WATCH: Jameis Winston discusses Saints’ identity on offense, trust in Sean Payton

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METAIRIE, La. (WGNO) – Saints quarterback Jameis Winston spoke with media following practice on Wednesday at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

Winston went over many topics, including how the team is finding it’s identity on offense four games into the regular season.

Here is the transcript from his press conference:

Do you feel less pressure playing quarterback here than in Tampa?

“I think when you have a great team that surrounds you, you definitely can be a little more confident, because you know you’re going to get opportunity after opportunity, you have a great defense. You know you can depend on a great offensive line and one of the best running backs in the NFL.”

There’s a narrative going around yet that there’s no trust between yourself and Sean Payton. How do you feel about that?

“I know I trust him with everything I got and I’m getting adjusted to his system. This is his team. He’s been here for a long time, I have to fit in. When you’ve had so much success as a head coach with your offense the way you do things, I’m getting adjusted to that and I’m loving it. I’ve been loving how efficient we’ve been. I’ve been loving having a lot off my plate. Obviously I want more, but that has to be earned. Week by week, I’m going to have an opportunity to earn it.”

What’s the message for the team after a loss like that Sunday, in terms of Sean Payton saying you can’t get it back, but to get something from this?

“We have to finish. That’s one of the most important things. With the type of people we have in this team, we have finishers. A game like that especially when you are at home, or wherever you are, you have to finish, offense, defense, special teams and we have to step on our opponent’s neck. We have to place our will over them and finish that game with a victory.”

How do you practice that?

“That’s a mentality. You don’t practice that. That comes from what you come from and we have a lot of guys like that. We have a lot of guys that are winners. Sean Payton, he’s a winner, we know how to win here and that’s one of the keys to winning, finishing the opponent when they’re down and not allowing them to come back.”

When you broke down the game tape, how did you grad your own performance?

“This was probably one of my better games this year, but we didn’t finish. I promise you I’d rather play a game where I didn’t like my tape and we win, rather than one where it was okay and we lose. That’s just not in me, my DNA. I’d rather win than anything.”

We talked about the throw to Marquez Callaway in New England and then this week there didn’t seem to be any throws that were risky in this game. Would you agree with that, that you were able to keep out of problematic situations?

“Yes, coach got me into a nice rhythm. We got hot heading into the second half, really the fourth quarter, we got real hot. I was thankful that he got me in a real nice rhythm. Some games you are going to have to make plays like that. Some games you have games like that where good things happen. Obviously we didn’t win.”

What is your take on Alvin Kamara’s lack of touches in the passing game?

“Alvin is probably my primary on most and defenses know that. So it’s their job to take away my best player. But when you take away my best player and he’s still getting a buck (100 yards rushing) every week. That’s still the best part at playing quarterback with a  guy who is as versatile as him. Defenses give him more in the passing game than they do in the running game. But I feel that we are doing some good things in the passing game that is going to open up him a little bit more with these weeks to come.”

You talk about how you need to earn Sean Payton’s trust. Do you feel like in this game, maybe once you look at the tape that maybe you did earn some of that?

“This man has been here for 16 plus years and he’s been coaching Drew Brees, a hall of fame quarterback. Our relationship in terms of handing me over the keys. He just didn’t hand over the keys to Drew in their first four games (together). This is a relationship that is going to build and as obviously we find more of an identity obviously, we’re going to have different things where he trusts me more in this situation than that situation. That’s how football works. That’s like me with a receiver. I’m going to trust a certain receiver more in this situation than that situation. It’s really just a feel because he’s our play caller too. When you have a guy like Alvin Kamara and you have trust in this dominant defense that we have here, you have to be that way. You have to trust your gut. He’s been really good at doing that. Like I said, I trust him, so I know that’s going to come.”

Is it fair to say that you haven’t found your identity on offense yet?

“Early in the season, you are always searching for how we can best function as an offense, but I think after we get a nice self-scout after this game and get into the bye, get some guys healthy back on the offensive side, I think we’ll start finding that identity, but at the end of the day, as long as we find wins, you can find the identity. But the key part is finishing and finding a way to win a football game.”

