Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
September 22, 2016
Q: How much more creative can you be because of the confidence you have in the defense this year?
A: Well, I think thatís coming. A lot of it has to do with the guys gelling together and I think they are gelling well. I know that Iíve mentioned this before, when I watch out here on the field, I watch and listen for communication and what the guys are doing, not even during plays, but what theyíre doing when theyíre coming off the field. Guys like Keenan Robinson have been great. Landon Collins, second year on the defense, heís been great. Theyíre figuring things out; theyíre unwinding things on their own. Sometimes we donít have to walk over there and say anything, they got it figured out. With all of that, you can start to do some things that maybe you backed off on when you were trying to build the thing and get the foundation.
Q: Looks like youíre sending a lot of guys from the secondary, thatís pretty new.
A: We were working a little bit like that last week. Sometimes those are calls where any number of people could be coming. In that particular case, it ended up being DBís. I was happy. I think Landon got his first career sack, he said he didnít have one in collegeÖDid Leon Hall say it was his first in the league?
A: I think Landon said it was the first one he ever had. That was good to see, it was great. When they come, and theyíre free and they donít get blocked, itís nice of them to finish the play and actually hit the sacks.
Q: How much of a concern is the depth at safety?
A: Yeah, itís getting to be a concern. Weíll miss Darian Thompson. He kind of communicated back there and kind of glues things together. Landonís just got to step up and help out the guy thatís next to him, whether itís Nat Berhe or whoever it is. But, weíre getting thin at safety.
Q: How much has Leon Hallís versatility helped?
A: Weíll move him all over. Heís been in a number of different spots. Heís been a backup safety, played that role. He was getting a little bit of that prior to this week so hopefully foundational reps help.
Q: Has Kelvin Sheppard helped steady the defense in the middle?
A: Heís been great. Heís one of those guys, Iíll tell you what happened in the game. I canít remember what group we put out. Letís say we put the dime out. Thereís 12 guys on the field and somebody didnít get the communication, and didnít come out. And Kelvin, who wasnít in that package and was on the sideline, he caught it before anybody and was yelling to whoever to get out. I thought that was as compelling as anything as to what Kelvin means to us. Heís on top of everything. Heís in there in the meetings giving things to guys. He didnít play as many plays this week because we didnít have much base defense. But I love having him. Heís one of those guys that gets football and he loves the game of football. Heís into it and he plays that position of Mike, where guys feel confident that heís going to get them lined up.
Q: Does Keenan Robinson do the same?
A: Keenanís come a long way, too. You guys see that heís been going in the sub packages. Heís really run with that role, which is all jacked up this week, heís got the Washington Redskins. Heís been talking about this is what they doÖheís been really good that way. That linebacker group, Iíve mentioned this before, that linebacker room is a solid one from the standpoint of knowing football.
Q: What do you see from Kirk Cousins?
A: Just when you think you might have him figured out or think heís not going to do something, I think he finds a way to get it done. Heís a survivor. I think heís an athlete. A guy down there whoís turned things around, in my opinion. I donít remember everything about last year, but I do remember, once he got in there and was managing things, things started to click. Theyíve been pretty good on offense. Theyíre up there in rushing. There were some stats that we had the other day. Theyíve thrown the ball around well. I was looking at their overall passing yards for the two games, itís up there pretty high. This is a good football team thatís coming in here. Itís a division game. Their offense has moved the ball on us before. Theyíve got weapons. Theyíve got people that can stretch the field, that can wreck the football game. We know what the tight end is all about, heís a versatile guy. I think Kirk Cousins has used all of those weapons really well.
Q: Those tackles that Eli Apple made on Mark Ingram on the outside, is that something you already knew he could do or are you seeing that for the first time?
A: No, weíve always thought he was a good tackler; he did in college and heís done it here. I think in these first two gamesÖI talked to him the other day and itís been 50/50. Like heís had a couple of misses that he should have made. I do think he is a [strong] tackler, and he takes a lot of pride in it, we were talking about the other day. He wants to be a tackling corner. Some of these guys, theyíre only cover corners. But he wants to be an all-around corner and heís really good at it.
Q: DRC and Kennardís snaps are down. How have you convinced these guys to buy into what they get week-to-week?
A: Weíve got some great character guys. Devon and I have talked about that a little bit, and we want to try and get some packages with him in there. These are team guys. Weíre using a lot of different people, weíre using, theyíre all into it, because they know their names are going to be called at some point. Itís good to do that from other standpoints. By that, what I mean is offenses have to deal with a lot of different jersey numbers. I think that works to our advantage, which is one of the reasons why we do it. Sometimes offensive line coaches, protection-wise, use jersey numbers. That guy is a lineman, so you five that those four and now youíre sending out a lot of linemen numbers out there. The guys have been great. When itís all said and done, youíre going to need everybody. I remember Kennard and I talking about it last year at this point, I thought he had way too many snaps. I think that was probably a part of the reason that he got hurt. Now I think weíre keeping him fresh and can keep him all the way through the season.
Q: Do you look at DRC the same way?
A: I donít know what the total numbers are. We want him out on the field. We had some packages where Leon was in there as the nickel not DRC, for certain reasons I wonít go deep into now. I think taking a couple of snaps off helps him in the fourth quarter. You go back to Dallas, if you remember the end of the game, DRC and Janoris Jenkins, their legs were heavy at the end of the game and we need those guys at the end of the games. I think DRC understands that.
Q: Some of your ends were a little nicked up, JPP and OVÖ
A: Yeah. They seem to be okay. OVís dealing with a wrist or a hand or whatever it is and I donít think heís ever had that. For a guy thatís an edge rusher, thereís a lot of hand movement involved. I think that affected him a little bit in this game. We were conscious of it during the game and trying to put him in different positions pass rush wise. But heís fighting through it.
Q: Jason Pierre-Paulís shoulder?
A: He seemed to be okay at practice. Heíll be okay, fingers crossed.
Q: When youíre deciding on the game plan, how valuable is Leon Hall to have?
A: His greatest value is that you can trust him. Heís going to know exactly what to do. Letís face it, you only get so many reps out on the field and you canít give all the guys all the looks and all of the coverages whatever we do defensively. Yet, heís a student of the game. Even though he might not get a rep of something, you can throw him out there and he can figure it out, and thatís really valuable. Right now, heís playing really two or three different positions.