WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Anyone who attended Friday’s Black and Gold scrimmage at The Greenbrier will likely hear Rob Ryan’s voice bellowing through their minds for the next few days.
The Saints defensive coordinator wasn’t happy with what he was seeing. Physical mistakes are one thing. The mental mistakes — substitution errors, foolish penalties — were too much for him to handle. So he spent the early portion of the exhibition sending an endless stream of creative language to voice his displeasure.
The language might have been surprising to some. To others, not so much.
“Come on, I played for Gregg Williams,” defensive end Cam Jordan said. “Anything other than that, you get used to it.”
Jordan’s response elicited laughs, but he nor anyone else on the team found the mistakes made during the scrimmage comical. The defense had 12 players on the field on two plays and lined up with 10 on another. On one of those plays, rookie Hau’oli Kikaha was in the huddle when he was not supposed to be.
It’s early in the preseason, and there’s plenty of time to fix such errors, but these are the kinds of mistakes coach Sean Payton talked about all offseason. He often said he didn’t want to be “that team” that always shot itself in the foot. On Friday, in a meaningless exhibition game, they were.
The coach was visibly irritated by the gaffes and couldn’t initially bring himself to talk about it during his daily news conference. It wasn’t until asked again that he allowed himself to vent some frustration.
“You cannot play a game, and it happened the other day in practice, we go three snaps in a row with 10 guys on the field,” Payton said. “So we go out there, we have 12, we have 12, we have 10. Listen, that has to be cleaned up. That’s all of it. That’s not just players.”
It’s surprising to see these struggles after Ryan talked about how few mistakes he’s had to fix earlier this week. But this goes beyond a broken coverage or poor choice on the field. These errors are more fundamental.
At the same time, this is the time to make such errors. At this time of year, a lot is being thrown at players and it can be difficult to keep up with everything, as offensive lineman Zach Strief explained.
“There’s going to be mistakes. (It’s) one of the things (that happens) when you install the entire offense against the entire defense,” Strief said. “If you’re a young player, when we walk into practice there might be 70 run plays installed, and they’re running six different defenses. That can be complicated.”
Strief continued: “It’s a little more complicated right now, epsecially for young guys, and I think that leads to some of the mental errors. As we get going into the season, things get pared down and you get to prepare against what you’re going to see longer. It eliminates a lot of those mistakes.”
Perhaps those things should be expected. But after the number of mental errors last year, the added frustration with such mistakes isn’t surprising.