Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
December 17, 2015
Alright, pretty good week so far. The weekís a little bit different with the Monday night game, the guys are grinding through it and weíre on to Carolina. And with that, Iíll just open it up and let you fire away.
Q: A few of the guys said how important it is to keep Cam Newton in the pocket and make him a pocket passer. How hard is that to do though?
A: Thatís tough. And look, even when heís a pocket passer, heís pretty good. Heís a big, strong guy. He makes all of the throws. And they do a really good job, I think, of protecting. Theyíll keep however many guys they need in. Where I think theyíve really progressed--because Iíve played against them, I canít remember how many yearsóhe sees things, he may change protection, he gets them in a favorable play. I think they do a lot more of that, checking at the line, than they had in previous seasons.
Q: Does he remind you or anyone else youíve played or is he just that different?
A: Not many guys are that big and strong. They really put it together. Look, they run the ball really well, it allows him all the play action pass you see. Iíll tell you what they do, I think they push the ball downfield more than most teams. Even in typically a third and four, third and five, teams are navigating to get the first down, youíll see them push it downfield and usually itís a positive play for them. Thatís pretty impressive.
Q: But if youíre able to keep him in the pocket, how important is that?
A: Well, when the guys are talking about that itís because weíve talked about how dangerous he can be when he gets out. When he gets out, the guys on the backend are in a bind. Do you stay in coverage, and he runs for a number of yards? Or do you come out of coverage and try to tackle? Then he has a tendency to dump the ball off or get it downfield, what I was just talking about him pushing it downfieldóhe does that a lot when he scrambles. Better if we just play the percentages and keep him in the pocket and have some tighter coverage downfield, we think that might be helpful. Now really, keeping him in the pocket means weíd like to finish it and maybe get a sack or a knockdown. Look, the guyís a quality quarterback. Weíll try to mix it up a little bit and hopefully weíll get some success on the front end with the pass rush.
Q: Good to have Barry Cofield back?
A: Yeah. Yeah, it was great to see Barry. He came in here a couple weeks ago and he worked out. It was great to see him, brought back old memories. Heís obviously rusty, got to knock the rust off. And the one thing about coming in this time of the season is when do you do this? Thereís no preseason games. Itís not like we line up in pads and tackle, so itíll be a little bit different. But it is good to have him. Itís great to have the veteran leadership.
Q: He said he reached out to you and to Robert Nunn to kind of facilitate this whole thing?
A: Yeah, I guess somewhere along the way, I donít remember when it wasóand Iíve been in touch with those guys even in years when I wasnít hereóthere was probably a text shared. It was good to have him in, he was in great shape when he came in and worked out. Have you guys had a chance to see him yet? And again, I go back to heís an intelligent football player and the leadership, I think, is great to have. Weíll see where he is playing-wise.
Q: Are there enough similarities between what you guys were doing back then for him to pick this up?
A: Probably. I donít know where the wording is and the verbiage is right now because itís probably changed more than I even realize. But playing defensive tackle, thereís a lot of common denominatorsóa double-team is a double-team, and a reach block is a reach block. So hopefully that will all come back to him real quick because itís been a while since heís played.
Q: Cam pushing the ball downfield, is that almost a rarity in todayís game? It seems like so many teams are throwing shorter and shorter and shorter.
A: Well look, heís got a strong arm. Heís got receivers that are getting open down there and heís having the time to do it. I just think itís impressive the way their offensive line is functioning. Theyíve got a center thatís really intelligent, heís been doing it for a long time. When you sit there and watch the end zone copies of the film, the coachesí film, you see a solid unit just taking care of business, and the quarterback can sit there and throw it. And theyíll keep a guy or a back or a tight end if they need to protect, and I just think the way itís functioning right now has obviously been very effective for them.
Q: Across the league, though, are you seeing more short? It seems like the pick plays are in vogue.
A: I think so. Yeah, there are teams that are spreading the ball out.
Q: How hard is that to defend, particularly the pick play, for instance?
A: That is tough. Weíre not supposed to call them pick plays because a pick is illegal. Iím sure Ben (McAdoo) doesnít call them pick plays when you guys talk to him. Thatís where I think offenses have progressed. They see youíre in man in certain ways, they get indicators. They try to get information and they have these layers of pick routes weíre talking about. And youíre either fighting through them or you get out of the man coverage and try to play zone, and thatís the cat and mouse game, the game within the game. Sometimes youíre able to guess ahead of them and get out of something, sometimes not. And if not, the game is still you cover a man, the guy has the ball, and you play football. I think the way a lot of offenses function right now makes it tough.
Q: Barry Cofield was obviously here in 2007 when you guys didnít really get it together until late and went on a run. Can he be a help in a leadership way and kind of remind guys whatís possible?
A: Well, I hope so, yeah. Yeah, weíre in a unique part of the season right now. Now look, Iím not sure how many guysóI think JPP was here when Barry was here before, Iím pretty sure maybe his rookie year. But other than that, thereís probably not a lot of familiar faces for Barry other than mine and JPPís, a couple of coaches.
