ST. LOUIS -- Steve Spagnuolo knew what he was getting when strong safety James Butler signed with the St. Louis Rams: Both worked for the New York Giants the previous two seasons.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Butler signed a four-year deal after four years with the Giants, reuniting with new Rams coach Spagnuolo -- his defensive coordinator the last two seasons in New York.
Spagnuolo is happy to have him with St. Louis.
"It's always good when you get an opportunity to obtain a player that you are familiar with," Spagnuolo said. "James has an understanding of our defensive system and is a valuable addition to our team."
The Rams defense ranked 30th last season. Butler is one of the pieces Spagnuolo wanted to create a new mindset for the defense.
"Our personality will be to stop the run and pressure the passer," Butler said. "We try to implement that in practice. We pick up every ball on the ground. We practice stripping the ball to cause fumbles every day. We just want to be a turnover-hungry defense. We want to be aggressive."
He has played well in the three preseason games. The Rams play their preseason finale tonight when the Kansas City Chiefs come to St. Louis.
The defense created four turnovers in a 24-21 victory over Cincinnati in the third preseason game. Butler even scored a touchdown in the win, scooping up a fumble and galloping 73 yards to the end zone.
"I was a little worried Butler wasn't going to make it at the end," Spagnuolo joked.
"I'll tell you what, that was a long drive; the offense had a good drive against us there," Butler said. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I got a lot of great blocks."
Butler had a breakout year in 2008. He recorded a career-high 14 starts last season and played in 15 games while setting career highs with 76 tackles (45 solo) and three interceptions. He's made 27 career starts in four seasons.
He'd like to have another year like that with the Rams. He said he sees the Rams improving on last year's dismal 2-14 campaign.
"We have a better mindset," Butler said. "We came out hungry in that third (preseason) game. We're playing hard. Good defenses take time. We're building something here."