Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
November 11, 2016
Q: What are your thoughts on how Eli Apple has responded to the benching?
A: Really good and I wouldnít call it a benching. As a matter of fact, he was struggling a little bit, we went over and said, ĎLook, letís just take a series off and see what happens.í Then our guys just got in a groove and we just kind of left it like that, but no one has lost confidence in Eli. He is a good football player and he will bounce back.
Q: Will his role be the same as it was before?
A: Yeah, it wonít change.
Q: How much of that do you attribute to him being a rookie?
A: Yeah, a little bit of everything. Look, he had some good plays in there early too because when you go back and look at the tape, he made a really nice tackle early, but then he missed one and he had a rough series, so Tim (Walton) and I just talked and said, ĎLook, letís give him a series to settle down.í Then I believe in the next series we kind of just left it. I said, ĎWhat do you want to do this series?í He said, ĎWell, just kind of leave it right now.í Then before you knew it, the game was out. But again, I am a big Eli Apple fan. I have said that from the beginning. He is going to help us win football games, he has Ė I talked with him two weeks ago and told him that one of the things in this business when you are a young guy is that you have to make sure that your body is all right. He has had the unfortunate experience, he has been up and down, like he has practiced and then he hasnít practiced. He hasnít built the calluses to get through a season like this, so he is struggling a little bit with that. But he is going to be fine. He is on the rise, has had a great week of practice. I just watched the tape with the defense of todayís practice and he had a really good day, so I expect him to bounce back.
Q: On the touchdown run where Matthews got to the edge, what happened there?
A: (Eli) should have been outside there. When everyone blocked down, one of those tight ends was Eliís and when your guy blocks, you replace to the outside. He kind of lost things a little bit and guys in this league will make you pay when you have your eyes in the wrong spot and that happened on another play, so we just needed to settle him down a little bit and he is going to be fine.
Q: Can you describe the aggressive approach you had on those last four plays.
A: If we were going down, we were going down swinging. Well, the guys did a nice job executing it. I donít think that is always the thing to do, to be quite honest with you, because you can overdo it. To the Eaglesí credit, the second to last play, they were trying to sneak Sproles out and because the players were as aggressive as they were, JC got there before Wentz could get it out. Otherwise, they are going to look like they made the right call, so it was the guys executing. But when we do that, it is to make the quarterback make the mistake or throw it quick. We canít put all kinds of pressure on our coverage guys to be hanging back there too long and on that particular play, they did. I was happy for Trev for that, he won that down. We got a little bit of pressure on them and that was the guy they were going to, but he won it because he was inside leverage, he was where he was supposed to be, it forced the ball to go a little higher than they really wanted to and it went incomplete, so it was good to see.
Q: The fans always ask why you donít blitz more. Why canít you do it all the time?
A: I think the ones that are forgotten are when we do blitz and it all gets picked up and it ends up being a pretty good play for the offense because again, no matter who you have out there covering, you can only cover for so long against these guys, and teams are smart. The really good quarterbacks will see things coming, get rid of it, sometimes they can turn into big plays for the offense. You have to pick your spots and that is what we have been doing, but we would like to do it as much as we can.
Q: Do you think this defensive line is finally hitting its stride?
A: I hope so. These guys have a lot of pride. They would like to be doing a lot better in any game. Every individual position group wants to be the reason why we play great defense and win games and I think they feel the same way. I like the way they are functioning together, chemistry is important, I think that is there right now, I think sometimes that comes with winning, we have been able to do that. But look, there is a fine line, one or two plays in there could have been the other way, we understand that when we win and we certainly see that when we lose.
Q: One of the things that stood out was seven plays of 25+ yards.
A: Yeah, that is a knife in my back every day and we talk about it all the time. You have to keep that number under four plays and it seems to be that when teams have explosive plays against us, they are really explosive. It is like the 58-yard touchdown and that was a combination of a lot of guys. It is not just one guy. To the naked eye, it is just one guy, but it is not, it is a lot of people. But we need to eliminate those. Why do they happen? They happen sometimes because the offense out-executes us and a couple of them happened in this particular game because of poor eyes on the back end. A lot of times it does fall on the secondary, but look, on one of those particular plays, we had four one on ones up front and nobody won, so it is on everybody, not just one person.
Q: Has Andrew Adams earned the opportunity to start?
A: He has earned what he has been playing. We will use more than just two safeties. Nat had not had enough Ė the prior week he did not practice very much because we didnít know if he was going to make it through the concussion protocol. No, that was last week. Then he didnít really get cleared until Friday, but he had a special teams role, so we wanted him for that and so we picked our spots. You will see more of him this week because he has got a bunch of reps under his belt, but Landon and Andrew ended up as the two most productive guys on defense and when your safeties can be the most productive, you have a chance of being a pretty good defense because they are going to be in situations all the time, tackles and pass game, run game and pass game where they have to make plays.
Q: So is he still going to start?
A: It depends what package we put out there right now, so I am not going to say that because it may not work out that way, but all three of those guys are going to play.
Q: How is the productivity grade judged?
A: Well, we do it a little bit differently. Everyone knows stats, you have tackles, assisted tackles, pass break ups, interceptions, we put a point value to each one of those, but what I look at is how many points are they producing based on the number of plays they play. So if a guy plays 100 plays and he has three tackles versus a guy who plays 10 plays who has two tackles, the more productive guy is the 10 plays two tackles. You follow me? So based on that, Landon and Andrew were the most productive guys in this past game.
Q: What did you see from Goodson to warrant him a couple snaps?
A: Well, we want to get B.J. oiled up, just as a football player. I liked him as an aggressive guy, but he is a young guy. Putting him in the middle of the defense is a lot to ask, but if you donít start to do it and then at some point you have to do it, so we are going to kind of build on that. He has gotten reps here during the week. We are looking for certain situations to slip that particular package in. If we get it, then he is going to get in there again. But we would like to play as many guys as we can. Right now, I think every one of the linebackers that is out there plays more special teams and all of the defensive backs, the D-line is sprinkling in there. We like to try and get Owa and Romeo some more reps as we go. I like to get as many guys playing as possible.
Q: Where do you stand with the interior? Do Owa and Romeo fit in there?
A: It just depends on the down and distance of the situation. They have played inside and outside. They will be in there. They will be outside on first or second down. They can play all those spots right now.
Q: How did Devon Kennard do in that role?
A: I think he is doing a really good job. DK will continue to do that. Look, he has some natural explosive power, he is a thick hipped guy who can push the pocket, so we are going to try and get him in there.
Q: People think that since the Bengals have A.J. Green, you will just put Jackrabbit on him. Is it that simple?
A: Not really. He is an elite wide receiver. I have talked to Leon Hall a lot this week about A.J. This is what I was talking to Leon about Ė he has a unique ability, A.J. Green waits the last minute, stick his hands out and catches the ball. A lot of guys are doing that (motions to putting his hands out) and that gives a corner or DB a chance to stick their hand in. A.J. has great hands, he is a bigger wide out, with really good quickness. We have to find a way to slow him down. We canít let him wreck the football game. That is a good football player, but we will have different people on him and do different things and Jackrabbit will be one of them.