New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
2:00 PM PDT, October 8, 2012
“I’ll just open up real quick and then I’ll let you fire away. I’m certainly happy for the team. I’m very happy for Aaron Kromer and the job he’s been doing. There’s nothing better than getting your first win as a head coach. I’m proud of the way the defense played, certainly the way they rose up in the second (half). I was proud of what they did there. They stuck with it. I didn’t think it was always pretty in the way we did it. There were too many big plays, but we were able to overcome those explosive plays against us by creating some negative plays of our own. We had I think two tackles for losses, the five sacks helped and then certainly the turnover. When you can negate some of the issues you have early that certainly helps. I want to enjoy the win, but I think we all realize, certainly as coaches we do and we’ll be talking with the players here in a little bit, that we still have a long way to go defensively, so we’ll focus on what it is that we need to correct. Having said that, I’ll open it up.”
You mentioned being able to create those turnovers. This game, you seemed to be able to create those big plays more consistently. Can you talk about that?
“I think it was a combination of a couple of scheme things, the effort on the part of the players, certainly the front four at the end there getting to the quarterback when we really needed them to do that and we were trying to cover on the back end, the combination of all of that. There was what we would probably term one or two coverage sacks in there, certainly one of the earlier ones. That’s a credit to the secondary and the secondary coaches. That makes a huge difference. We want to eliminate the explosive plays that we gave them, but if that happens, you have to negate them.”
Have you seen a different side of Aaron Kromer now that he’s picked up his first win?
“It’s only been a few hours. I haven’t, other than seeing Aaron right away in the locker room afterwards. I’m not so sure I’ve seen him other than for three minutes today. My guess is from past experience that it feels pretty good. It’s just like, when we’ve sat here for these Mondays and I’m sure Aaron would say the same thing, and it’s a little bit different because we have the bye week, but one hour shortly after you put it to bed, you don’t have a lot of time to think about it and enjoy it. You’re on to the next one. With what we’re facing this week, I don’t know if Aaron’s already talked about it, but it’s the bye week and you’re self-scouting and you’re evaluating your own defense in this particular case and then moving on to the next game. There’s not a lot of time in this league to be down when you lose, or to get too high when you win. That’s just the way it is and I think he’s gotten used to that.”
When Aaron Kromer looks back on what his experience was like after the season, what do you think that will be like?
“I don’t know that. You’re asking the wrong guy. You’d have to ask Aaron. I’m sure he’ll handle it the right way.”
You have three young guys in the secondary in Corey White, Patrick Robinson and Johnny Patrick who have gotten a lot of playing time with the injuries in the secondary. Can you talk about those three guys a little bit?
“I appreciate you bring them up because all in all I think they did a pretty good job. There’s a lot in there that we need to get right and quite honestly, and this will happen with any team, when the pass rush is getting to the quarterback and making them throw it a little sooner or making him move his feet and making him get off the spot, it helps the back end people and it certainly helped us yesterday. I think those young guys would certainly go up to the big fellas and say I appreciate what you did because it wasn’t always pretty on the back end either. But those guys in the situation where you lose a veteran like Jabari Greer, there’s a scramble on the sideline to get it right. Johnny Patrick has prepared himself and got in there. Corey White, you bring up a good point, when we coach these guys, we coach them to be perfect. I know they want to be perfect, but sometimes we forget Corey White is a young 22 or 23-year old guy that was playing at Samford University (last year). There’s still a learning curve here and all three of those guys are still going through it.”
Martez Wilson had an up and down final series of the game with a penalty and then a huge sack and fumble recovery to save the game. Can you talk about his ups and downs?
“The one (penalty) that I recall that he had, I don’t know if they called hands to the face (illegal use of hands), I’m not sure what they called, but it’s an aggressive penalty. Now do we want to get those? No, you have to get that hand out of there immediately. It happens in this game. Guys are in there battling and defensive players put it in the offense’s facemask and it happens the other way around too, but as long as you get it out of there quickly it’s not a penalty. An aggressive penalty like that, they’re going to happen. I’m not going to be drilling Martez for that one. It’s the offsides and the undisciplined ones, but he certainly had a relentless attitude all the way through the game and it helped at the end.”
What does it say for him to come back at the end of the game to come back after the penalty and make two really good plays to end the game?
“He did. He forced a quick throw. We were a little bit fortunate there. Not to take anything away from Martez, but I think their left tackle was a little bit hurt. To Martez’s credit, he realized it, adjusted his pass rush game and got two what we call edge rushes that did make a huge difference on the last two plays. That was big for him to recognize that.”
Is that something that takes times for a young player to recognize?
“Yes, that was huge. What he did on both those plays is he basically edge rushed and dipped his shoulder knowing that the offensive lineman couldn’t defend it and then he turned the corner. Now that’s some ability and some in-flight adjusting in the game knowing that. He smelled blood in the water and he took advantage of it. That was huge.”
Malcolm Jenkins got the unsportsmanlike conduct on a Chargers touchdown and said that he didn’t think it would matter on the kickoff anyway. Do you give out fines or anything for penalties like that?
“No, I’m not in charge of fines. We’d like not to do that. I know Malcolm would like not to do that either. He’s probably right about the kickoff, but I don’t think we should be doing that.”
Were you more aggressive with the play-calling in the second half yesterday?
