Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
September 15, 2016
Had a good week last week. Guys are really working hard. Had a really good practice today. Looking forward to playing the Saints.
Q: What did you think of the front four in your mind?
A: Starting with the run, we missed by two yards. You want to keep a team under 100. They were right at 101. I thought we controlled that part of it pretty good. That part of it, I told the guys, ĎWhen you really look at it, they completed some passes but thereís only one pass play over 20 yards.í All the other ones were under that. Our yards after catch were pretty good. I think it was only 2.8, 2.9. When you do that, even though there are some completions and you can play really good in the red zone, you have a chance to win a football game. Where we didnít play well? We didnít play third down well. We need to get better at third down. That kind of led to a 14 play drive and then an 11 play drive. We have to get off the field on some of those key third downs. I did think, at the end of the game our guys were tired. They were on play 78, 79. Thatís tough. Thank God it worked out for us. I thought the guys upfront did a good job in the run game. Later on, as we got a feel for what the quarterback could and couldnít do, I thought we started to get to him a little bit. We were trying to be very smart with that quarterback going in. We thought there was a possibility that he could do some damage with his feet. As the game went on, it didnít feel like he was going to do that. We started to do some different things with the pass rush. I thought we got to him.
Q: By that, you mean you sort of protected the edges from him?
A: We call it a push rush or cage rush. Whatever you want to call it. We just get the feeling over the sideline that he just wanted to stay back and throw. We just turned some guys loose, took a couple of chances and I think it helped us.
Q: There were games last year where we would come to you and see no sacks and ask, ĎWhat is wrong?í I would assume you have a different feeling about the front this week?
A: Yes. To us itís not whether youíre getting sacks or not, itís whether youíre affecting the quarterback or not. Jon Berger does that study for me each week. We specifically study, when we apply pressure are we affecting the quarterback? We want those plays to be effective. I did think we did better as the game went on. Throwing off his back foot or getting him off the spot. Not letting him sit back there and be comfortable. I think there was enough of that and I think the coverage was tight enough where we were able to have enough successful run blasts on pass plays that helped us win a football game.
Q: Talk about that coverage a little bit especially Jenkins. What did he show you?
A: We were really proud of the fact, Dez Bryant, one of the best receivers in this league we feel, was targeted five times and had one catch for eight yards. That one the he caught, DRC came off the edge and almost had a sack. We call it Ďdonít miss the layup.í He missed the layup on that on. He could have done the same thing all the way through and Dez wouldnít have had a catch. Jackrabbit was on him a lot. We didnít match him every snap but there were packages in there that he did. There were times that they didnít throw to him because he was covered. We doubled him. There were a number of times we doubled him. One of the things we said going into the game was, ĎDonít let 88 wreck the game.í We accomplished that. He can wreck a football game.
Q: You had basically those guys playing left and right side. Going forward is it a game-by-game thing?
A: Pretty much. Itíll be game-by-game with who weíre playing, what the threats are on the other side. Our guys have worked so well together. By that I mean all of them. I think we can do some of those. Things can be interchangeable. Somebody can go inside and somebody else can go outside. We have that luxury right now which is a good thing.
Q: Is that an added dimension for DRC? You mentioned him coming on the blitz early. It seems like his skill set fits in that role?
A: Heís an explosive guy. He has natural ability to go from 0 to 100 quick. Bringing him is an added advantage that we have. Heís accepted that role. Whether itís an inside nickel, or in that particular one he was coming outside on base defense. It certainly caught them off-guard and it will probably catch others off-guard as well.
Q: Thatís something you werenít willing to do last year because he was your best coverage guy?
A: Yes, and no. Sometimes you just roll the dice, take a chance. On that one, Nat ended up having to cover Dez. What youíre hoping on that is that the down isnít going to be that long. Had he kept inside, it wouldnít have been that long. It wouldíve been a sack or he wouldnít have been able to get rid of it. When you do bring people, the guys that are coming have to be perfect too. The guys on the back end have a tough job.
Q: The play that Landon was singled up with Dez in the end zone, the reviewed play, was that planned?
