METAIRIE, La. – Steve Spagnuolo’s accent is as thick as the air generally is during a New Orleans summer.
But don’t think for once that New Orleans Saints defenders don’t know what he’s saying to them.
The new defensive coordinator may not be as brash or as loud as Gregg Williams, but he’s every bit as demanding.
“He’s not as intense yelling-wise as Gregg is but he definitely wants a lot out of you,” safety Isa Abdul-Quddus said Sunday. “He definitely is intense. He definitely wants you to get going.”
The question for Spagnuolo heading into training camp was how he’d be able to get a pass rush with what the Saints were bringing back.
Will Smith was the only known pass-rushing entity and he’s suspended for the first four games because of what the NFL said was a leadership role in an alleged bounty program run by the Saints for three seasons under Williams.
Through four days of practices, it’s apparent that Spagnuolo is willing to try to different things, tinkering to find perfection.
Martez Wilson has played both a traditional hand-on-the-ground defensive end and a standup pass rusher. Cameron Jordan has both moved inside to defensive tackle and dropped back into pass coverage.
He’s kept both Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper deep in zone coverage and blitzed them from the outside and inside.
“It’s definitely different,” right guard Jahri Evans said. “It’s two totally different systems. You see the defensive line getting a lot more pressure here. There’s not a lot of blitzing or anything like that. They’re definitely coming.”
Spagnuolo believes in his defensive scheme, recalling how it has worked everywhere he has been.
He was influenced by the late Jim Johnson, the former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator, in eight years as an assistant coach alongside him.
He still firmly believes that games are won in the trenches, which is why he focuses so much on the defensive line and the havoc a good one can cause.
“The history that I’ve been around and what we have been used to is I firmly believe you win with big guys offensively and defensively,” Spagnuolo said.
The Saints haven’t had an overwhelming amount of success in pass rush the past two seasons, coming up with just 33 sacks in both 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, in Spagnuolo’s two seasons as the New York Giants defensive coordinator, they had 53 and 42 sacks.
Whether he has the players or not, Spagnuolo believes things can change in New Orleans.
“One thing I do know and feel comfortable about is the package that we are putting in has proven to have been successful at a lot of different places and I think our guys are buying into that,” Spagnuolo said.