After six seasons as defensive lines coach, Pepper Johnson is ready for the next level. And if you're Vince Wilfork, you want to that next role to be the Patriots' defensive coordinator.
After Deen Pees was let go earlier this offseason, both Johnson and linebackers coach Matt Patricia have stepped in as front-runners for the coordinator position. Wilfork, a six-year veteran defensive tackle, has a lot of faith in the former linebacker and 10-year coaching veteran to take over the defense.
"Playing under him, I want to see him as coordinator, I think he deserves it. He has all the tools to be one. He is a player's coach and a big part of that is that he actually played the game," Wilfork told ESPNBoston.com . "A lot of things happen on the field, and because he's been in the same predicament as us, he understands exactly what we see and how blocking schemes develop. It's real easy to play for a coach like that.
Johnson spent seven of his 12 NFL seasons with the Giants before heading to Cleveland where he played under head coach Bill Belichick, who also served as his defensive coordinator with the G-Men.
Such playing experience may give Johnson the edge over Patricia, who last played the sport as an offensive lineman at R.P.I.
"It also makes it a lot easier for a group of guys in a room, when somebody is talking to them about playing a certain technique, or a fit here, when it's coming from a guy who has done it. So those are different people — the Xs' and O's and then somebody talking X's and O's who has played the game and understands it, like Pepper.
"Pep gives it to you raw and uncut, and whatever comes out of his mouth, you have to respect that because you know he's been a player at this level, on championship defenses," Wilfork added. "I like a coach who looks you in the face and lets you know how he feels about you. There is no beating around the bush. He has a lot of respect from me as a coach and as a person."
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