the run, but he provided some indication that he’ll be able to do exactly that by adding 26 pounds to his frame since last spring.”

If the board shakes out like this, it would obviously be a welcomed development for the Saints. Beasley is one of the best pass rushers in this class and New Orleans needs to get their hands on at least one.

Here’s a breakdown of Beasley from draft contributor Christopher Jason.

Saints Draft Prospects: Bud Dupree could be the edge rusher New Orleans is looking for

BUD DUPREE

POSITION: DE/OLB

SCHOOL: Kentucky

HEIGHT: 6-foot-4

WEIGHT: 269 pounds

The Saints need pass rushers. Bud Dupree is a very good pass rusher. This form of math isn’t difficult. While he’s raw and needs refinement, he has the natural ability that could make him very enticing to NFL teams. It also helps that he’s a physical freak.

Guys of his stature are not supposed to be able to run a 4.56 40-yard dash. They aren’t supposed to have 42-inch vertical jumps or 138-inch broad jumps. But these are the traits Dupree possesses and they show up on film.

PROSPECT BREAKDOWN

There he is. There he is again. These are the thoughts that go through your mind while watching Dupree go about his business. He has a high motor and almost always seems to be around the ball, crashing the pocket or in pursuit of a run.

He wins with his first step. He’s so often the first man off the ball that it comes as a surprise when he isn’t. While at Kentucky, he often won with his first step and speed, but he also has the ability to bend the edge. Dupree has good flexibility, can bed his knees and ankles while rushing the passer, while also maintaining his balance. These traits, paired with his deadly first step, often allowed him to beat college offensive tackles to the outside. He also knows how to use his hands to swat away blocks.

As a linebacker, he can also drop into coverage. He also shows patience against the run and has the closing speed to chase down linebackers.

The knock on Dupree would be that he is a raw player who wins with his athleticism. He only has a few pass-rush moves and needs to become more refined to win at the next level. When he wins, he wins by beating the tackle to his outside shoulder. He has few, if any, inside moves.

He can get caught playing too high, which allows him to get blocked out too easily at times. And though he shows patience against the run, he can get caught failing to set the edge. There are also times when it seems as though he struggles to recognize and diagnose what’s happening in front of him. One such moment came against Missouri when he rushed the passer, missed the tackle, and then was slow to recover. His high motor allowed him to recover and make a sack. He also is susceptible to play-action fakes and can be slow to recover.

Overall, he carries his size well and is explosive. It’s easy to picture him blossoming at the next level if he is able to refine his technique.

WHERE WOULD HE FIT IN NEW ORLEANS?

The Saints need pass rushers. Dupree can rush the passer. It’s easy to picture him coming off the edge in a 4-3 front or as a 3-4 backer. New Orleans employees both fronts, so this could be a plus for Dupree.

It’s difficult to know how well he can cover since he was mostly limited to dropping back into a zone while at Kentucky. While it’s dangerous to get to say too much here, based on the limited samples, he could be serviceable in this area.

WHERE COULD THE SAINTS DRAFT HIM?

It’s difficult to know since there hasn’t been a consensus on Dupree. If New Orleans wants a stab at him, it might have to dive in at 13. The Saints could also potentially trade down and get him later in the first round. It’s possible, but unlikely, that he’s still there in the second round.

Lions release RB Reggie Bush

As expected, the Detroit Lions parted ways with veteran running back Reggie Bush on Wednesday.

Releasing Bush, 29, saves Detroit $1.7 million against the salary cap. He rushed for 297 yards on 76 carries and caught 40 passes for 253 yards last season.

Bush began his career in New Orleans and averaged 4.0 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per reception during his five years with the club. He was traded to Miami in 2011 and hooked on with the Lions in 2011.

While he’s aging and has battled injuries throughout his career, Bush might have had his best season in 2013 when he rushed for 1,0006 yards on 223 carries and caught 54 passes for 506 yards.

At the right price, he could still be a solid piece for a team in need of a player with his skill set.

 

Saints hire new communications director

The Saints announced the hiring of Fitz Ollison as the team’s new Senior Director of Football Communications.

Ollison, who has worked in the NFL for 15 years, previously held the same position with the Miami Dolphins, where he assisted in the management of public image and overall communications strategy for the organization.

The job was previously held by Doug Miller, who accepted a job at The Greenbrier.

“We are pleased to announce the addition Fitz (Ollison) to the Saints organization,” Saints senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel said in a statement. “He has served in a managerial role in many facets of our business, specifically with four teams. He will manage all aspects of the day-to-day Saints football communications’ efforts, which will also include interacting with digital media, community relations and our business and marketing operations. We look forward to him joining the team.”

