METAIRIE, La. – Chris Chamberlain is only 26 years old and he has only played in the NFL for five seasons.
Yet, the linebacker feels a bit like a player-coach these days.
He’s one of a handful of players who have played for the New Orleans Saints’ new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a fact that gives him a leg up on learning the scheme.
“I’ve kind of been an assistant linebackers coach here for the first couple weeks of camp and rightfully so,” Chamberlain said. “I want to be that guy that guys can come to and ask questions, be able to help them out and give them some inside knowledge.”
In four years with St. Louis, including three with Spagnuolo as head coach, Chamberlain (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) played in 59 games, including 19 starts the past two seasons. From 2009-11, when he was with Spagnuolo, he finished with 107 tackles, two sacks and one interception, the bulk coming a season ago as a full-time starter.
The Saints’ previous regime was an aggressive, blitz-happy one that took chances, including some high-profile failures. Chamberlain knows the reputation and said what the team is learning now, and what fans will see this fall, is different than what they’re used to.
“In the past it has been sort of an all-or-nothing type of deal, whereas here we will bring pressure,” Chamberlain said. “But … we’ll bring anybody and everybody, all different looks, all different angles, lots of disguises.”
Blitzes won’t totally go away. In fact, Chamberlain said the defense is still insistent on bringing pressure. It just will come in different ways.
“I think you describe it as extremely aggressive,” he said. “Coach Spags loves to bring heat and bring pressure, and I think you’ll see a lot of that.”
The Rams finished with 39 sacks a season ago and 43 the season before that. But in 2009, Spagnuolo’s first in St. Louis, the Rams recorded only 25 sacks while learning the system.
Before worry creeps in, however, Chamberlain said those in New Orleans are picking up the nuances of the defense quicker than he has ever seen.
“I think I can tell you that Spags hasn’t tried to install this much this fast before,” he said. “I think that’s a compliment to how the guys here are able to pick things up. He’s putting a lot of pressure on people right now, mentally, to learn their stuff.”