Teaching Points: Pepper Johnson eager to spread a wealth of knowledge
|06.13.12 at 4:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — One of the many mantras recited in the Patriots locker room is “Do your job.” The statement speaks to the collective parts making the whole operation efficient, but understanding of the moving parts around a position is sometimes just as important.
Case in point is Patriots linebackers coach Pepper Johnson. He played linebacker for over a decade in the NFL, and was known for his tenacity on the field. Presumably, this experience would benefit him in his recent change from defensive line to linebackers coach, but knowing even the minute details of everything happening around him helped him not only as a player surviving in the league, but as a coach as well. In fact, he made the transition sound as easy as north to south.
“Instead of coaching guys going forward, I’m coaching guys running backwards in coverage,” Johnson said after Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp practice ended.
“As a player I learned everything I possibly could about football,” he continued. ”Coaching the defensive line as close as I was working with them as a player, I felt I know a lot about it. The things I had questions about I asked players, and I had long conversations with a lot of players I highly respect while I was playing the game.”
Johnson inherits a group of linebackers that showed flashes of excellence last year while maturing as a group. Rob Ninkovich continued to improve and had a stellar postseason. Brandon Spikes missed part of the season due to injury, but was effective in the run blitz and even had a nifty interception in the AFC Championship against the Ravens. Lastly, Jerod Mayo came into his own as a leader of the unit, earning a five-year contract extension in December of 2011.
Where Johnson’s acumen will be beneficial is getting the rookies and newcomers up to speed. Through OTAs and the first two days of minicamp, Johnson has been particularly impressed with Dont’a Hightower and Bobby Carpenter.
“[Hightower] is a guy that football means something to him,” Johnson said. “He wants to learn, he’s not only just listening, he’s asking questions. Making things are sure before he goes out onto the field.
“[Carpenter] is a workaholic, he’s constantly going, you have to slow him down on the field. I don’t want to slow him down, but he’s goes constantly. He’s going to be a plus for us, he already has been a plus.”