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Spagnuolo "I am Elated to be Here"

Posted May 24, 2012

New Saints DC says he is "refreshed to be back in the trenches."

New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
Media Availability
Thursday, May 24, 2012

Watch the Press Conference

What do the guys see in Martez Wilson and is your reasoning for testing him out at defensive end?
“It was feedback really from the coaches that have been here, Bill Johnson, Joe (Vitt), and Travis (Jones).  They must have seen some things in him a year ago, most of the take off abilities and pass rush ability. Now we have a ways to go. He was excited about it and it fit into things. We have a number of linebackers right now working at outside linebacker so I think he is excited about it and we will see where it goes from here.”

Have you watched the film from last season coming in here? What did you say to yourself was going to be the biggest adjustment to get the players to understand your system?
“Well I’m a little bit different in that regard. When we put the tape on and we did it as a staff, obviously we have some new coaches and some guys that have been here, it was really more what was some scheme things that they’ve have done in the past that we can keep and are really good. And let’s just evaluate the player’s abilities. It wasn’t they run this, that doesn’t fit in this package, we’re not going to be good at that. Quite honestly I think that you have to find that out on your own. That is kind of what we are doing here with the OTAs. We said this all along, we have a number of calls to begin with that will be the foundation but we’ll build this thing on what the players can do. They were multiple enough here in the past that has a lot of things they can do good.”

In your evaluation as a linebackers coach, you signed three guys at that position. Would it be accurate that you needed an upgrade there? How do these three guys that come in fit?
“I wouldn’t preface it by saying that we thought this was a weakness and we had to. It is a little bit based on what is available, what you can fit in, and Mickey (Loomis) and his guys do a terrific job in that part of it. We were very fortunate, talking about as a team defensively to have some guys available that wanted to be here.  Certainly the three guys that we got, we are happy they are here. I think that there was and continue to be some pretty good linebackers here. Each of those guys offers something different. Curtis (Lofton) is certainly a prototype mike linebacker but I think he could play another spot if he had to. Obviously, Chris Chamberlain I’ve had a lot of experience with. He can play both outside linebacker spots. And again, I’m singing the same tune but David Hawthorne is another guy that has played mike and he’s played outside. So I guess to wrap it up, all three guys are pretty versatile. We’ll find out where they fit best and get them plugged in.“

Coach Vitt mentioned that the offense under Drew Brees always made plenty of big plays but the defense needs to reduce the big plays they gave up last year. Did you make preventing big plays your first priority when you came here?
“I never went back to before. It was always “let’s figure this thing out together.” Opening game is the Washington Redskins so that’s basically the goal right now, working towards that. Certainly, I think that Coach Vitt’s point was probably that big plays on either side of the ball or big play differential has a huge relation to winning or losing games, just like turnover ratio does. The more you can eliminate them and the more you can create them on offense by the chance you have of winning the game. I agree with you on the years having to defend this offense, keeping Drew off the field is a pretty good way to go.

Can you talk about Will Herring’s and Scott Shanle’s number of snaps today?
“I’m glad you asked that. Today was a huge emphasize on nickel or sub defenses. I don’t know if you noticed the stakes but it was almost always third down. Those guys, being able to pay linebacker and those particular packages it just didn’t come up a lot today. That has no reflection. If you guys were here the last two OTAs, you would have seen them out there a lot.”

When you weren’t in base, was Jonathan Casillas lining up with the ones?
“He wasn’t out there at all today. He has a back injury right now that he hasn’t had. The trainers are working with him right now.”

Do you enjoy only having to worry about the defense?
“Most of the coaches will probably tell you this but what I enjoy the most is the teaching part of it. Getting your hands dirty. Sometimes, when you serve as head coach, there are a lot of other pulls in a lot of other directions that take you away from that. In that regard, I am refreshed to be back in the trenches. I never got too far away from it in St. Louis but there are other things you have to do as a head coach. Now, the focus is strictly on the defensive guys and the defensive coaches and I am enjoying it right now.”

