Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
November 12, 2015
Okay, I’m just going to open it up. As with every week, I’m onto New England but anything you got on last week and going forward would be great. Love to talk about the game coming up but whatever you got, I’m ready.
Q: There were videos playing this week of a certain game here that you were a part of. I don’t know if you want to talk about last week’s game or a game several years ago.
A: That’s a long time ago, yeah. It’s a long time ago, it was a great moment, great experience. But in all honesty, haven’t thought about that at all, to be honest with you. I just don’t think they correlate, it’s a different team, different people, different guys, different time. Like I haven’t used that game in any way to go back and look at. I think it’s a whole different ball of wax right now, to be honest with you.
Q: It seems like every week we’ve asked you about the pass rush and do you like the pressure you’re getting. It seemed like those last couple drives in Tampa you guys found a combination with Robert Ayers inside.
A: Yeah I think it helped a little bit. That, and obviously JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) was there, and guys were a little bit fresher at the end of the game, that helped a little. Early in the game, there was a lot of rotation in anticipation of that. Going down there in the heat, and I didn’t think it was all that bad really when it was all said and done, but thought about that during the week. I think we did a good job rotating them through so we were a little fresher at the end. I did think that we did a better job when we did actually blitz and pressure. We had some guys that were free, we didn’t quite get there, but we did force some not so great throws. I think that was helpful. And obviously having Jason in there is a good thing.
Q: This week you don’t have Johnathan Hankins, so how do you compensate?
A: That’s unfortunate for him. He reached out, I don’t know if you saw the play, he reached out and tore his pec. We’ll miss him, we’ll miss him dearly. We’ve got guys, and obviously you see the roster move that we made. But we’ll rotate in there, Cullen (Jenkins) may get in there and play a little bit more. We’ll have to do the things that we do that make up for when a guy gets hurt. But we’ll certainly miss him, he was playing good football I thought.
Q: Jay Bromley has to take on a bigger role now?
A: Yeah, which is good, he’s been playing a lot of football and we’ve been rotating anyway. So it won’t be new to anybody that will be in there, but it certainly won’t be Jonathan.
Q: What was your overall assessment of JPP’s performance?
A: Rusty, like you would expect him to be. He’s trying to find his, I don’t want to say find his niche, just find his tools, then oil them up and get ready to go. He’s had another week under his belt, so hopefully that makes a difference this week.
Q: Were you surprised at the number of snaps he ended up playing in the game?
A: We were trying to keep it, I can’t remember the exact number, we were trying to be cautious of it early in the first half there. Of course, every guy that plays in this league wants to go out every snap. So he probably talked Robert Nunn into going a few more than we anticipated, but it was good to have him out there.
Q: Brady’s getting rid of the ball as quickly as any quarterback in the league. What does that do for you strategically in terms of pressure?
A: It’ll have to make us think twice about certain things. With any quarterback that gets it out that quick, the best way to defend is to affect the guys he’s throwing to. So we’ve got to find ways to cover better and maybe mix and change things up a little bit. But if you’re an offensive lineman, you probably want to play—I mean everybody wants to play with Tom Brady, right? But if you’re an offensive lineman, he can really make you look good. Look it, he’s as balanced a quarterback as I’ve ever seen. When I watched him, in all the years, I’ve never seen a guy sit in the pocket and be as balanced and as calm and mechanically perfect as anybody. Every time I watch him, he does the same thing, it makes it tough.
Q: What about for your defensive line? Obviously they’re not going to be able to get there in 2.1 seconds. What do you expect from them in those situations?
A: Well, if you can push it a little bit and get him uncomfortable. If we can get somebody, if it’s not our guys, if it’s their offensive lineman, then we’ll try to do those things. And we’ve got to cover better, we’ll mix the coverages up a little bit and maybe get a couple of knockdowns. There’s no secret to it, he’s back there in the gun and he’s going to throw it. We’ve got to find a way on the back end to play a little bit tighter.
Q: What’s the number you have him? He gets it out in 2-point…what?
A: I thought it was 2.15 or something…or 2.18. Coach Coughlin had it the other day in the meeting…it’s fast, I know that.
Q: You don’t want to talk about that game in 2007, but you played against him then and you’re playing against him now, it’s a decent amount of time. Does he look any different to you?
A: It’s funny, somebody else asked me that, it might have been yesterday. I don’t see a lot of difference with regards to how effective and how efficient he is. He’s probably better. Look, he’s been in that system. You think about that, there’s a quarterback that’s been in the same system for, you guys tell me the years. It’s never changed, it’s basically the same coaches. I know Josh (McDaniels) left and came back and there were some other guys there, but I think that’s got to be helpful. At this point, he’s been running the show for a long time and he knows it. So when you’re that comfortable, you basically get the chalk last as the quarterback out there. And that’s what makes it really challenging.
Q: And physically?
