Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
August 18, 2017
Alright, we’ll just fire away. It was good to be out there today in the muggy weather. I think they were a little heavy legged. I asked a couple guys during practice, and I think they were, which is about normal for this time in training camp. When we get over the hump and get those legs back, we’ll be okay.
Q: Do you think S Landon Collins has gotten better during this process?
A: I will tell you this, he works at getting better every day. Landon has come a long way from being a rookie. He’ll do all the little things, he’ll look for areas to do extra work, he’ll condition extra, he gets extra ball drills. He does all the extras, and that’s the beginning of trying to go from good to great. Hopefully his goal will come to fruition.
Q: Have you had some time to look at LBs Calvin Munson and Curtis Grant?
A: Yeah, Curtis and Calvin, I think both of those guys are doing a good job. I’ll tell you this about Calvin, really impressed with the command he has in the huddle for a rookie free agent just walking in. I always look at those guys, I mentioned this about Darian Thompson last year when we got to the Dallas game, I saw the way he reacted on game day. Calvin did the same thing in this past preseason game. It was just good to see him kind of take over. He was into it. Curtis is doing a lot for us. He’s played all three positions, he plays the Mike, the Sam, and the Will. He was out in the sub defense. So, from his standpoint, he’s learning a lot, but he’s embracing it and knows that the best thing in his position is to be a jack of all trades.
Q: What about your defense looks different to you now that you’ve gotten to look at them for three weeks?
A: It’s different.
Q: What’s different?
A: The group, from a character standpoint, is very much the same, in my opinion. We have the same personalities. I think they seem to be enjoying it a little bit more this time. I think we started enjoying it toward the end of last year, too. The concern to me is really depth, and getting guys behind the starting group ready to go. And the linebacker situation has kind of been revolving, so to speak. I love the way these guys interact. I know you see most of them on the field and when they’re standing here doing this, but around each other they’re a fun group. Now, it will be a lot more fun if we’re winning games, because this business is only fun if you win, right? But they do enjoy each other, that’s important.
Q: What about personnel-wise, you’ve made a few changes. You have new defensive tackles, new middle linebacker, new safety?
A: Yeah, I mean it’s probably going to end up that way. We’ll see how all that works out. To me, you can only find out so much in practice and in training camp. Then the next level is the preseason games, but we’re not really going to know until we get to the regular season. The first quarter of the regular season, to me, is figuring out who you are and what you are, and where everybody fits - coaches, players, everybody. So, it’s going to be an ongoing thing, but I’m encouraged right now with those young guys in those two particular spots you’re talking about.
Q: What have you seen from your defensive tackles?
A: I’ll go to Dalvin (Tomlinson) first. I was talking with a couple of the coaches, I think Dalvin made a big jump from last week to this week. He’s played a little bit more violent, I think he’s getting a little more comfortable with the guys he’s playing with. I’m really encouraged by him. Jay (Bromley) has been a steady Eddie, He knows the defense. We’ve always talked about him working on his footwork and he’s been doing that. Some of the other guys, we know Snacks, we know he’s ingrained there and has done a heck of a job, but we’re sad to see what happened to CB (Corbin Bryant). He got hurt, and we’ve got some other guys back there rolling through, but the rest of it is just going to have to work itself out. Those three guys right now are kind of working in there at tackle.
Q: How much does DE Romeo Okwara have to do to earn your trust that he is the number three pass rusher in the defensive rotation?
A: I had a lot of trust in him last year. You know, when JPP went down and he surfaced in that one game and then continued. You know you have trust in the guy when you give him a bunch of things to do. Romeo will play what we call the Joker position, he’ll play tackle. Every once in a while, he’ll move inside on third down. So, there’s some trust there. I talked with him the other day, I think he needs to jump it up a little bit. We need to see him do some of the things he did a year ago that we were all impressed with. Right now we’ve got confidence in him as our third defensive end.
Q: You’ve been working LB BJ Goodson in the nickel, how are his coverage skills coming along?
A: Very good. He runs real well. He’s embraced the whole thing, being a linebacker and taking command. I love the look in his eye. Believe it or not, the other day, I said something to him maybe a little harsh and he responded just as harsh. Now, I like that in a Mike linebacker. Antonio and I were talking about it, and there weren’t many moments like that with AP and I, but I like that when there’s a little fire in the Mike linebacker.
Q: Are you teaching less because you have a veteran group or are you teaching more because you’re expecting more out of them?
A: I never stray from the teaching part, to be quite honest with you. Now, they may get tired of it, they may get bored with it. I remember somebody telling a story about Joe Montana, I can’t remember who told the story. It was a coach that went in after Joe Montana had been there eight or ten years in the same system, and he was impressed with Joe Montana, who was still taking notes, still doing the details. That’s what the great ones do, that’s what the good guys do. So, we’re always preaching to teach the details, and our coaches do a great job.
Q: Are you concerned at all about the depth at linebacker?
A: There’s some moving pieces right there right now. B.J. has stepped in and done some good things. Keenan’s (Robinson) been nicked a little bit, J.T. (Thomas) hadn’t been in there, we’ve got some young guys. It’s going to take a little while to figure that out. We’ve got a couple weeks to figure that out.
Q: Now that you’ve seen your cornerbacks play, do you feel a little bit better about the depth you have?
A: Yeah. Double D’s (Donte Deayon) doing a heck of a job, he had another big play today. And look, there’s been some great battles and what I like about that group of corners is that they love to compete. You can’t play that position in this league if you don’t embrace competiveness. If you want to be competitive, you’ve got to have a short memory.
Q: How talented is the secondary? Is it the most talented you’ve had?
A: I wouldn’t even do the comparison thing. I would like us to be better in the secondary than we were last year. We gave up too many explosive pass plays, that’s not all the secondary. I know the guys feel that, too; everyone wants to get better.
Q: Do you think that was a hidden issue for you guys last year, letting too many explosive runs past you?
A: Yeah, they always are. Now, the explosive runs went way down, we were like third in the league on the good side of that. We’ve talked about that a lot. Sometimes that’s me, because I’ll take chances and we’ll pressure and they’ll hit something, but there are times when that doesn’t bother me because we’re doing something pressure-wise that sets something up later. Okay, they got a 20-yard pass play, line up and play defense. But we do got to eliminate those.
Q: Do you think added pass rushers could add in that sense? Do you expect that OV and JPP will not be out there as much?
A: I don’t know that. We’ll see. They don’t like to come off the field, but we do got to keep them fresh. We have talked about it, it is a concentration. We’ll see how the other guys do back there.