Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
June 14, 2017
All right, lets knock this out. 10 OTAs, two practices in mini camp, nice weather, everyone is fired up and now we have a bunch of meetings. With that, I will open it up.
Q: With everybody back, does the playbook get bigger?
A: It got a little bigger, but we also cut some things out. Changed some things that we thought we needed or added some things that we thought we needed and we probably arenít going to run some things that we didnít run a lot last year, so there is a little bit of that. It will probably even out and probably be about the same.
Q: Could you be more specific?
A: (Laughs) No, not really. I mean look, this game you have to stay up with the times and you canít get caught doing the same thing too many times over and over because people will adapt to it, so we will have a couple of tweaks.
Q: How do you decide what to cut out?
A: Our personnel. Where we are mentally, that is always a determination for me. I think that we have been able to do that with a couple of things.
Q: You donít want to overload them?
A: Yeah, I mean every once in a while I say to the guys, ĎLook, we are in graduate school now. We are there, so we are going to put in something a little bit more complex.í And that was the graduate thing last year. We built on it and I think it helped the guys to do it that way rather than to through it all on them.
Q: Is everyone in graduate school?
A: Well, we are only in graduate school in certain things. You have the freshman and the sophomores. Only in certain things, not in everything.
Q: Do you think that since some of these players have been in the system for two, three years now, you can do more? You know more about them.
A: Yeah, you hit on one thing there was that when you know a little more about your guys. The first year in 2015 was a whole half-year process and then the people were changing with the interviews and everything. Last year we had a lot of new guys come in. This is the first time in three years where the personnel has stayed somewhat the same and the scheme obviously is 90 percent the same, so there is some definite value to that.
Q: How big of a help is continuity not only on the field, but on the coaching staff?
A: It is huge. I am glad you brought that up because as much as anything Ė I mean look, there have been times where I have had this position and the staff has changed one or two spots and you do spend some time teaching the coaches exactly what you want if they havenít been in your system. We try to do a very good job of it, the communication to me to the coaches to the players has to be exact or else it doesnít come out right.
Q: What have you seen from Darian Thompson?
A: Well, he is coming over that injury and that is a tough one to get through. He has always been a very cerebral player and I might have mentioned this before Ė if I go back to last year, he came in early and surfaced as the starter, got hurt in training camp, didnít play in the last preseason game, but was healthy to play in the Dallas game. He wasnít starting at that point, but I remember watching him function on the sideline and as a rookie from Boise State in his first NFL game down in Dallas and I think it was a Sunday night game or at least in the afternoon and he looked like the lights were not too big for him and that impressed me right from the beginning. You guys would know better than I would Ė I think he played in Dallas and the next game he got hurt. I think it was only two games, so we didnít get to see any more of that. But I think that he is a really good football player.
Q: Last week when we talked with Dave Merritt, he talked about how great Landon Collins can be, but there is a lot of improvement he can have. Are you on that same page?
A: We all do. Coaches, players Ė when we stop thinking that we donít then there is going to be a problem, so we have talked a lot about that and Landon is one of those guys that I donít believe he rests on his laurels, I donít think he sees himself as Ė I just think he wants to go out there and work. He is passionate about the game and he is always coming to me to do extra things, I donít have to chase him.
Q: Where do you think he can improve?
A: Everybody has to have the cerebral part of the game down. I think that everyone can do better at that. I think that there was a time early in the year last year that Landon struggled a bit with play action and recognizing play action and especially his first year. But we threw one at him today and he made a nice play, so he has progressed with that. And little disguise things. I think that there are some little detail things that I think he is working on.
Q: Where is Dalvin Tomlinson at?
A: Probably in there in the lunch room. (Laughs) I didnít mean to do that. I had to do one, right?
Q: Fair enough.
A: He is on that learning curve like all rookies are. But I will say this; I have a great deal of respect for where he came from Ė Alabama and what they do there and the coaching there, so I think he is ahead in that regard. I think that the guys have confidence in him that he can go in there and help us in this league, but it is going to come from a lot of different people at that position. Robert Thomas has done a heck of a job; Jay [Bromley] has done a heck of a job. We never play with just two guys in there anyway, so they will all be rotating.
