Sean Payton: Ted Ginn Jr. still the fastest player on the field

Saints coach Sean Payton said he has a “crystal-clear vision” for new receiver Ted Ginn Jr. in the New Orleans offense.

Most of that vision is pretty obvious. Ginn is a blazing-fast vertical threat who was signed the day before the Saints traded away blazing-fast receiver Brandin Cooks.

Payton pointed out during his media session at the NFL meetings on Wednesday that the two receivers are “a little different” and Ginn is a little bigger at 5-foot-11. But Payton said “he’ll do some of the same things.”

“I seem him playing at flanker. I see him being a guy that can take the top off the coverage. I like what this guy does,” Payton said of Ginn, a 10-year veteran who just had the best two-year stretch of his career with the Carolina Panthers, combining for 98 catches, 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016.

“I made this comment: I think this guy has played better in the middle to the back half of his career than the front,” Payton said. “I do think he’s got punt-return value. There’s a level of toughness that comes with him that I like. And he’s still, when he’s playing in each game, the fastest player on the field.

“I have an exact vision as to how he’ll be used, and that helps.”

Of course, Ginn could be more than just a deep threat in New Orleans. The New Orleans Advocate’s Nick Underhill recently pointed out in a film study that Ginn ran a lot fewer go routes in Carolina than people would expect.

Still, Payton, Drew Brees and the Saints have always liked to use a receiver that can “take the top off the coverage,” from Devery Henderson to Robert Meachem to Kenny Stills to Cooks.

Payton also pointed out an added benefit of adding Ginn in an interview with the NFL Network this week.

“I like Ted Ginn Jr. a lot,” Payton said when asked about losing Cooks. “And we’ve seen him in our division. And I like the idea that we add a player like that, and it also takes away from someone in our division.

“It’s like two wins.”

Payton also touched briefly Wednesday on his vision for the Saints’ other free-agent newcomers:

  • I wrote about about how the Saints liked new guard Larry Warford because of his “ass and mass.”

  • Payton didn’t specify what the roles will be for new middle linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o (or for incumbent middle linebacker Craig Robertson, for that matter). But he said it was important to add depth and versatility to that position. “We’ve got quite a bit of linebackers now, and I’m comfortable with that because I think we have to play better at that position,” Payton said. “It just gives us flexibility. These guys are all going to compete for opportunities to start. Craig played a bunch for us last year. [Weakside linebacker Dannell] Ellerbe has been injured. He’s played about a little under 50 percent of his snaps. [Backup Nate] Stupar and this whole group coming in, I think it’s gonna provide good competition.”

  • Payton said new pass-rusher Alex Okafor “is experienced and he’s someone that has had some injuries (in his first four years with the Arizona Cardnals), but we think that can give us rush snaps. You could put a pitch count on how many, but we think he is a pressure player. In our game, if you can get a pressure player, that helps you.”