Wilfork says Johnson should be next Pats’ DC
|01.25.10 at 3:56 pm ET|
Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said he wants defensive line coach Pepper Johnson to become the teams’ next defensive coordinator. In an interview with ESPNBoston.com, Wilfork said Johnson should be the one to succeed former defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
“Playing under him, I want to see him as coordinator, I think he deserves it,” Wilfork said. “He has all the tools to be [a defensive coordinator].”
Johnson and linebackers coach Matt Patricia — who has gotten similar support from some of the New England linebackers — figure to be the top two in-house candidates to replace Pees, whose contract ended at the end of the 2009 season.
One thing that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has talked about on occasion is the advantage that Johnson has as a coach — he’s the only one on the current staff who has played the game at an NFL level, having had several years of experience as a player in Belichick-coached schemes in New York and Cleveland.
“I think the big thing that Pepper brings to our staff that is really unique is that he’s played in this system and he’s actually done it out there on the field,” Belichick said earlier this month. “That’s been important, not just [to] our defense, but to our entire team, talking to players.
“He’s got a wealth of experience, and he’s very good at sharing that.”
It was a point echoed by Wilfork.
“He is a player’s coach and a big part of that is that he actually played the game,” Wilfork said. “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.
“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.”
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