Q: How has B.J. Goodson responded to increased responsibilities?
A: He has been great. He has really taken this thing on, it is important to him and he takes it serious. I donít believe that he was the signal caller at Clemson. At least that is what he told me, so this is a little bit knew and yet I think that everyday when we get out there, the guy is getting more and more confidence.
Q: Do you think it helps having Antonio Pierce here for him?
A: My man. I love that man. Helps B.J.? He helps me. He helps me more than anything. Antonio is great. I am glad that he is here and I am glad that he is still enjoying the game of football. The things that Antonio can give a guy like B.J. go far beyond what the coaches can give. Antonio has experienced it; he is in the middle of it. He used to do it when he played Ė he sees things that other people miss because he is detailed guy and knows how to breakdown film and he has been doing a lot of that for me now and he is in that linebacker room talking to those guys all of the time.
Q: You have a lot of guys competing for back up corner roles. Has anyone really jumped out at you at this point?
A: Well, the young guys it is taking a little while. They have struggled. I will tell you who has had a good offseason, is Michael Hunter. He has done a really nice job. He has had to jump in there a couple of times because you know that Eli [Apple] has that illness right now, so he is not in there and if you have watched enough practice, I donít know how many you all have been to, but Mike has really stood out. I give him a lot of credit.
Q: Has Landon solved the conditioning and weight issues?
A: His first year was not a great year for that. He will tell you that. What did he say? He gave up M& Ms or brownies?
A: He is still eating Mariaís (Spagsí wife) banana pudding though because we brought some yesterday and he probably walked out with a whole tray. But last year when he knew that he had to get down, he did a really good job with his weight. He kept himself under the max level that he was supposed to have and he did it every week. I expect him to do the same thing this year. In the offseason Ė he will probably tell you that he is a little heavier than he wants to be, but I think that you will find that by the time he comes back he will be fine. He has got this diet right now.
Q: You added Corbin Bryant and Devin Taylor. Is there an importance to get veterans in that defensive line room?
A: Yeah, I think it is always important to get vets in here and we needed some manpower in that particular position. It has taken them a little while right now because when they jumped in we were already knee deep into it. It is not like they started from the beginning, so it is a challenge for them, but I know that both of them have been in the league long enough where I think they are going to be able to overcome it. So we will find out when we get into training camp.
Q: Watching Janoris and Shep at the end of practice, it almost looked like you were coaching up Shep just as much as Janoris.
A: I am always looking to try and find some good defensive players. I try to steal some here and there. (Laughs) No, just once in a while we will put other guys at different positions. You see Mark [Herzlich] going over there and playing some tight end, but Sterling is good athlete. I have my eyes on him.
Q: Good luck with that.
A: (Laughs) Yeah I know.
Q: What is your message to your defensive players as you look to close out the spring?
A: I think that like any other coach you expect them to physically be ready when they come back so that we donít have to start from square one. The way the league is structured now we used to have 14 weeks of an offseason and not much in the summer time, excuse me, a good chunk of time in the summer and have a longer or what felt like a longer training camp. Now a days this is really the beginning of training camp and it just extends when we get back here in July. The one thing is that we cannot go backwards with the physical part of it and that is up to them as their job as professional football players.
Q: When you keep stressing that last year was last year and it is only spring, do you see the players picking up that message or will you have to pull out some tricks during training camp?
A: There will be some tricks in there. Here is the line that you have to walk in these practices; I think that we have a bunch of competitive guys and they would like to go out there and compete how defensive players do. However with helmets and nothing else on you have to be careful, so even though I want them to win every down and we talk about winning every down. If it is a 1st and 10 then we canít give up four. If it is 2nd and 8 then you canít give up more than half. We are competing all the time, but we have to be careful. Now, once we get pads on, I am hoping that the level goes from here (puts hand at his waist) to here (puts hand above his head) because the minute that you stop competing or being hungry to be the best or to win a down and I am talking about winning a down in practice then I think you go backwards and we cannot afford to go backwards.