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'Coach Chaos' teaching Giants D-line to finish


Coach Chaos was lathered in sweat before Wednesday's training camp session. It wasn't just because he was excited to be on the field with the entire team for the first time; the defensive line coach, known behind his mask as Sean Spencer, is like that every day.

His message to the players: Get used to it.

"I just can't wait to coach these guys and then I wanted them to understand this is not something I'm just going to do on occasion," Spencer said. "This is how they are going to get coached. That's kind of all I was letting them know, that it wasn't going to be a day off. I want them to match my energy every day."

Spencer, a 20-year college coaching veteran, is in his first year as the Giants' defensive line coach. He spent the previous six seasons at Penn State, where he was also associate head coach and run game coordinator the last two years.

Some people wonder how his intensity level translates to an NFL environment.

"I can't change, man," he said. "I'm coming hard every day. Those guys know about my energy and they have gotten to experience it a little bit. I told them today that wasn't a one-time thing yesterday and that it's going to be like that every day. It's the way you bring it. You can bring positive energy and be excited without being berating to somebody. They can feel when you're upset and feel when you're happy. I have to coach like that. When I leave the practice field, I have to be completely sweaty or I didn't do a good job."

In 2019, Penn State had 45 sacks, the seventh-highest total in the nation and third-best in the Big Ten. It was Penn State's fifth consecutive season with at last 40 sacks, the first such streak for the Nittany Lions since team sacks were recorded in 1988. In 2015 and '18, Penn State led the nation in sacks. Meanwhile, his unit also helped them finish first in the nation last season by allowing only 2.6 yards-per-carry.

That resume drew interest from NFL teams in the past, but the opportunity with the Giants was too good to pass up for the native of Hartford, Conn.

"Probably like three years ago, an NFL team approached me and I had had some conversation with scouts when you have pro days, asking me if I would ever make the jump," Spencer said. "This opportunity, in terms of being a Northeast kid, born and raised in the Northeast and having worked at Penn State, having the opportunity to work for the New York Giants is like a dream come true. It's kind of surreal, you go from Penn State to the New York Giants having grown up in this area and recruited in this area. [Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator] Pat Graham is a longtime friend of mine. I've known him since he was a graduate of Yale University. It just always made sense to me."

Graham is also a former defensive line coach who still considers himself as such at heart. Their beloved position is now one of the deepest groups on the team, headlined by Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence.

They want to teach them how to finish. One of Spencer's teaching tools is aptly named the "I'm-going-to-chase-you-to-the-ball-until-you-get-to-where-you-are-supposed-to-go" drill.

"What I do is I stand on the sideline in practice, and if they don't get to the quarterback, I chase them to the ball," Spencer said. "That's a good drill. … Everything that you do, if you do it with a 'finish' you create the muscle memory. The ultimate prize is getting to the quarterback, so to speak. Also, we want to make sure they are functioning within the defense. We don't want them to go outside of what we are asking them to do schematically. Finishing on the quarterback is a good thing, finishing on the ball carrier is a good thing."

They will have help behind them with a restocked linebacker corps. Kevin Sherrer, who coaches the inside linebackers, will work hand-in-hand with Spencer to help build the physical defense that Judge and Graham envision.

"Yeah, a lot of it ties into what Pat Graham has laid down as kind of who we're going to be defensively," Sherrer said. "Some of that ties into what our personnel is. Yes, we all kind of collaborate on that. Our skill set that we teach is, again, around the fundamentals that Joe has laid down, just the functional movements of a football player. There are times where we pair up with the defensive front, with the outside linebackers, and kind of interchange players, you might say -- ideas, skill coach, the inside and vice versa. It sort of just depends on what's going on during practice time."

Like Spencer, this is the first NFL job for Sherrer.

"First off, it had to do a lot with Joe," Sherrer said. "Joe and I have known each other for I'd say 10-12 years, back from when I was coaching high school ball, and we worked together at the University of Alabama. He and I are pretty decent friends. We kept in touch. He was a big part. As far as the attraction to coaching in the NFL, you always want to coach at the highest level. Whether you're a player, coach, whatever, to compete at that level. Once he got an opportunity and presented that to me, I was really excited. I was really excited about being here as well."


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