Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
September 10, 2015
Q: Jon Beason?
A: Jon’s gotten some work in this week. Not a lot today, obviously. I know Coach probably addressed it, so I’ll leave it at that. But we’re hopeful, we’re hopeful. We need everybody.
Q: If you don’t have him, you have a guy who has never played an NFL game and a guy who has been here for two days behind him.
A: Yeah, we have some other options, too. Mark [Herzlich] has played it a little bit, so he could slide in. We’ve got some things we can do, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed on Jon. See what happens.
Q: Can you go sub package a lot?
A: Well, like anybody else, a lot depends on what they [Dallas] put out there. Dictates a little bit of what we’ll do. It’s funny, in the preseason games, when we got down on guys, it was almost like we were sort of headed that way. Look it, we’ll have other plans if things don’t go exactly the way we want them. That’s part of playing in the games, you got to adjust on the run. If we have to do it, we’ll do it.
Q: What are your expectations for Landon Collins Sunday night?
A: Play hard, play fast. Be as smart as you can be, be loud, communicate—all the things that a safety needs to do. We all realize it’s his first game in the league. But you know, he played on a big stage at Alabama. So hopefully that’s prepared him for this particular stage. But one day at a time, get better every day.
Q: What have you seen out of him so far?
A: Well, a lot of the things we thought when we took him. Active guy, runs real well, real fast, downhill speed guy. I think he’s a physical guy. In the preseason, trying to keep your guys from getting dings. I don’t know if he played as many reps as he probably needed—I know he didn’t play as many as he needed. A guy like that that comes in at that position as a rookie needs 1,000 reps in games. But it’s just going to take time before he’s up to where we want him. He’s going to get baptism by fire. That’s just the way it is.
Q: Is that kind of the view of this defense as a whole? They’re going to need some time to grow? When you look through it, there’s not a lot of veterans.
A: True. Obviously, guys like Cullen Jenkins and DRC, they’ve been out there in the battles so they’re battle-tested. But yeah, as you say that, I think about the guys. There will be a little bit of that. But hopefully we’ll gel quicker, rather than slower. We’re going to have to live through some growing pains, I think that’s going to happen.
Q: Who’s going to be your other starting safety?
A: I’m not going to go into that right now. We’ve got a bunch of options, everybody has been working there. Before it’s all said and done, I think we’re going to need all of them to win the games. We won’t get hung up too much on who starts.
Q: Do you feel like you can play Collins and Brandon Meriweather together? Some of their skill sets seem similar.
A: I think any of the combinations we have would be fine working together. It’s the one thing those guys are working through. Look, ideally, you have two starting safeties, they work together every snap in practice and game day and get used to each other. We’re not there right now because of the way things went—injuries and what not. It didn’t work out that way. But in the situation we’re in, I think the guys have worked through it pretty good. Dave Merritt has done a great job keeping those guys on the same page. It helps having Craig Dahl, who knows the system real good, knows what we look for. All those things, I hope, help us.
Q: Do you think that in the next couple of weeks you’ll get to that two starting safeties?
A: I hope so. And look, at times you have a certain group in base defense, and then when you get to sub a little bit, it’s two different guys back there. We’re going to need everybody. I really feel that way, before it’s all said and done. They’ve got to get their reps and grind through the whole kind of not having a lot of game experience.
Q: What have you seen from Cooper Taylor? He’s a guy who kind of slipped into that first-team spot late in camp.
A: One of those preseason games, I don’t know if it was this last one. They’re all running together now. Yeah, had a pretty good game, and that kind of boosted him ahead a little bit. Of course, with the injuries we had there, kind of shuffled things around a little bit. So he took advantage of it. Coop’s a guy with a lot of length, smart football player. He just needs to get out there and play some football like all the rest of them. I don’t think he has a volume of reps as a safety in the NFL is my understanding. So he’s probably no different than a lot of the other guys with the youth. So we’ll see.
Q: You started sort of from the bottom here, you came in, and you’re building your defense up. Where are you in that progression?
A: We’re almost there. I don’t think the full volume is in yet, but I don’t know that we need the full volume of defense right now. Sometimes I think in the first game, you play a little faster, you play a little bit better, with less thinking. So we’ve been conscious of that, and purposely haven’t put things in for all the reasons, questions you all asked. We’ve got a lot of young guys. But you don’t want to get caught short-handed either. So you’ve got to have enough in the package. I always say, you’ve got to have enough bullets in the gun to win the shootout. There’s enough there, and I think the guys have been—we’ve kept it pretty much the same, which is good. We haven’t changed on the guys. Sometimes we, the coaches, can make that mistake and try to do too much. We really try to be cognizant.