Olison previously worked at FOX Sports as a field producer and stats contributor in 2007. Prior to that, he worked with the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons (2003-2006) as the team’s supervisor of football information.

He also worked for the Detroit Lions from 2000-01.

Saints select La’el Collins and Shane Ray in latest round of mock drafts

With all of the top pass rushers off the board, the Saints select LSU’s La’el Collins with the 13th pick in NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah latest mock draft.

Many have projected New Orleans will take a pass rusher with its first-round pick, but strong combine performances from Clemson’s Vic Beasley, Missouri’s Shane Ray, and Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. out of reach in Jeremiah’s mock.

Taking Collins would make sense. He performed strongly at the combine and the Saints could have a need on the offensive line if either guard Jahri Evans or Ben Grubbs is let go this offseason. In New Orleans, Collins, an offensive tackle, would likely move to guard.

The board shakes out differently in Peter King’s mock draft over at TheMMQB.com. He believes Ray will slip far enough for the Saints to take him with the 13th pick.

King explains: “Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is pretty happy with this pick. He wants a pressure player, and there are a few still out here, and the Saints would bypass some promising tackles to make this call. Mickey Loomis could go a lot of different directions here.”

Pretty happy? Ryan would probably be thrilled with this pick.

Collins is not in the top 15 in King’s mock draft.

New Orleans Saints Draft Prospects: Vic Beasley could be the right fit for Rob Ryan’s defense

By Christopher Jason

Vic Beasley

School: Clemson

Position: Edge

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 246 pounds

After being named a consensus All-American in 2013, it was a surprise that Vic Beasley decided to pass up first round money to come back for his senior season. But the Clemson product did not disappoint during his final season, as he finished with 21.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.

Beasley has always been known for his lightning-quick first step but scouts were concerned with his size, as NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah tweeted that Beasley only weighed 220 pounds last spring, which was his major question mark entering the 2014 NFL Combine. When Beasley arrived in Indianapolis for testing, he was measured at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, which was a huge surprise for scouts and the media. Not only did his weigh-in exceed expectations but he dominated the field drills. He was considered a combine top performer in every category, running a 4.53 40-yard dash, 6.91 3 cone drill, 4.15 20-yard shuttle, jumping 41 inches in the vertical jump, 130 inches in the broad jump and doing 35 reps on the bench press. It is safe to say that Beasley trained hard and helped his draft stock immensely while in Indianapolis.

Prospect Breakdown

When watching Beasley come off the edge, the first thing that pops off the screen is his first step. He is always the first person off of the line of scrimmage and he is sometimes a yard or two into the backfield by the time his teammates are out of their stances. After coming off of the ball against the pass, he uses his speed and quickness to beat the opposing lineman off the edge. He is relentless as a pass rusher and does not give up on getting to the quarterback. Once he gets the correct angle, he uses his body well to get low and bend to give himself the best opportunity to beat the lineman and get to the quarterback. Beasley uses his hands violently to keep himself clean against opposing linemen but he needs to develop an arsenal of pass rushing moves at the next level.

Beasley is a speed pass rusher, so he lacks a little in the run game. At Clemson he played with his hand(s) in the ground and although he finished with 21.5 tackles for loss, he could be stronger at setting the edge when the ball is run at him. If he played last season in the 220-230 pound range, it is possible that the added weight could help him become a stronger player against the run and a more complete edge player. Beasley resembles a young Von Miller, who entered the league at the same size possessing similar positives and negatives in his game.

Although he was not used in pass coverage very often at Clemson, his combine testing shows that his hips are fluid and he can change direction easily without losing speed. But overall, Beasley is a speed pass rusher with elite athleticism, who should be used on the edge, to get after the quarterback.

Where would he fit in New Orleans?

Edge rushers are a priority in Rob Ryan’s defense and Beasley is the type of athlete that can be the prototypical 3-4 edge player, or with his added bulk, he could play outside linebacker in the 4-3 and come off the edge on passing downs.

Beasley’s combination of speed, strength and explosion would work wonders for Ryan and he could turn the former Tiger into one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. Beasley has the type of tools that Ryan could use creatively, by sticking his hand in the dirt or standing him up.

Where could the Saints draft him?

After Beasley’s superb NFL Combine, the Saints may be out of luck but there is a possibility that he could still be around at pick number 13 of the first round. If Beasley falls to the Saints, I would be very surprised if they did not select the former Clemson standout.

Follow Christopher Jason on Twitter @CJason112