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Payton: Backup QB battle still tight

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton wasn’t as quick to give the edge to second-year pro Ryan Griffin in the battle to back up quarterback Drew Brees as I was after Griffin’s impressive preseason performance on Friday night.

“I would say he did some good things, and there were some things we tried to clean up (in Sunday’s practice),” Payton said after reviewing the tape and returning to practice Sunday. “He received a good number of snaps. I thought Luke [McCown] played well in his role. I wouldn’t say anything coming off that game in regards to the two of them.

“It is just nice to get them snaps. Obviously without Drew taking any, it’s giving those guys more.”

Griffin gave a similar review of his performance, in which he completed 16 of 23 passes for 179 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions while rallying New Orleans to a 26-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

As I wrote Saturday, the thing that stood out to me most was Griffin’s poise and decision-making, especially under pressure. But Griffin, naturally, was a lot more nitpicky in his self-evaluation.

“There was some good and there was some bad,” Griffin said. “Every time you look at the film, there’s a lot of things I didn’t do correctly. Some day, stuff like getting a guy lined up, getting a shift, a guy set before I do anything else. So there were a lot of mistakes I need to fix, but there were a lot of positives, too.”

When asked for specific examples, Griffin said, “There was one play that stuck out in my mind that I came right off, and Coach Payton was like, ‘I knew they were rolling to shell right there,’” Griffin said. “I didn’t see that pre-snap, and when we went back and looked at it, he was able to point out what the clues were and the indicator. It’s a process, and I’m trying to pick up on it, but everyone is different. There is no exact same Sam dog [defensive blitz look]. There is no exact same Cover Zero.”

Payton, however, did stress that Griffin’s inexperience won’t prevent him from winning the backup job over the much more experienced McCown.

Griffin split time between the Saints’ practice squad and active roster last year as an undrafted rookie out of Tulane. But he didn’t appear in a game.

“Well that [experience level] can’t change. There’s nothing between now and when we start the regular season that’s gonna change the experience he had a year ago,” Payton said. “Overall we felt like he progressed pretty well for a rookie quarterback. He understands what we’re trying to do. And he like everyone else is working on some of the technique things that come up situationally, in and out of the huddle, all of those specifics that you really only get when you actually play in a game.

“He got a lot of snaps the other night. We’ll continue to give him and Luke plenty of work.”