Q: How are you feeling about the bullets in the pass rush?
A: The bullets in the pass rush. Well, we’ve got enough there. We’ve got to get them in those situations. I think that’s really important. Then we’ll let them go, see what happens.
Q: Are you looking at a mix and match, maybe more than some other teams that you’ve been on in the past, in terms of the defensive line here?
A: Mix and match? You mean the guys?
Q: Guys and skills and utilizing everybody and what they do. You don’t have a guy who is your All-Pro who is going to be out there for 100 percent of the snaps.
A: There’ll be a lot of that. But as I go back and think of the years, I think most teams probably have D lineman in and out, especially the first game. Those are the guys that have got to get up to speed, game speed, and play a full game. I bet if you went around the league and looked at all these teams and looked at their D Lines at the end of the day Sunday, I bet you a lot of the teams play seven, eight guys. We’ll certainly try to do the same thing. I think that’s pretty smart to do early.
Q: Why have you been such a big fan of zone blitzing throughout your years as coach?
A: We don’t do any of that. I don’t know where you would get that. That probably comes from a background in that. Certainly working for Jim Johnson, we did a lot of that down in Philadelphia. There’s a lot of different reasons, I’m not going to dive into them right now. I’d be revealing too much. You know, you’ve got to do both. You’ve got to pressure a little bit, not pressure, man pressure, zone pressure. I do think it’s important to have a menu of a lot of different things, especially in this league, and especially playing the guy we’re going to play in Tony Romo—pretty sharp guy. Try and be one step ahead of him, that’s hard to do. And so that’s really the fight. Do you have enough things that you think confuse him? Or you’re going to confuse your own guys. It’s a balance.
Q: Would you expect Romo and that offense to go after those safeties?
A: I think they’ll just run their offense. They’ve got some pretty good players. My guess is they just worry about getting the ball to the guys they’ve got to get the ball to. Let it go from here.
Q: They have an offensive line, a runner who had 1,800 yards last year. Obviously Murray isn’t there, but whoever is back there is going to be able to run.
A: Coach Coughlin, he said it the other day, the strength of that football team is their lines—both offensive and defense. He’s dead on. I think any time you have a good offensive line, I think your whole team is going to benefit. And they’ve got one.
Q: Romo mentioned he’s excited to sprinkle is some things that they’ve never done before.
A: Did he tell you what they were?
Q: Unfortunately, he didn’t. I’m sure every team sort of kind of does that. As a defensive coach, how do you prepare for something like that?
A: I think the first game of the NFL season, defensively, is all about that. What I was talking to the guys about was stick to what we’ve been doing fundamentally, that’s our foundation. And the important thing in the first game of the season is the in-game adjustments. Who makes them better? Or who is able to have things to answer what they’re doing? I don’t know what they’ll do. We’re trying to guess a little bit. Tony hasn’t played many snaps in the preseason, we know Dez Bryant hasn’t. I’m sure there’ll be some things they’re going to run that we have not seen. Hopefully our fundamentals and our basics will cover most of it. They’ll have some wrinkles in there.
Q: What do you want out of your interior defensive tackles in your defense? What is required?
A: Yeah, stop the run, first and foremost. We need that. And then if they throw the football, push the pocket. All these teams in this league, Dallas included, they get into play action pass on first and second down, somebody has got to punch a hole in the protection. That’s usually pretty tough because they’re keeping more than five guys in. But somewhere in there, there’s a one-on-one, and whoever has got that one-on-one has to win.
Q: Can Bromley be in that spot? Has he shown enough that he could play?
A: We were talking about the safeties, I’d say the same thing about the tackles. I think before it’s all said and done, they’re all going to have to help us. Jay’s a second-year guy, so he’s like a lot of people that we’re talking about here. Not a volume of plays under his belt in game competition. But they’re going to learn on the fly, baptism by fire, as they say. And that’s what we’ll do.
Q: Markus Kuhn spent most of the summer with the first team. What has he done to earn your trust?
A: I’ll tell you what, I love Markus. First of all, he can speak German. Actually, I was in NFL Europe over in Germany. Me and him talk about that a lot. Look it, I think the way the guy is made up—hard worker, where he came from, how he got here—that’s a defensive tackle. He obviously works in the offseason, he’s in great shape. He’s done some real good things. We’ll get him in there. We’ve got to get him in there and put him in the right spot at the right time. I love the guy and I love the way he works, I really do.