Q: Craig Dahl.
A: And Craig Dahl. I think any player with a wealth of experience can be helpful in December when youíre in the thick of things. Hopefully that is a plus for us.
Q: Where do you stand at your safety positon at this point?
A: Well, youíve got Coop (Cooper Taylor) and Craig (Dahl) and Landon (Collins) right now. And Mac (Trumaine McBride) goes back there to help us out. But really weíre functioning with those three guys and a corner that slides over once in a while to play safety, and weíve done that in practice. We keep our fingers crossed and hopefully we stay healthy. Coop has kind of progressed pretty good. He doesnít get a lot of reps in there. I remember back in í07 when Corey Webster somewhere during the season was deactivated, still on the roster. Sometimes that generates a little bit of energy and they come back and play with a little bit more inspiration, and Coopís done that. I think heís done a really good job, so thatís good to see, and itís been helpful.
Q: When you say heís progressed, in what way? His energy, is that sort what youíre getting at?
A: Heís been in the system. I think the intelligence part of it is coming around. He feels more comfortable. I thought I saw a more confident football player when he came back, I will say that. And I see him out there and now functioning really well, and thatís great to see, love to see guys do that. Itís helpful.
Q: Obviously, Owa Odighizuwa was back today. I imagine that was exciting for you?
A: Yeah, some fresh legs. Yeah, and itís tough when youíre a rookie. Because early on, I forget them all, but he wasnít in OTAís the whole way, then in training campÖitís been a struggle for him. He had a period there where he was kind of down, but heís picked himself back up and fought through this whole rehab thing. Now heís out there playing a game he loves and weíll see where that progresses, too, but itís great to have the fresh legs out there.
Q: Is there any concern for a rookie to kind of handle a short-term IR situation? He has to stay focused on coming back at some point.
A: In some ways, thatís good. You go on IR and you know youíre not playing, you kind drift. But he has stayed in tune, heís in tune in meetings. Heís been out there for the walk-through even though heís been injured. I think heís handled it pretty good.
Q: I think he redshirted for a full year, medical red shirt. Do you think that helps guys handle these short-term IRís?
A: Maybe. Yeah, because itís similar, right? I donít know what the rules are when you redshirt whether you can practice. I think they still can practice canít they?
Q: But he was a medical.
A: Okay. So it might have been very similar. Iíll tell you, Owa, what Iíve learned about him, heís a very prideful guy. Heís a perfectionist, he wants to do things really well, he wants to please. So when that wasnít happening for him, I think he was a little bit down, but heís come around and bounced back. It was great to see him out there.
Q: Iím sure youíre happy with what youíve gotten from Jason Pierre-Paul. Do you sense any frustration from him though that the sacks havenít come?
A: I donít know that. We donít talk a lot about sacks, we talk more about pressuring and hits. Obviously would love to have sacks; itís not like you donít want it. I donít know that. I think heís enjoying playing football right now. Of course, having the big club with a wrap is a little bit different for him, but heís working through it.
Q: He seemed to have trouble wrapping up a couple times in that game. What do you say to him as a coach? Is there a way that you can improve that or is that just sort of something you have to deal with?
A: Itís a little different for all of us when itís wrapped the way it is. Although heís got two fumble recoveries. The guy with one hand has got two in the last two games. The reason it made me think of that is because today we were talking about that in the defensive meeting. Yeah, heís going to have to adjust. Itís obviously wrapped around with arm, heís not grabbing clothówe talk about grabbing cloth tackling. So he doesnít have that with one hand. Look, heís going to adjust his game to what heís got going on. If he keeps progressing like he has, I think heíll be good for us.
Q: Is he still a difference-maker in your mind, when you look out there and you look on tape?
A: Yeah, itís hard.
Q: Different level?
A: Yeah, I donít know. Look, heís a good football player for us. I think youíd have to ask him more about that, but I think that would be tough for any player, especially a defensive player where hands are something that you use. Look, thereís enough plays out there where he is helping our defense be successful, so Iím glad weíve got him.
Q: Has tackling concerned you?
A: Yeah, it did in that game. We talked about it right on Tuesday, whatever day, Wednesday. That was a little disappointing. Thatís a good running back and we talked about this, I just thought we could have done better tackling, especially in the first half.
Q: How much do you need tackling to be better Sunday?
A: How much do weÖ.?
Q: Need the tackling to be better.
A: When youíre grinding away trying to get to the playoffs, if your football team is not tackling well, your chances go way down. We addressed that and talked about it right off the bat on Wednesday. Thereís not a lot in terms of actual tackling we can do. We have talked about, in practice, even though weíre in shells or just have helmets on, you can put yourself in a position to tackle without actually tackling. And thatís what weíve been concentrating on all week.
Q: How much is that an isolated thing or is this something youíve seen building up?
A: I donít know. I felt it in the game and we addressed it at halftime. I do think we tackled better in the second half. And Iím hopeful when we begin this game, weíll be a good tackling unit. Because I donít think it will be good for anybody, our whole football team, if we donít tackle well.