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Pepper Johnson does not want to get punched in the face by Bill Belichick

10.04.11 at 1:41 pm ET
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Pepper Johnson isn’t sitting around lamenting the fact that  Albert Haynesworth isn’t back in the lineup.

Well, he could, but he knows what would happen if he did.

Coach Belichick would punch me in the face if I got frustrated if I didn’€™t have a particular player,” the Patriots defensive line coach said on a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters. “My job is not to count on one player, it’s to coach whoever is out there on the field. Until Albert is out there, this is what I have to play with, and we have to try to win ball games without him.”

Whether they’ve had Haynesworth at defensive tackle or not, the Patriots — at least on paper — have struggled to mount a consistent pass rush against their opponents. According to official NFL gamebooks, opposing quarterbacks have 168 dropbacks against the Patriots through four games this season, and have been hit by New England defenders a total of 18 times, to go along with six sacks (23rd in the league).

But when he was asked about the play of the defensive line as it relates to the pass rush, Johnson said that those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“I’€™m a little more than satisfied [with the play of the defensive line],” Johnson said. “I’m sure the question is spawned from the stats, but I’€™m watching how guys are doing what we’re asking them to do. We’€™re actualy hitting the quarterback — a couple times we’€™re late — but we’re actually hitting the quarterback. It’€™s just not coming up with the sack.

“I’€™m not much of a stats person, I just know how we have been able to affect some throws. We’re getting as much pressure as we can from the situations we are in.”

Johnson did talk about how the current group of defensive linemen (like Shaun Ellis discussed late last month) remains a work in progress. As they continue to work together as a group, the product will continue to improve.

“I think the more they get acclimated, the more comfortable they play, the more confident they’ll be and we’ll start seeing them play a lot more aggressively,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of playmakers, guys that can make plays, and you would feel a little bit more of that when guys become more accustomed to what we’€™re asking them do. I’m not going to pile more on their plate, I just want them to do it more aggressively, more often, with more consistency.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Pepper Johnson, Shaun Ellis
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