Inside The Bills

Pepper started thinking about coaching in college

Posted by johnmurphyshow on February 4, 2014 – 10:00 pm

He had a 13-year playing career in the NFL. Pepper Johnson won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants at linebacker, and he was a Pro Bowl performer two times.

Yet all the time, Johnson knew that he wanted to be a coach. The Bills new Defensive Line Coach says he started thinking about coaching when he was attending Ohio State University, but he thought about coaching at a much lower level.

“Pretty much when I was in college at Ohio State,” Johnson said, when asked when he was bitten by the coaching bug, “but I never expected it at this level. I wanted to coach at my high school.”

Johnson was a guest Tuesday night on The John Murphy Show. He said as he made his way through the NFL as a player, he made a point of talking to teammates and opponents about coaching points.

“I tried to pick the brains of everybody I respected as a player,” he said. “So I talked to Reggie White, I talked to Richard Dent, I talked to Seth Joyner, defensive guys. I talked to Cornelius Bennett for a linebacker point of view. I talked to receivers, defensive backs. If I could get some of that knowledge and give it to high school kids that still have that drive, I felt like I was going to be a great high school football coach.”

Instead, Johnson got to work with his former Coach, Bill Belichick, in training camp one summer. And Belichick saw to it that Johnson never left the team.

“I did a minority fellowship with Coach Belichick after I retired,” he told host John Murphy, “and I wanted to get some information on how to organize your staff and practice schedules. I think Coach Belichick knew if I got back involved with football, I was going to stay.”

Stay he did. Johnson just wrapped up a 14-year coaching stint with New England, before signing on to coach the Bills Defensive Line last week.

The entire radio interview with Pepper Johnson is available here

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why Pepper left the Pats to come to Buffalo

Posted by johnmurphyshow on February 4, 2014 – 8:00 pm

It’s a big move for Pepper Johnson. The Bills new Defensive Line Coach made the switch to Buffalo after 14-seasons on the coaching staff of their biggest rival-the New England Patriots.

In an appearance on The John Murphy Show Tuesday night, Johnson said he made the move to get out from under the shadow of Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick.

Johnson said he was comfortable in New England, and still pinching himself after a couple of days on the job in Orchard Park.

“My legs are still shaking a little bit,” he said. “But I’m excited, I’m so excited. I have always been a fan of Doug (Marrone) and the Buffalo Bills, and just getting the opportunity to spread my wings, and to get up from under the shadow of Coach Belichick. So it’s a good thing, a good opportunity.”

Johnson moved around the Patriots defensive coaching staff during his 14-years there, coaching both linebackers and defensive line. He spent the last two seasons working with New England’s linebackers, the position he played in the NFL. He told host John Murphy it’s all an effort to continue to grow as a coach.

“I’m growing,” Johnson said. “I’m a very ambitious person. I started off coaching and I moved around a little bit while I was there with New England, starting off with the linebackers,…then I graduated to coaching inside linebackers and took the linebackers over, and then eventually the defensive line. I went back to linebackers last year.”

Pepper Johnson does not hide his ambition to move up. And it’s been speculated in Boston that his move to Buffalo may be his attempt to set himself up for a defensive coordinator’s position in the NFL. Johnson says that would appeal to him.

“I would love to,” he said. “In a sense, those 13 years that I played in the NFL, I graduated to calling a lot of the defenses and having the responsibility of running our defense, and being an extension of the head coach on the sideline. It’s a dream of mine and a goal of mine, but right now, I have to deal with this defensive line.”

The entire radio interview with Pepper Johnson is available here

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick a big fan of Schwartz

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 9:25 pm

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave Jim Schwartz his first NFL job while he was head coach of the Cleveland Browns back in 1993. Schwartz had a jack-of-all-trades position that involved college and pro scouting while also being assigned with special projects by Belichick. The long time Patriots coach called Schwartz one of the most impressive young coaches he’s ever had working under him back in 2010 leading up to a game in which his Patriots were to square off against Schwartz’s Lions team.

Schwartz impressed Belichick with his ability to multi-task and think creatively in that first non-paying job with the Browns.

“He was very impressive. Jim’s a really smart guy. He can handle a lot of assignments. He can keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time,” Belichick told MLive back in 2010. “He can manage a lot of different things and know where he is on all of them and have the foresight to figure out if he’s doing something — if he’s not getting the results that I would be looking for — to come to me and say, ‘You know, I think we should look at this instead of that,’ or, ‘I know what you’re looking for, I don’t think this is going to quite get it, how about if we look at it this way or how about if we do it that way?’

“He’s a very creative guy. He got along great with everybody. He worked hard. He just was a tremendous asset to the program, and it doesn’t really surprise me that he’s done as well as he has.”

