Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
October 8, 2015
Alright, I won’t take too much time. Just going back to last Sunday real quick, I was really proud of how hard the guys came out and played, there was a lot of energy. I think we need to do that every game to have any kind of success. Having said that, we’ve moved on from that game. Now, obviously, it’s on to the next one. It’s a pretty good challenge we’ve got facing us. San Francisco coming in here and hopefully we can bring the same energy and physical, fast play that we had last week. We’re going to hang our hat on that. With that being said, I’ll open it up for questions.
Q: You have some injury issues at linebacker. How concerning are those for you?
A: Injuries are always concerning. Yeah, DK (Kennard) hasn’t practiced just yet, we’re trying to get him to the game if we can. And then we’ve got some other bumps and bruises. But there’s not that many guys there, so we’ll navigate through it. Next man up, everybody says in this league.
Q: Speaking of next man up, a guy we haven’t talked about a lot is Jasper Brinkley who you picked up Week One. How is he progressing?
A: He’s been great. What he’s been asked to do was play a couple of different positions, you have to do that in this league when you’re a backup linebacker. You’ve got to learn more than one position, so he’s done that. Now he’s had a chance in these practices these last couple days to get some reps, which is a good thing. I think he’s got size and he’s got some strength to him, so hopefully that can help us going forward, especially with the injuries we’ve got.
Q: What have you thought of Kerry Wynn and what kind of discipline he’s had with his assignments so far, for the last two games especially?
A: He’s been great. I think Kerry Wynn has been one of our more consistent, dependable, physical, fast football players, and we’ve needed it obviously out there at defensive end. All these offensive systems, especially the one coming in here, are going to test your edges and the guys at the defensive end spot. I texted Kerry, it might have been two days ago, because I was watching practice tape. A lot of complimentary things to say because of how he had been playing, and certainly that way in the game.
Q: Did he kind of hit the wall a little bit in the summer? It seemed like he put so much work into his offseason…
A: Yeah, I don’t know that, but I will tell you this: When I got here back in January, February, whatever it was and you start seeing guys come in and out of the building, Kerry Wynn was here every day. I don’t know if you guys were around or you saw him. He worked as hard as anybody in the offseason and that’s with me not really knowing who all the guys were, how they worked. But I was impressed, Kerry was around every day and Jay Bromley—those guys worked out together. I don’t know, you’d have to ask him, if that’s true or not, but he’s playing good football for us now.
Q: You were very cognizant before the season and you mentioned it yourself what happened in 2007, a slow start, of trying to avoid that. You’ve seemed to have done that. Are you satisfied that you have and that things are going as well as you could expect?
A: We’re getting there. I’d still like to have the first two games back. Last two drives still kind of stick in here. I think they do for all us prideful defensive players and coaches. But it’s over, it’s gone, it’s in the rearview mirror, so we’re moving on. I am happy with the way the guys have adopted and embraced what we’re trying to do. We need to do that. They’ve been great around each other. I think I told them Saturday night before the game, I was starting to see the molding and the communication. We still have a ways to go, we can improve in a lot of different areas, but that part of it has been really good. I think it has helped us.
Q: What kind of progress have you seen from Jayron Hosley from the first time you watched him on film to where he is now?
A: A lot more confidence. Tim Walton has worked real hard with him. I had some conversations with him during training camp. I have just seen him grow and kind of do that. He gets in that one game, he played really well for us. I think he may have had that one penalty or whatever. What you don’t recognize with corners, and especially press corners, is sometimes when you don’t hear anything from them, that means they’re doing a really good job. Nobody throws the ball over there. He’s been a real big help; hopefully we get him back out there this week and see if we can get him some snaps.
Q: We touched on this a little bit last week. You have the number one run defense and number 32 pass defense now this week.
A: I didn’t know that until you said that. I didn’t know it was that extreme. I knew we were doing pretty good and not so good in the other, but I had no idea.
Q: Is that sustainable for success in this league?
A: It’s sustainable if the points on the board stay where they were the last two weeks. The other thing that we had to come up with and we’ve done it in the games that we’ve won, you’ve got to get turnovers. You’ve got to create them and when they’re there, capitalize on them. By that, I mean we have to come up with the football and we’ve been able to do that. Look it, nobody wants to be 32nd in anything. I know when the game is being called and what I’m asking the players to play the game, we’re playing the game to win, not to improve our stats. And that’s the truth. So when you get in games, especially toward the end where some of those stats pile up, there were calls in there that say, “Let’s protect the goal line.” Because in some of those games, the only way we lose the game is if they get in the end zone. It didn’t matter what they gained. The other that sticks out is the 25-yard run at the end of, which game was it, Washington. But we don’t spend a lot of time on stats anyway. Is it sustainable? It’s sustainable if the result of the board stays where it is.