A: Not planned. That was not planned. A little bit of a miscommunication. It ended up that way and Landon is a competitor. He found a way to at least keep it uncontrollable so when Dez fell out of bounds it was an incomplete pass. That was not planned. Our plan was to not put Landon on Dez.
Q. How are you planning to handle that moving forward?
A. Darian right now is working with that first group but Natís going to get in there. Theyíre both going to play and weíll get some packages with both of them in there so they will get enough reps.
Q. Jonathan Casillas, a guy that you had in 2012, how has he changed?
A. Jonathan Casillas was a young guy running around in 2012. He was a backup and great special teams player. I remember at the end of that season saying to Jonathan that we should have played him more in sub packages. Now, I see a mature leader. Heís always been an aggressive football player. Heís a pro. I know heís always doing things with these guys, even away from the complex. Iím proud of Jonathan.
Q. Is it rare though that itís his eighth year in the league and it seems like itís all coming together for him?
A. Yeah, I guess it can happen a lot of different ways. Heís been to a couple different teams, won a Super Bowl in two different spots, so he knows what it looks like. Heís been sharing that a little bit with these guys who havenít been around it. How you do it, what itís supposed to look like, he talked with the defense at the end of last Fridayís practice. He spoke really good about that. Heís been encouraging since heís been here.
Q. Some of the players were talking about how tough it was to go back and watch the film from the Saints game last year. Whatís it been like for you?
A. Yeah, not fun. You know when you look at it, thereís at least three I can think of distinctly, that were long plays, that occurred because of mishaps or a breakdown. I remember Meriweather on one that was on a blitz, and then there was the flea flicker that Landon got caught. Now, heís not a rookie anymore so I donít suspect that will happen to him again. There was one other that I was thinking about that, you know, the one thing we did a good job with last week was we didnít give up explosive plays. I think there was 3 total, that was a run over 10 yards or a pass over 20 yards. In that particular game a year ago, there was way too many. You canít win games in this league, especially giving them up to a guy like Drew Brees whoís going to have his share of good, positive, productive plays and then all of a sudden you give him four or five of those, then thatís not good.
Q. How applicable do you find that to now?
A. Well, obviously the personnel on both sides is a little bit different. The quarterbackís the same. I think thereís some things in there theyíll do the same. I think theyíll attack us in some of the same ways and theyíll have some new wrinkles and some changes but based on what we saw last year, and watching this past Oakland game, we hope we have a beat on what they do. The one thing theyíve always done down there is they try not to do exactly the same thing the previous game. It might be the same run play, but itís camouflaged differently or the motions are different, tempo is different.
Q. For you though, are you a totally different team in your mind?
A. I donít want to say that because then Iíd be telling them what weíre going to do. I donít want to say that. Weíre totally different and weíre the same. With personnel, weíre trying to grow. Weíre trying to find out exactly what exactly we do here really well.
Q. What was your take on your Eli?
A. I talked to him about it. I thought he got off slow. It took him a little while, but as the game got going I thought he played really well. He had a great tackle, I think it was to the tight end on the screen. Early in the game I donít think he tackled really well. Heís got a game under his belt now, I think heís going to be a good football player and we need him, but it was a slow start for him.
Q. It takes a big jump now from Dak Prescott to Drew Brees.
A. Yeah, a little bit different. Look, they got some good wideouts too. Itís a little bit more of this that were dealing with this week. Our guys, I like the way their gelling together, I watched them out there again today. Iím talking about the back end people and the linebackers. There is really good communication and really good chemistry. Look, you still got to go out there and do it on Sunday, but that part I feel really good about.
Q. Is there a sense that you can bury what happened last year in New Orleans this weekend?
A. Can you ask me that one again?
Q. Is there a sense that if you guys can perform well on Sunday that what happened in New Orleans last year, people are going to stop talking about it?
A. Well, its buried in my mind now anyway. There were many games after that that we had to deal with still, so like we said earlier, itís in the rearview mirror and weíre going to worry more about this game now.