How much pressure do you feel to improve the defense this year knowing how good the offense is?
“If we can continue to win as many games as they do here, I am ok with that. Certainly, from the standpoint of getting one side of the ball to help the football team win, we want to improve in all areas. I think all teams are trying to do that. The team that was number one in defense in whatever category you want to use wants to get better at that. I don’t think that ever changes in this league and if it does, you are in trouble. I like the fact, and I think the players do too because there are a lot of competitive guys on this football team, that this offense that we are a part of right now is so elite and so dynamic that the defensive players have something to shoot for. That would be a great goal to go get.”

What are you telling the young defensive lineman to get more out of them? What do you need to do to get more pressure?
“A lot of things. We don’t care where the pressure comes from to be quite honest with you. We will bring it from all different directions. I am a firm believer, and I have been in years learning from one of the best in the league, Jim Johnson, who we all know passed away a little bit ago, that you win up front both offensively and defensively. If you are talking defense, you are talking about defensive linemen. Sometimes you have four out there, sometimes you have three out there. In my opinion, you get as many out there as you can. They engineer this whole thing. There will be an emphasis on winning up front first both in run and pass. We have guys that can do that. We have experience there with Will (Smith) and some of the other guys. We are happy to have Bunk (Broderick Bunkley) here. Moving Martez (Wilson) down, I think, has worked out so far but we have a long way to go. I agree with you that there is some youth to work with and I am kind of excited about that.”

What effects will the focus on head trauma and concussions have on play this Fall?
“I think we all have to recognize that, first of all. The safety of players is first and foremost. It always has been in my mind and I think in all the coaches in this league. That’s first. I don’t know that the game will change all that much to be honest with you. It can be played physical, hard, aggressive, and clean and be a safe game, one that we all loved for a long time. I don’t know that it will change that much. Guys might have to change things a little bit, but hopefully the quality of play won’t change.”

Does the new defense suit your personnel or is it one that you are more comfortable playing things a certain way with the personnel you have?
“I don’t know if I have the personnel part of it figured out quite yet to be honest with you. I enjoy these OTAs but from a defensive standpoint, it is not real football until you put pads on. That is just how I feel. To assess all of the abilities of what we have and what direction we will take, it’s going to take a little while. It is going to take a little while here before, as a staff, figure out what direction we are going to go. We are going to need some games, some pre-season games, some football contact out here during practice and then hopefully we can come up with something that fits best for our guys.”

What do you want to see?
“We are a multiple defense. To be a multiple defense, you need to have smart football players. Hopefully, we have that. We are testing them now with the intelligence part. We have some volume in there that they have to figure out. We are probably losing the young guys right now, but the vets seem to be keeping up with it. If you can be multiple, in my opinion, I think that offenses have gotten so far advanced and quarterbacks have gotten so intelligent about getting their side of the ball in and out of things to put them in the best play, that on defense you have to be a step ahead of that. The only way to do that is to have somebody controlling it, in our situation is the mike linebacker, and the other ten guys receiving the information and making adjustments in the heat of the battle.”

Does your defensive style take the pressure off the backfield?
“I think what Malcolm (Jenkins) is talking about might stem from the fact that there was a lot of man coverage played here. There is a lot of pressure there. What Malcolm is going to find that in this league, there is a lot of pressure on everybody on every play, it doesn’t matter what you call. I can appreciate where he is coming from and what he is saying. Hopefully that works to our advantage.”

Do you think that Malcolm Jenkins was under-utilized?
“I wouldn’t say that. I would say that I do think he is a good football player. If we do our job as coaches and get it figured out right, the guys that we think can make plays will be making the plays. I think it will come from a lot of different areas. I was blessed in a number of years in Philadelphia where Brian Dawkins was our safety. Certainly, we orchestrated things to take advantage of what he could do. There were guys all over the place making plays, Brian was just one of them. Malcolm is a pretty good football player. We have another good safety too. If we do things right, we are going to make the plays.”

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