Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
November 2, 2017
Opening Statement: Iím going to open it up and let it fly. Whatever you got. Whatever is on your mind, fire away and hopefully I can at least give you something to work with.
Q: Who do you envision is going to have a heavier workload without CB Janoris Jenkins?
A: All of them. All. It gives us really four corners right now and look, youíre going to go into a lot of games depending on packages Ė Iím not going to reveal all the packages we got. But, weíre going to need all four corners. Weíre going to need them on special teams. Weíre going to need them to play coverage-wise especially when you get to third down.
Q: What do you do if CB Donte Deayon isnít in?
A: I got a couple of plays in me. I told him the other day, I asked him the other day, ĎWho weighs more? You or me?í So, if I weigh a little bit more. Thatís an interesting one. Weíll find out. Hopefully, heíll be okay there, but Ross (Cockrell) has done a nice job moving inside. If I can talk about Ross Cockrell for a second. He comes in. Help me out, I know it was after we were into the season somewhere along the way or right at the 53. I canít remember exactly. We didnít have him in OTAís. You donít have him in training camp. Thatís difficult for a player to do, but he has done a great job picking up our system, playing outside when weíve asked him to, which is really where heís been and then moving inside and doing things that we needed him to do in there and I think Tim Walton and Ross have done a great job getting himself ready to be an inside player, which is not a natural position for him. He didnít do a lot of that with some of the teams he was with. So, he could slide in there. DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) could slide. We got some options, so weíll see.
Q: Will you mix and match, or will you have just one of them designated outside?
A: Not necessarily. No. I think weíll move. There will be a lot of moving pieces and we may match people that they have too, so you could see it all ways really.
Q: Why do you think CB Eli Apple turned a corner?
A: Good point. I donít know that. I donít know. Even when you all ask, would ask, because he was struggling and had a couple bad plays here and there. I still thought Ė I would always go to the plays that I thought he was doing really well where you donít notice it because it takes somebody out of the play. But, heís a solid player. Look, heís got size, speed. Heís got all natural ability and I think heís a focused football player now. Heís always been a really good tackler. Maybe confidence, you know, a couple plays and I forget which game but I remember one game saying, ĎThatís the best game heís played.í I donít know if it was this past one or the one before, but just if he can build on it and stack good plays, guys get confidence.
Q: Do you think his benching helped?
A: I donít know. Yeah, youíd have to ask him if he feels that way.
Q: Have you seen a difference after his benching?
A: If that was the reason, then we did the right thing. But, to be honest with you, nobody ever classified it as a benching. We juggled some things around at that particular time. We had a lot of guys playing and heís been playing better, which is good. Itís good for us.
Q: Other than the change at quarterback, what has been the biggest change in the Rams offense compared to last year?
A: Theyíre real efficient. I think what [Los Angeles Head Coach] Sean [McVay] does with them is good football. The challenge for us is, thereís a lot going on back there that Ė they try to distract guys. And on defense, youíve got to be good with your eyes. Thereís a lot of distractions back there, from our standpoint. We have to be disciplined enough not to let that be distracting and play the keys that weíre supposed to be looking at. But I think that part of the offense has made them really efficient. The runner is a good football player. Obviously, theyíve changed a bunch of offensive linemen from last year and I think theyíre all kind of in sync. But, theyíve put together a pretty good system with some pretty good players and theyíre kind of clicking right now. Theyíve found a groove, theyíve got some confidence. So, theyíre a tough offense to defend because of that.
Q: What is your level of frustration, losing another veteran cornerback due to suspension?
A: Yeah, it makes it tough. But look, Iíve been in this business long enough to know that these things happen during the year. By that I mean, you lose guys, they come, they go, whether itís injury, whatever it is. I know you get sick of hearing it, but the next guy up. Weíve got to keep moving up. It doesnít change what we have to do here as coaches and players, weíve just got to keep going forward.
Q: Do you have to keep an eye on the cornerbacks room?
A: Not at all. I know that [Head Coach] Ben [McAdoo] has already addressed this, so Iím going to leave it at that. But I feel very confident in the guys in there, the coaches in there, the players. The way we function, who they are, how we feel about each other, Iíve never lost any confidence in that.
Q: How do you feel with how the defense has performed overall this season?
