NCAA

Giants respect Spagnuolo defense, despite ranking

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Giants respect Spagnuolo defense, despite ranking

METAIRIE, La. (AP) The New York Giants know better than to underestimate a Steve Spagnuolo defense, even one that currently ranks at the bottom of the NFL.

When the Saints' defensive coordinator was in New York, the Giants not only won a Super Bowl, but they saw how Spagnuolo could adapt when things went wrong and improve his unit over time.

``He can adjust. He makes a lot of game adjustments and that's the thing I remember from him being here,'' Giants guard Kevin Boothe said this week as New York prepared to host New Orleans this Sunday. ``It's going to be a tough challenge. They are a team starting to play well on defense and they have a lot of great players.''

The Saints brought in Spagnuolo to replace Gregg Williams last January because Spagnuolo had a record of success as a defensive coordinator. When he was with the Giants in 2007, they upset previously unbeaten New England in the Super Bowl on the strength of a dominant defensive performance that slowed Tom Brady and a Patriots offense that set scoring records.

Incidentally, that same Giants defense was torched for 80 points through its first two regular season games, both losses.

This season had a disastrous beginning as the Saints started 0-4, and seven games into the season, following a loss at Denver, New Orleans' defense had given up more than 500 yards in a game three times.

The Saints are still on pace to give up more yards in a season than any defense in NFL history, but now they also have a realistic chance of avoiding that dubious distinction.

The defense held Atlanta to 283 yards, the Falcons' second-lowest total this season, last week. Atlanta had a stretch of five consecutive possessions without a first down.

That marked the second straight game New Orleans defense yielded fewer than 400 yards after not keeping opponents below that threshold in any of its first 10 games.

The Saints still lost their past two games, but arguably because of Drew Brees being in a recent slump in which he has thrown seven interceptions, with two returned for TDs in a 31-21 loss to San Francisco. In Atlanta, the Saints defense held the Falcons to 23 points and kept New Orleans in the game despite Brees' five turnovers.

Citing the recent losses, Spagnuolo balked when asked if he felt vindicated by the way his unit has come around.

``I don't go down that road, quite honestly, because there is still a lot of season to go. If you rest on any laurels, I get concerned you're going to go backward,'' Spagnuolo said. ``Is it better than it was before? Yeah, but it's not exactly where we want it.''

Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who also coaches linebackers, was more complimentary.

``The last four weeks we played pretty damn good defense. Last week was probably one of our best defensive performances of the year,'' Vitt said. ``Spags has done a great job of keeping this team together. Spags has done a great job of keeping the morale of our defense at a high level. He's done an outstanding job of being patient teaching this defense and I think it's starting to show now.''

The statistics say the Saints give up 440.5 yards a game, worst in the NFL, and 27.3 points per game, ranked 28th.

Eli Manning and the Giants' offense see those numbers as misleading.

``They do a good job of trying to show some different looks, some different blitz looks. They try to get hits on the quarterback so it's an aggressive style of football,'' Manning said. ``We have to play smart and make sure everybody knows their assignments and knows who is blocking whom.''

Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Spagnuolo's balance of pressure and pass coverage makes for ``a well-thought-out, well-conceived approach to defensive football.''

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said it took a while for players to feel comfortable in Spagnuolo's new scheme, and that Spagnuolo also adjusted his approach to suit the strengths of his personnel. Now when he looks at the film, it just doesn't look to him like he plays for the last-ranked defense in the NFL.

``We're playing pretty darn well,'' said Jordan, who leads the Saints in sacks with seven.

Jordan's shifting role is an example of one of Spagnuolo's adjustments. The Saints experimented with playing Jordan inside on pass-rushing downs early in the year, but lately have kept him more on the end after seeing he had most of his success there.

``We needed time to adjust,'' Jordan said. ``Any given defense you're going to have that where you just have to feel out the players and feel out what you want in your defense.''

Notes: Only two Saints players missed practice: T Charles Brown (right knee) and CB Corey White (left knee), but White says he was resting and hopes to play at New York. ... CB Johnny Patrick returned to practice from an illness that kept him out Wednesday.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., contributed to this report.

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Former Maryland DL Mojo Rawley tells Mike Locksley how the Gronkowski brothers got him into WWE

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With Wrestlemania 36 underway this weekend, Maryland football coach Mike Locksley sat down on Instagram Live with former Terps defensive lineman and current WWE superstar Mojo Rawley to talk about his new career path. 

Rawley's real name is Dean Muhtadi, and he played for the Terps in for two years as a Division III transfer. He finished third on team in sacks that season and despite going undrafted in 2009, found his way to an NFL camp with the Packers. 

Muhtadi spent 2009 with Green Bay and 2010 with the Cardinals before suffering an injury that landed him on injured reserve. It was then where Muhtadi found a new career path thanks to two of his best friends. 

"Dan Gronkowski and Chris Gronkowski played with me at Maryland, two of my closest friends," Rawley said on "Late Night With Locks". "Their dad was one of our coach's roommates in the WWE, so it seemed like a natural fit. We were watching together, and I kinda made a comment like, 'this would be awesome if I could be one of [the wrestlers]. Mr. Gronk made the call and the rest was history."

Rawley has been a WWE superstar and currently stands as Rob Gronkowski's hype man. The former Patriots tight end is WWE's most recent signee and is Wrestlemania 36's host.

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The Rock's cheat day, what the Watt brothers are up to, Marcus Stroman get his reps in

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First up in Saturday's round-up of the best sports moments on the internet, everyone is trying to stick to as normal of a routine as they can while at home. Quarantine wasn’t going to keep Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” away from his “cheat day”. Have you ever seen french toast this big in your life? 


Next up, the Watt brothers have been staying in shape working out together and they even have a football field coming soon. Check out JJ Watt painting the lines. He says he has a new respect for groundskeepers now. The stage is set for the Watt brothers!


Finally, no bullpen, no problem! Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman sets up a makeshift bullpen on his boat dock and it even has a mound. Now that is a beautiful place to get your reps in! 

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