How Steve Spagnuolo fits with Saints

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
6:45
PM ET
The New Orleans Saints have agreed to terms with Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator Thursday, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

This is a big victory for the Saints because I’m pretty sure Spagnuolo is the guy Sean Payton had targeted for this job, probably even before previous coordinator Gregg Williams left for St. Louis and a reunion with Jeff Fisher after the Saints lost in the playoffs.

If you want a picture of a Spagnuolo defense, don’t think too much about the St. Louis team he had been the head coach of since 2009.

Think more of the New York Giants, when Spagnoulo was their defensive coordinator in 2007 and ’08. The Giants won the Super Bowl in the 2007 season. Prior to that, Spagnoulo had a long run as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, who played in four NFC Championship Games during his tenure. Spagnuolo worked for the Eagles from 1999 through 2006.

In short, his defense -- in theory -- is a lot like we’ve seen out of the Giants this postseason. It relies on a lot of pressure from the front four and not much blitzing. Spagnuolo prefers tall/angular cornerbacks that can play man-to-man coverage and also likes playmakers at safety.

Williams relied much more on the blitz than Spagnuolo typically has and the change in coordinators likely means there will be some changes in the defensive personnel.

Cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson probably can fit the Spagnuolo profile, but Tracy Porter, who can be a free agent, might not. Free safety Malcolm Jenkins has the potential to be a playmaker, but strong safety Roman Harper, who blitzed a lot under Williams, might not be a great fit because he’s not particularly strong in coverage.

Up front, the Saints will have to generate more of a pass rush. Will Smith is the team’s top defensive end, but he’ll turn 31 in July and is not coming off a good season. The Saints may look at Smith’s high cap figure and realize they can free up $6 million by cutting him. Cameron Jordan was a first-round pick in 2011 and showed he can play the run, but isn’t yet a prolific pass rusher. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis can generate some push in the middle, but the Saints likely will have to add at least one strong pass rusher on the front four.

There also could be change at linebacker, but that probably was coming no matter what. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma showed some signs of age last season and outside linebacker Scott Shanle turned 32 in November.

There’s some work to be done on the personnel front. But the Saints got the man they wanted to direct their defense.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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