A: Right now, it just doesnít feel like we have been in sync. The only game I think weíve had all the pieces, quote unquote, together Ė and even then, I think [linebacker] Keenan [Robinson] was hurt in the Dallas game Ė was the first game. That was the closest we were. And itís been, we gain a couple guys and we lose a couple, gain a couple. So, itís a little bit out of sync, thatís tough. Youíre talking about your signal callers, [linebacker] B.J [Goodson] is not in there now, thatís the guy in the center of the defense that does a lot of the talking. So, weíve got to get somebody else in there, different voice, different ways. So, thatís been the most frustrating part. And yet, all that aside, youíve got to go out and just play defensive football. Thatís flying around, tackling people, being relentless and doing what we do, So, hopefully we can get back to where we were.
Q: Who will you have calling the plays on defense this week?
A: Itíll be a mixture of Keenan, Curtis Grant will be in there, Calvin [Munson]. We have a couple different packages, so weíve got different guys. And again, when you have to do that, when itís not one guy in the middle all the time, and we just donít have that situation right now, it makes it a little bit tough. But, weíve got to be better as coaches, limit it, make sure that everybody does get on the same page and just let them go play.
Q: So does it seem like Goodson will not play on Sunday?
A: I donít know that now, but right now, weíre trying to work some other guys in there just in case.
Q: When you self-scouted during the bye week, did you find that you ran more zone this season?
A: That didnít stick out. You know, a number of our zone coverage calls really have man concepts in there. So, sometimes itís going to look like man and not be man. I canít remember that being an overall assessment. There are things that we did look at and felt like Ė I will say this, Iím going back in my mind, my Rolodex and when we went through it a week ago, some of our more successful plays have been in man. And maybe what youíre seeing is some of the unsuccessful plays where we were zone.
Q: Some of the guys mentioned there have been more miscommunication in zone plays.
A: A little of that goes back to the pieces changing all of the time. Last year when we were rolling, we were very fortunate last year, we stayed pretty healthy. You only get so many reps out here on the practice field during the week to work what the next opponent is going to give you. You want the guys that are going to be able to play in the game to get those. When guys have to go in who havenít gotten those reps, it makes it hard. Itís been a little bit of that.
Q: How much does RB Todd Gurley impact the game not only in the running game, but catching the ball out of the backfield as well?
A: Theyíve really featured him a lot more. At one time, I was watching one of the TV broadcasts of a Rams game last week and I remember the announcer saying that he was at one time the leading receiver for the Rams. I donít think thatís the case now, but it shows you how versatile he is and the confidence they have in getting him the football in different ways. The quarterback is really good with underneath and inside throws. A lot of them have been to the backs and tight ends and what not. So they methodically make their way downfield, find ways to score and donít put themselves in a lot of bad situations and I think thatís whatís made them really efficient. Theyíre the top scoring team in the NFL I believe.
Q: Have you analyzed the reason why you have given up eight touchdowns to tight ends this season?
A: There are different ways to look at it. Does that mean weíre taking away whatís going on outside and they have to throw it inside? Does that mean thereís a weakness inside? I donít know. I donít remember what downs and distances those were, but itís hard sometimes to say that youíre going to take away a tight end and not weaken yourself somewhere else whether it is in the run game or somewhere else. I donít know what we were in. I remember certain ones, but not all of them. But we have to do some other different things and we have installed those to help us a little bit.
Q: But it is something that youíve looked at and analyzed?
A: Yeah, weíre aware of it. I worry more about the guys out there to be quite honest with you. Unless you have a tight end that can run a 4.4 straight downfield and keep beating you on 40, 50 yard plays. You give me the eight touchdowns with the tight ends, certainly theyíre in the red zone. Maybe we have to do a better job on our red zone defense. I think in the couple that I remember, the Philadelphia one in particular, they had three tight ends in there. One of those guys was going to get the ball, right?
Q: It looked like some zone concepts in the red zone and on the goal line.
A: We had a little bit of both. A little bit of both. Zone and man to man within zone. So weíve mixed it up a little bit. Weíll see where we go this week.
Spags is part of the problem, just like the rest of them.
I would have brought up what Collins said yesterday, about how the league seemed to have figured out what they were doing in their red-zone coverages and how the defense took a few weeks to figure that out and counter it. I would have loved him to follow up Collins' response with more detail about how they might be able to recognize those tendencies quicker, before they've given up so many important plays.
One thing about Spags, love him or not, is that he tends to be more open and direct in answering questions during his media sessions. McAdoo could benefit by taking a note from Spags in this regard.
Spags is part of the problem, just like the rest of them.