Q: What does Damontre Moore have to do to get on the field more for you?
A: Damontre, the one thing I love about Damontre, is on Sunday he’s all energy. He’s got a high motor, he makes a lot of plays because of that. But he’s kind of been a niche guy for us right now. His specialty and his skill is when we have a pretty good chance of them throwing the football. The run game, he’s getting better and better at, but we’ve got some other guys there right now that are playing better against the run. When that changes, that gets better, he’ll be put in there, but right now we’ve found a comfort level with where he’s been as far as reps.
Q: You haven’t got a lot of sacks, though. How do you get more out of that?
A: If there was a formula to that…now look, it’s a mixing it up with a four-man rush and trying to bring people and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. The back end has to play a little bit tighter, the guys upfront have got to rush a little bit quicker. Some of those we’ll finish off and get some sacks. We’ve faced a couple of really good quarterbacks that get it out quick. A guy that could avoid sacks last week, and we got another one this week. What you’ve got to understand, and I think you probably realize, is last week, that game in particular, it was all about not letting him get out. So that takes on a different mold. It’s not the stat we’re looking for, it’s the result on the play. We do need to get better overall on our pass defense, but the point total, I’m okay with.
Q: You mentioned you’re not big on stats, but one stat that has shrunk is yards after the catch, you’re doing a better job with tackling.
A: The tackling wasn’t great in this particular game, we had a bunch of missed tackles. But that particular stat was really good. I don’t remember it exactly, but I know it was under four, and that’s what we’re always shooting for yards after catch. So that part has been good. That and rushing yards after contact we have stressed. I think in all of the games but one or two, both those stats have been pretty good. It does make a difference, makes a big difference.
Q: The point total you say you’re okay with. Are you okay with the amount of pressure you’re getting even if it’s not leading to sacks?
A: You always want more pressure, and we do. We generate it in two ways. You beat one-on-ones or you try and outnumber them, overload and get a free rusher. We’ve been getting a little bit of that and sometimes they’ve gotten rid of it. Sometimes we haven’t gotten there quick enough. And we probably need to win some more one-on-one battles.
Q: You should just play your fullback more.
A: Yeah. He’s beautiful, isn’t he? I’ll tell you what, when he goes in there, it’s a whole different challenge for an offensive lineman, really. Hopefully it will be still a challenge.
Q: How did that come up?
A: Somewhere along the way. Look, we’ve known about him playing defense since he got here. We talked about it back right after the draft, we sat down. So he’s scooped up by the offense, so it’s hard to pull him away. He’s trying to win a position on the football team as a fullback. But once he made the team, we thought maybe we could pull him over for some situational stuff. It worked out pretty good. Larry Izzo has been a real big fan and proponent of Nikita. But I’m glad we have him out there, he gives us some juice at the end. He’s a good football player. He loves it, the guy loves playing football. So you’ve got to love having those guys like that. They have a hard time finding when he can practice it because he’s over there doing all the offensive stuff, but he helps us out.
Q: Was Izzo the one planting that seed?
A: Like I said, we knew about it before. I remember Robert Nunn talking about it, Larry’s been adamant about it. Larry’s been working with him on special teams. There’s been a lot of different people, and Nikita himself. Every time I would see him, “Coach, don’t forget.” “I didn’t forget.” We got him in there.
Q: What did you think of Owa Odighizuwa’s debut?
A: Owa? Solid, good. I’ll tell you what, he made a really good play. Buffalo put three receivers over to the right and we were in man coverage and it was obvious because DRC came over. And I could tell Tyrod knew immediately on the option play to keep it because you’re in man and everybody’s back is turned. And Owa made a really good play playing both the dive and the quarterback. I just showed that this morning because it was an impressive play. He was really solid. He’s got a ways to go. I can tell he was just getting his feet under him because his pass rush isn’t quite where it was in training camp at one point. But I think he’ll improve and keep getting better.
Q: Do you think the guys coming out of college now have a better grasp of how to defend that?
A: I think that’s probably true. Yeah, they see it just about every week. I think that’s a very true statement. That’s a good point, too, he’s seen a lot of it out there in the Pac, is it 10, 12, 14, what is it now? Pac 12, yeah.