The Buffalo Bills have three Pro Bowlers on their defensive line. Mario Williams is the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Kyle Williams is an eight-year veteran who probably knows more about the finer points of defensive tackle play than most of the defensive line coaches in the league. Marcell Dareus is a former third overall draft pick who joined the two Williamses in the Pro Bowl this year as an alternate choice.
The Bills think they have somebody these guys will listen to in new defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who spent the past 13 years as an aide with the New England Patriots. Johnson played 13 years in the NFL and won two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants. He won another three rings with the Pats.
Bills coach Doug Marrone said finding someone likely to command respect in the D-line room was a big consideration in adding Johnson.
"Absolutely ... if every defensive line coach had an opportunity to coach a group of players I would think that our group of defensive linemen would be somewhere near the top if not at the top," Marrone said today in introducing his new position coaches. "You have players that have experience, players who have performed. It’s very important you bring in the right type of coach for them, to not keep their game going the same way – keep it stagnant – but to grow. He brings a lot to the table as far as making sure that technically they’re going to grow -- whether it’s using their hands, how do they attack, how do they pass rush -- but he’s also going to bring a lot to the game as far as experience and what it takes to win. That’s something that will start with that group but will gravitate to the rest of the team because of the success he’s had."
Most of the players Johnson coaches these days weren't even born when he won his first Super Bowl ring, in 1986. He said being a former player is a benefit in his job but he does not take it for granted that his playing record commands respect.
"There’s different ways certain guys that I have to coach look at that," he said. "Some guys look at it as though, ‘Oh, he thinks he knows everything,' and they kind of rebel a little bit. And I have to make sure I deal with those guys. Some guys look forward to the opportunity and maybe I can help them and educate them in some aspects of getting them what it takes to get there."