Time for your daily Steve Spagnuolo update.
Earlier this week, I linked to a couple national reports, which indicated Spagnuolo was high on the Falcons' wish list. Today, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Spagnuolo and Mike Nolan are the two top candidates for the Falcons' defensive coordinator opening. Per Ledbetter, Jack Del Rio, who worked with head coach Mike Smith in Jacksonville, is an unlikely option.
Nolan is currently the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, but that could obviously change once they hire a new head coach.
Ledbetter goes as far as to say the Eagles and Falcons could end up getting in a "bidding war" for Spagnuolo.
Meanwhile, Tom Pelissero, who covers the Vikings for 1500 ESPN Radio, says he wouldn't be surprised if Juan Castillo ends up in Minnesota. Pelissero reports that Spagnuolo is a candidate for the Vikings' defensive coordinator job, but if Spagnuolo joins another team, Leslie Frazier could be interested in adding Castillo.
Juan Castillo has been close with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier since their days together on the Eagles' staff from 1999 to 2002. According to NFL sources, there was mutual interest in a reunion shortly after Frazier was promoted from interim coach last January, to the point Castillo told people close to him he expected to end up in Minnesota.
Per the report, the Vikings have not officially fired current defensive coordinator Fred Pagac, but he is not expected to be back.
It's worth noting how many of the different openings are related. Jeff Fisher is still deciding between St. Louis and Miami. Will he want Jim Washburn back? What will he do at defensive coordinator? What will the team that loses out on Fisher do - both at head coach and defensive coordinator? Where will Spagnuolo land? Those are some of the questions we're still waiting for answers to.
Update: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Fisher has chosen the Rams.
THE WIDE-9 AND THE ZONE BLITZ
On several occasions, we've discussed the possibility of Spagnulo's defensive philosophy meshing with Washburn's outlook up front. I've maintained throughout that the wide-9 was successful in 2011, and the Eagles' best option would be to keep Washburn to work with Spagnuolo, if both sides are open to the idea.
One of the main philosophical differences relates to the zone blitz and dropping defensive linemen back into coverage.
I took a look at numbers from Pro Football Focus to highlight how Washburn and Spagnulo used their defensive linemen last season. Below is a table that lists how many times each Eagles defensive lineman dropped back into coverage in 2011:
As you can see, Cole was the only defensive lineman who dropped back into coverage more than three times all season. Babin, the defensive end on the other side, only dropped back twice.
Meanwhile, here's a look at the same numbers from the Rams defensive linemen:
It's worth noting that Long dropped back into coverage far less than he did the previous season. In 2010, he did so 51 times.
According to Football Outsiders, only two teams ran zone blitzes more often than the Rams in 2010. We'll have to wait to see what their numbers tell us about Spagnuolo's defense in 2011, but the numbers above provide a starting point.