Steve Spagnuolo is still the Giants’ defensive coordinator. This year, though, he’s doing a little more outsourcing.
Maybe because of the strides they made last season, going from the worst defense in the NFL to one of the top units, Spagnuolo is allowing the players to have more input and more say in what will happen on the field this season.
“Spags, I think since his first year to now, I think he’s let his guard down a little bit,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas, last year’s defensive captain, said on Sunday. “He’s let us, as the players, kind of dictate to him in what we like to do and what we’re comfortable with. I think the first year, I don’t know if that happened too much. In this offseason, I’ve seen it happen more times than not. Especially in training camp.”
Who can blame him for not giving that kind of freedom to the 2015 team in his first year with the Giants? They had some good players, but it was stocked mostly with unproven youngsters (many of whom were proven not good enough) and has-been guys finishing up their careers. The results were disastrous.
Then last offseason the Giants invested in the defense. They added Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple to the secondary. They added Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon and a functioning Jason Pierre-Paul (who missed most of 2015 with his hand injury) up front. Landon Collins blossomed into a star player. Casillas was healthier than he was in 2015. The linebackers were all young, hungry veterans.
Poof! The defense got better. And, as a result, now has more say in what they do on the field.
“Spags is definitely a guy that, he’s willing to listen to players and even the coaches underneath him to get certain things ironed out,” Casillas said. “There’s a lot of great offenses out there and all these offenses, they have certain plays to beat out defense. And sometimes, it’s like even though we’re running it a certain way, if this play can expose us or expose our defense, we may have to manipulate it just a little bit. And Spags, he may not have been so open to it two years ago, but this year he’s definitely listening and prepared to make some differences, some changes, or what have you.”
All of which comes back to one word.
“Trust,” Casillas said. “I think it’s just trust. Just like any relationship that you have, over time you allow more things to happen because the trust factor’s there.”