Giants defensive coordinator Spagnuolo faces challenges
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Steve Spagnuolo didn't let the New York Giants' relative talent level impact his decision to accept an opportunity for a second go-around as coach Tom Coughlin's defensive coordinator.
Spagnuolo, the architect of the 2007 Super Bowl-winning unit, didn't see a Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Antonio Pierce or Sam Madison on the current roster. But after a six-year Giants hiatus that included three unsuccessful seasons as the St. Louis Rams' head coach, a disastrous 2012 as the New Orleans Saints' defensive coordinator, and two productive seasons as the secondary coach for friend John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Spagnuolo took the chance to reunite with Coughlin.
The job interview, conducted shortly after Coughlin fired Perry Fewell, was hardly a grilling.
''You go through the process,'' Spagnuolo said as the Giant's two-day rookie minicamp ended Saturday. ''It was a comfortable interview, like being back with an old friend. A little business, a lot of catching up. It was a good interview.''
The title of defensive coordinator didn't change from his first stint in 2007-08, when he turned that unit into a pass-rushing, turnover-creating terror. But the challenge did. Spagnuolo must transform a 29th-ranked defense - 30th against the run and 18th versus the pass - into an effective unit with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul as its only true standout.
He must find a solution at safety, which is sparse with the departures of Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown. The linebackers need to regroup after an injury-filled season and the defensive front has some unproven pieces.
Spagnuolo had many more quality pieces in his first tenure.
''Any year in this business, the NFL, it's a different challenge,'' he said. ''It's certainly different than 2007. There are different hurdles. But that's part of coaching. That's what we embrace. That's the challenge of it.''
Despite that, Spagnuolo said he has both the knowledge and the plan to make his second incarnation as successful as the first.
''At the top of the list is the bottom of the foundation,'' Spagnuolo said. ''We've got to build this thing gradually, and we all believe you can't do anything until you get all the basics.
''It's believing in what we're doing, the character of the guys, the unity. You start to build it up. It's going to take a little while.''
Second-round safety Landon Collins took a step toward solving one of Spagnuolo's most pressing issues. The defensive coordinator said he was impressed with how Collins improved on his command of the signals from the first to the second day of camp.
He also said he will use Pierre-Paul in a variety of positions on both sides of the line to tweak a pass rush that slumbered until the last six games of 2014.
To him, it's all about meeting a different challenge in familiar surroundings.
''We'll accept it and work together, and hopefully we'll get over the hump and build something successful,'' he said.
NOTES: Sixth-round wide receiver Geremy Davis of UConn became the fourth draft pick to sign a contract, joining third-round DE Owa Odighizuwa, fifth-round S Mykkele Thompson, and seventh-round T Bobby Hart. ... Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said first-round OL Ereck Flowers has the skill set to play left tackle, where he worked out both days of the minicamp. ... Hawaii QB Taylor Graham, undrafted son of former Giants QB Kent Graham, threw the sweetest pass of camp with a 40-yard strike to Davis. ... Special teams coach Tom Quinn said he had no preference as to how the owners will alter the current extra-point rule, except to say that moving the ball back to the 15-yard line will ''make it a little more challenging for teams in the Northeast'' during the colder months.