A: No. You know what’s funny, his arm strength, I just watched him throw an out cut as I watching film, out to Amendola and it was right on the money. It was actually the one that Indianapolis got an interception on. It wasn’t Amendola, it was Edelman. And it bobbled and it went right into the—but it was perfectly thrown. I don’t see any weakness, I really don’t.
Q: Are they better than they were last year?
A: We played them in the playoffs when I was in Baltimore at the end of the year and everyone in the playoffs obviously is playing pretty good football. But so efficient right now. I know Coach Coughlin obviously has the whole picture with the special teams and their defense, but offensively I just think they’re functioning on all cylinders right now, they really are.
Q: How much harder is it preparing for Rob Gronkowski compared to other tight ends in the league?
A: Just sheer size makes it tough. We don’t have anybody with that kind of size, a lot of teams don’t. We’re thinking about borrowing some of our tight ends that are as big as him, put them up there. But no, you’ve got to fight in different, other ways. Try to get him at the line of scrimmage and put three guys on him, I don’t know. Find a way to take him away, he’s pretty good.
Q: Is there a tougher guy to cover right now in this league?
A: From the standpoint of tight end…Obviously there are some wide outs with some speed and quickness. I’ve got a lot of respect for Danny Amendola, I had him in St. Louis, I loved the guy. And Edelman, those two guys pose a different kind of challenge and problem with their quickness. So we’ve got two quick guys, you got a big guy, they got guys who can run outside with speed, and you got a quarterback who can get them all in the right spots, it’s a tough challenge.
Q: Is one of the main goals… they don’t throw a lot over the top. They want to get yards after catch.
A: They don’t, but they can. They’ve thrown it out there, actually there’s a couple of drops that they’ve had. Look, he’s always looking for it and if you give it to him, I think he’s going to take it. Nobody wants to give up big plays, we had those two last week that kind of stick in our craw a little bit. One of the focuses is we try to eliminate big plays.
Q: You’ve relied on turnovers a lot, takeaways as a defense. Brady doesn’t throw a lot of interceptions. How can you make up for that?
A: Maybe hopefully when the guys catch it, we can get the ball out of the pass catcher. He’s not going to throw it to you. He’s going to make you earn an interception. Even the one I just talked about in Indianapolis, that was kind of a fluke, it popped up there. But we need a couple of breaks, maybe he’ll have a bad day. That’s what we’re hoping for.
Q: JPP was hoping he was sick.
A: Is that right? I don’t want to wish sickness on anybody.
Q: It seemed last week LeGarrette Blount had a pretty good game. Is he the X-factor for them?
A: Certainly you don’t want any offense to be two-dimensional. All of a sudden they start cranking up a run game, and he’s always been a good football player, now they’re two-dimensional and that much harder to defend. We always start any opponent with it’s all about stopping the run first. After watching last week’s game, 160 or whatever it was they had rushing. The one thing about New England, whatever they think they can do against you, if it’s working, they’re going to stick with it and just win the football game and score points. That’s what they do and they do it a lot of different ways.
Q: You’re known as someone who has blitzed a lot in the past.
A: Not so much this year, though.
Q: You haven’t blitzed much this year. What do you attribute that to?
A: There’s a lot of reasons, I don’t want to go into all of them. But one of the things that does get tough is when the parts are changing. There’s certain positions that change a lot. And the other thing is we’re always being cognizant of wanting our guys—look it, I think we function best, with this group of guys, and that’s what you’re always assessing, the guys you have—the group of guys that we have, who I love, play better when you just let them play. Less thinking, just play. I just think we function better that way. So some of the things you’re talking about take a little bit more. So we’ve been trying to stick to things that we do and know and try to play fast, that’s kind of been the motto.
Q: Their blueprint for the first eight games until Lewis got hurt, he was a major part of this offense.
A: Good football player.
Q: Is there a little bit of a guessing game as to—
A: What they’ll do, which direction they’ll go? Little bit. I’d almost rather have that then face—and he’s really good. You put the tape on and he’s making plays everywhere. They used him in a lot of different ways, whether it was running the football or on the perimeter. But look it, they’ve got a couple of other backs that can catch the football, they’ve proven to do it. And I firmly believe that whoever you put in there, Tom Brady makes them all better.
Q: Is that a challenge for you as a defensive coordinator when you say, “This particular group, I’ve learned you’ve just got to let them play.” Because I’m sure you want to tinker and do more?
A: There is a little bit. But look it, it’s all about trying to get the best guys on the field functioning the best. And we talk about it all the time and I just think if you go back in the games that we’ve played and we go back and review and assess it. Like last week, our motto was, “Simplify to magnify.” Simplify what we were doing to magnify how fast we were playing. So I thought we played pretty well except for those two plays last week. So we’ll try to do the same thing and throw a wrinkle in there when we can, hopefully, do that, too.