EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — No one on the New York Giants’ defense has spent more time working with coordinator Steve Spagnuolo than weakside linebacker and captain Jonathan Casillas.
The two worked together in New Orleans in 2012 when Spags was the Saints’ coordinator, and they were reunited here two years ago when the detail-obsessed Spagnuolo was hired for a second tenure with the Giants by Tom Coughlin and retained when Ben McAdoo was elevated to head coach last season.
Talking football is a constant for the two, and Casillas believes Spagnuolo is mellowing.
“I think since his first year to now, I think he’s let his guard down a little bit,” Casillas said. “He’s let us, as the players, kind of dictate to him in what we like to do and what we’re comfortable with. I think the first year, I don’t know if that happened too much. In this offseason, I’ve seen it happen more times than not. Especially in training camp.”
Casillas said that communication between the coaches and players is a must with so many great offenses in the league.
“It’s like even though we’re running it a certain way, if this play can expose us or expose our defense, we may have to manipulate it just a little bit,” Casillas said.
“And Spags, he may not have been so open to it two years ago, but this year he’s definitely listening and prepared to make some differences, some changes, or what have you.”
Casillas refused to discuss any of the adjustments, but noted the trust level between the players and Spagnuolo and vice versa has increased.
A major part of that relates to how well the defense played last season after adding end Olivier Vernon, tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins in free agency. It carried the Giants (11-6) to the playoffs in a season where the offense struggled.
The Giants lost defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to free agency this offseason and second-year middle linebacker B.J. Goodson is playing with the starters in training camp.
However, the other nine starters are back on a unit that also includes defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and dynamic safety Landon Collins.
“I think we can be as good as we want to,” Casillas said.
Whether Casillas remains the captain will be determined. The players vote before the start of the regular season.
Collins blossomed in the second season and finished third in the voting for the defensive player of the year. He has led the team in tackles the past two seasons, with Casillas finishing second each season.
Casillas understands Collins would be a good choice, but he would like to have the role again, noting he has played for two Super Bowl champions and that he has overcome much being an undrafted player.
“I have been around All-Pro guys, seeing the right way to approach this game and how to approach life,” he said. “I think a lot of guys can get something from me.”
NOTES: Undrafted rookie S Jadar Johnson left camp. Trey Robinson, his agent, said the former Clemson said values his health and wants to pursue other interests. … Jenkins seemingly was miffed with LB/S Eric Pinkins during sprints at the end of practice and waved an arm at him. Coach Ben McAdoo wasn’t concerned. “You know how it is with family. Sometimes you have some dustups. Some of the best dustups you’re ever in are with your family,” he said. … Rookie PK Aldrick Rosas attempted four field goals. The first three were good. The official called the last one no good, but McAdoo and Rosas want to watch the videotape again.