“I don’t know. To be honest with you, I thought I was a little more aggressive in the first half and kind of, I don’t want to say hung the defensive backs out to dry, but we’re trying to be aggressive and it puts pressure on the outside guys. There were a couple of plays there that they made that I thought we get a free rusher on a blitz but he launches it up there and he catches it on Patrick Robinson, who tried to defend it at the line of scrimmage by pressing the wideout and the guy got inside on him. And then in the second half, we open up with the first drive and didn’t do well in the sudden challenge situation. They get the ball on the 25 I want to say after the interception. That’s a four point swing. We’re responsible for four points there. We have to hold them to a field goal. Then after that, it was kind of a mix and match. We kind of picked our spots. Once we got ahead, we played it a certain way up to that certain point, but there were a couple calls in there we got aggressive with and they probably worked out well.”
How many players did you blitz on Curtis Lofton’s sack?
“Just the five, he basically just added himself to the rush. We were in man. That was just a natural play for him. He’s a good football player. Curtis is doing a good job.”
With the secondary jamming at the line, is that something you want them to improve on?
“We mix it up. (Sometimes) we’re pressing, (sometimes) we’re not pressing. We’re catching, what we call it, and playing man so we mix it up. I think one of the things Patrick Robinson can do best, and again there’s still a learning curve here, but he’s a long-armed physical strong guy who’s aggressive that I think can do really well at the line of scrimmage. You win some and you lose some. That’s the nature of playing that position out there. When you lose them, you just have to completely forget about it and go on to the next play.”
Some of the defensive players reminded us that the defense is getting better each week. With the way the defense played in the second half, is that something you’re looking to build on?
“I hope so. A lot of this game is confidence and we’re all human. When it’s not going well or the result on the scoreboard is not what you want, it can work on you, but we try to put that behind. I mentioned this last week that the more you replay yesterday, the further you get away from the next opportunity and our next opportunity will be the next game. You have to do the same thing when you win and you have success too. You have to forget about it, but it is something to build on. I think it’s a confidence builder. I just got done watching the tape. We have a lot of work to do. The Good Lord helped us out on a number of plays yesterday. I’m going to tell you that right now, but that happens in this league. Sometimes when you lose, it doesn’t go your way. It’s such a competitive league. You need a break here or there.”
Does that make this a good time for the bye week?
“Anytime you win, it makes for a good week. Again, if it was a normal week and we were heading towards Wednesday, I would just say for the players by the time Wednesday morning rolls around, it’s the same mindset. I’ve always believed in that and I talk with the players about it all the time. It didn’t matter a week ago whether we were 0-4 or 4-0, when we got to Wednesday morning and got to preparing for the San Diego Chargers, it was exactly the same. It should be like that, so it will be the same going forward.”
Have some of the defensive backs had trouble getting their heads turned around to find the ball on passing plays?
“You find them, you knock them down. You find them, you catch them. Sometimes you don’t find them and they catch them.”
Were they not turning around quick enough?
“It depends on what play you’re talking about. I’d have to do them all individually and I don’t know that this is the right time to do that. The guys know their craft and skill and they’re always trying to get better at it.”
How much do you balance encouraging Corey White with continuing to grow and do better as opposed to dropping his confidence when teams are getting big plays against him?
“The one big play they had wasn’t all his fault. It’s a combination of a unit act there on that particular play. There was a mix-up, so we’ll get that corrected, but I do think Corey has the ability to let a play go and move on to the next one. It’s his rookie year, the fifth game, there are always going to be a lot of those kinds of things. Will people pick on him? Yes, probably. I think a lot of those cases they were throwing to the guy that he felt was open. I’m not so sure he was picking on him, it just so happened it was against #24. He’s a good football player. We’re glad we have him and hopefully going forward here as the season goes he gets better and better.”
Does it help Corey White knowing that a lot of the guys playing alongside of him have been in shoes recently as younger players still developing?
“Yes, and I’m sure they’re helping him. There’s nothing better in this league than veteran help, not that Johnny (Patrick) and Patrick (Robinson) are ready to be declared veterans, but you have Roman (Harper) out there and you have Malcolm (Jenkins). Both those guys are always in their ears with confidence. Both Malcolm and Roman are terrific on the sideline. When we get in some of those adverse situations and the confidence and the interaction between them and the rest of the players in the secondary and the rest of the defensive line and linebackers I think is terrific. These guys get it. They problem-solve. They don’t get down. They move onto the next play and the next drive and that’s what you have to do.”
Malcolm seems like the type of player that makes very aggressive plays, whether it’s a good play or a mistake. Is he a player that you’re looking to be very active in the secondary?
“I talked with Malcolm last week. Malcolm’s one of the captains on defense. He’s one of the leaders. He embraces that role. I think he handles it very well. He takes it very seriously. I think when you’re a leader on any unit and you want the unit to be aggressive and physical and out-hit, then you have to grab the flag and be the guy in front of the group and I think that’s what he’s doing. I think the guys are feeling that sense.”
Do you like the way Malcolm Jenkins is playing?
“Yes, Malcolm does some good things for us. You have to remember he’s the quarterback back there, so he’s doing a lot of the mental part too and I think he’s doing a pretty good job of that.”
Is Roman Harper doing a good job at linebacker in some of those sub-packages?
“He has a natural feel down there. I kind of like him down there for the things he does. He came on that one pressure and kind of, what we call, slithered by the running back and pressured the quarterback and there were a couple of other plays. We had him in one situation where he covered that tight end by himself that was a tough down. (Antonio) Gates is a pretty nifty guy and he catches a little late yard out. That was challenging but sometimes you have to do that and Roman accepts that challenge.”
Do you feel like having three safeties on the field is something you can continue to do?
“Yes, we’ll see. Part of that kind of evolved because of the injuries to David (Hawthorne) and Jonathan (Vilma). Both of those guys are good football players too, but I’d like to have them all back healthy and decide which way to go. Right now we’ve kind of been forced into doing certain things.”
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