Is there kind of a sense of just surviving to win all you can and find that identity later when you have all the pieces? I imagine Mike Thomas is a huge piece?

“He’s a huge piece. I believe these guys like Marquez (Callaway), Chris Hogan…We’ve had guys that have stepped up in an amazing way. Kenny Stills, they called that touchdown back with him, but he stepped up in a tremendous way. Obviously defenses, they have to plan for our start players. When you add Mike Thomas. When you add Tre’Quan Smith. Those guys that’s an alarm that’s ringing. Now they can’t just focus on Alvin Kamara. They need to focus on these other people around where they don’t have much film. They have a lot of film on Chris Hogan. They don’t have a lot of film on Marquez Callaway. They don’t have much film on Deonte Harris at the receiver position. As a defensive coach, you’re going to be playing what you see and that’s why they are playing a lot to stop Alvin (Kamara) in the past few games.

Would you agree that the last two weeks, the communication with the offensive line has been much better?

“The biggest change we made is me and Cesar (Ruiz) are getting on the same page. People forget that it the Carolina game was his first time playing the center position with noise in the NFL. Communication in huge, coming off a COVID year where you don’t have any crowd at all. So the biggest thing is we got that fixed. We need to continue to focus on our protections and make sure we are protected so we can roll.”

There was a stretch of 14 straight plays in last week’s game where you didn’t attempt a pass, you scored a touchdown on the drive, so it worked out. But when you go that long without throwing a pass is it hard to stay in a rhythm?

“That’s what I said, coach did a great job of helping get me into a rhythm. Once you get to the end of the game and are up by two scored, my thing is let’s run it down their throat. That milks the clock. We have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and one of the best backs in the NFL. What’s the easiest thing? Let’s protect the football, running the football, let’s get some first downs running the ball and take some time off our defense. That’s been our formula a lot in these first few games. It’s been working. This game, we just didn’t finish. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to turn out.

What happened on that delay of game penalty?

“We had Dwayne Washington in for a play designed for AK (Alvin Kamara). AK had just toted the ball like six times in a row again with Tony (Jones) getting hurt. It kind of put a lot on him. We designed a play for AK and we didn’t have the right personnel for that play. We just took the delay.”

You’ve played against several Ron Rivera coached teams in Carolina over the years. What do you draw from them?

“Eyes on quarterback. They always attack the ball really well. Always have a good defensive line and long rangy corners and I know they’re going to be very well-disciplined.”

What are some of those things you feel you need to earn with Coach Payton to be able to put more on your plate?

“I think that comes with the game, the flow of the game for the most part. Getting in a two-minute drive. I haven’t had a chance to really do a two-minute drive at the end of the half besides the one in Carolina. Being able to take advantage of those opportunities and when it comes being able to get some passing numbers up. That’s what I mean by earning the opportunity, by the situation.”

Have you ever had a situation like this before in terms of how you and Taysom Hill are being used?

“I think its two different types of energies. He’s coming in and can do it all. I’m rooting for him. That’s part of the identity that we have. We have some packages where he’s getting in there and toting the rock, some packages where he’s getting in and throwing. The part that I play is being able to manage this team and being able to lead us to a win. That’s all I’m concerned with. I know we have a bunch of great players on this team and we need to use them for our benefit. That takes some pressure off of me by throwing Taysom in there and just being able to give the uncertainty of what you’re going to get in the game. I think that puts us in a lot of positive advantages when he’s throwing out there.”

Throwing to Taysom it looks like you had a couple nice completions to him?

“It’s marvelous. Like I said, I know I talk about this offensive line a lot where they deserve the credit. I talk about Alvin a lot, but Taysom the same way. When you have a teammate like that, who is amazing in everything they do, that just helps out the team. That helps with rhythm. It helps with identity. It helps with Sean as a play-caller.”

What’s it been like working with Kenny Stills?

“It’s been great, just because he’s a savvy veteran player, very familiar with this offense and he’s explosive. You saw that in the reel that he had. He’s very explosive. I enjoy having a deep threat target.

{Transcript courtesy of the New Orleans Saints}

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