Coach Sparano: Our Backups Have Played At Good Levels

Posted Dec 9, 2011

In his exclusive column for, Head Coach Tony Sparano talks about the challenge of facing a quarterback like Michael Vick, the improvement in Clyde Gates and the importance that depth plays on a football team.

How much will the return of Michael Vick add to the Eagles offense?

“Michael is an outstanding quarterback, a proven winner in our league. He’s played in a lot of big games. His mobility and ability to throw on the run and extend plays are what causes the biggest problems.”

The Eagles have five players with 40 or more receptions. How tough is it to defend a team with that many options in the passing game?

“It’s tough. It’s a challenge just like every other week. Our defense has played well and I expect our defense to play well. We’ve played against good players before but it’s a sign of what Philadelphia is doing. Their coaches are doing spreading the ball around.”

Where does LeSean McCoy rank among the running backs you've faced this year?

“I think he’s one of the top runners we’ve faced this year because of his mobility to make you miss and to finish runs. This guy has finished a lot of runs. He’s well over 1,000 yards right now. I think he’s one of the top runners. But again we’ve played good running backs and good rushing attacks and our defense has played well against them and I would expect our defense is excited about the challenge.”

How would compare the cornerback tandem of Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel to other pairs you have gone against?

“I think as corners go we play good corners in our division every single time we play them. The two Jets corners are outstanding. We practice against two good corners every single day with our two players. These two players are outstanding players in their own rights. They are both outstanding players and both have certainly earned a lot of stripes in our league. Our offensive people have played against these players week in and week out. I have every confidence that we will win those matchups."

What does it add to the offense when an offensive lineman report as eligible? And what does Nate Garner add in that role?

“What I think it adds to the offense is the ability to gain some power, create some movement in the front. It also gives us the unpredictability of whether or not we're running it or throwing it because Nate can be a protector and you can still be throwing the ball out of that. It gives us the ability to block some of these defensive ends, these pass rushers a little different way that are outstanding rushers in our league.”

Clyde Gates has broken some long returns the last couple of games. Is it more do to scheme or is he gaining experience and confidence in his role?

“I think it has more to do with his ability to gain confidence right now on the role. He’s starting to hit things faster. He’s starting to see things clearer. When you’re in the special teams game it’s a collective effort of 11 people out there. Clyde is the returner, but ten other people are working their tails off to help him get to where he needs to be. Right now our players in that phase of that game understand that’s a possible big play for us.”

How did John Jerry respond to his starting role last week?

“I thought he responded very well. He’s a player that’s had minimal game reps prior to that, somewhere around 35 game reps prior to playing in that game, and of course played over 70 plays. I was really pleased. That’s what you expect out of some of your backup players is the value of having these players is that they can step in when needed. That’s a good sign on our football team that players like John Jerry, Jimmy Wilson, Nolan Carroll, Nate Garner and Matt Moore, these type of players, have stepped in when players have gotten hurt and have played at good levels.”

All seven of Dan Carpenter's kickoffs against the Raiders were touchbacks. How much of an advantage was that to the defense?

“It’s a tremendous advantage because the returners that we’re playing against are good returners. Starting on the 35-yard line as opposed to starting on the 20-yard line is two more first downs in the game, several more opportunities or fewer opportunities whichever way you want to look at it from a defense standpoint. I just think it creates field position and the way our defense has been playing it helps the offense gain field position.”

John Denney may be the most unsung player on the roster. How important is his role and how does he always seem to be automatic on his snaps?

“It’s really important. Again he is unsung. You only hear about the long snapper when something goes wrong. I think that’s unfair because that’s one of the hardest jobs on the football field. The skill that John has is to be able to get the ball back there at the pace he gets it back there, to protect and then to get down field and cover. The fortunate thing for us is John is involved in tackles. Sometimes snappers are not involved in tackles. I think he’s done an outstanding job and is one of the best I’ve been around.”

How do you scout a position like long snapper?

“Scouting the position has an awful lot to do with physically being out there, getting a watch on these players and getting a chance to see. In other words gauge the speed of snap, those type of things. But then you got to see them on film and you have to see him do it with movement and if he get involved in the protection. Snapping, standing still and snapping when you have to move and protect are two different issues. With the new rules now where the center can’t be covered sometimes he has to move in space and snap the ball and that’s a difficult thing to do.”

You and Jeanette formed "The Sparano Squad" to help serve the community. How proud are you of the good that it has done?

“We’re very proud of the Sparano Squad. Again I’m involved but my wife is the MVP of that and has done a tremendous job with that. We’re just very fortunate; we’re blessed. It’s been really good to be able to help a bunch of young kids. More importantly, I know that my wife would want me to say this she appreciates the help of the other wives, the players’ wives, the coaches’ wives and more importantly our players. Our players have been really supportive of the Sparano Squad and the efforts out there. That means a lot to the people in the community.”

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