Belichick later helped Schwartz land an assistant job under Jeff Fisher with the Tennessee Titans back in 1999. A year later, Belichick wanted to hire him as an assistant for his New England staff, but Fisher wanted to hold onto Schwartz himself because he was expecting then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to land the Bills head coaching job, which he did. Schwartz then succeeded Williams in Tennessee as defensive coordinator.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick tips hat to Kyle Williams

Posted by Chris Brown on December 25, 2013 – 12:28 pm

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a lot of respect for all the talent on Buffalo’s defensive line, but he called Kyle Williams perhaps the best they’ve seen all season. Here’s why.

“Number 1, he’s very instinctive,” Belichick said. “He’s got a good feel for blocking patterns and protections and that type of thing. He anticipates well. He’s got very good quickness. He’s got a great motor. He’s got good playing strength, good balance, hard to knock off his feet. He makes a lot of plays on the backside because they can’t cut him off. They try to cut him and he hops over them, or they try to block him, and he’s too quick to get away from. He’s got good lateral quickness. He uses his hands well. He’s a smart player. He plays all out all the time.

“He’s done a real good job rushing the passer, penetrating, getting in the pocket. He’s done a good job in the running game, too. He can definitely ruin a game if we don’t do a good job on him. A very disruptive player.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ’s absence in preseason an advantage?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 4, 2013 – 10:31 am

There’s little doubt that Bills head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would’ve preferred to see EJ Manuel get as much work as possible in the preseason. His knee injury did not allow for that to happen as he missed each of the final two preseason games. But there could be a hidden advantage that Manuel’s lack of field time provides the Bills heading into their season opener against New England.

While there’s little doubt the Patriots have done their homework on Nathaniel Hackett’s offense and play calling tendencies, there is limited preseason game tape of Manuel running it. Essentially he played a total 61 snaps in the preseason. That’s why New England head coach Bill Belichick admitted there will be a bit of a feeling out process for him and his defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Sunday.

“To be honest with you, there isn’t a ton of Buffalo film on either one of them,” said Belichick of Manuel and backup Jeff Tuel. “We saw them play in college and scouted them both coming out there, but that doesn’t really mean as much as what they do in this offense and how they do it. There’s not a whole lot of film on either guy.

“We’ll just have to go on what we’ve got and again, be ready once we really see, which is true of a lot of rookie players. Even though you watch them on film, once you actually see them in person and get on the field with them, sometimes they look a little different than what they look like on film. There’s always that whole element of it. I think in this case, we’ll go on what we have but that’s not a whole lot.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick expecting blitz

Posted by Chris Brown on September 4, 2013 – 10:04 am

He hasn’t faced the Bills defense under Mike Pettine yet, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has seen the Pettine scheme in action before with the Jets. That’s why he’s expecting blitz and a good deal of it Sunday.

“Quite a bit, percentage-wise,” said Belichick when asked if he’s expecting to face a lot of blitz calls. “There are some tendencies that are stronger than others, but yes, blitz pickup will be definitely something that we need to work on this week, no question about it.”

Belichick sounds as though he feels he has a handle on what Pettine likes to do even though the Bills defensive coordinator has a whole new set of personnel.

“This looks a lot like the Jets defense, just different,” Belichick said. “Different players and schematically it’s similar to what we’ve seen from the Jets. This year, Buffalo looks like the Jets, schematically.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick cryptic on Gronk

Posted by Chris Brown on September 2, 2013 – 4:42 pm

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did his daily dance with the New England media and was vague and cryptic with his answers concerning TE Rob Gronkowski, who practiced in pads for the first time since his offseason surgery.

Here’s how the Q&A went between Belichick and the Boston media, as reports continue to speculate on whether Gronkowski will be able to play Week 1 at Buffalo.

Q: How fair would it be to say that Rob Gronkowski has taken a step forward?

BB: This is his first opportunity to be in pads so, yes he’s definitely moving forward.

Q: What have you seen?

BB: He’s day-to-day.

Q: Does he have a shot to play on Sunday?

BB: He’s day-to-day.

Q: What do you need to see from him before you’re willing to put him on a game field?

BB: We take it day to day. Evaluate tomorrow based on how today goes, see how it goes. See how tomorrow goes and deal with whatever that day is, Wednesday or Thursday or whatever the day is. We’ll take it day to day. It’s the same way we do with everybody.

Q: Do you feel the last two days were a significant step for him?

BB: No, just the next step.

Q: What have you seen so far from Rob Gronkowski in practice?

BB: We evaluate any player coming back day to day. That’s what we do with every player.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Kelly sees Patriots as vulnerable

Posted by Chris Brown on June 27, 2013 – 12:00 pm

Eager to see the Bills succeed much like they did when he was their quarterback, Hall of Famer Jim Kelly in an appearance on NFL AM on NFL Network shared his opinion on how vulnerable the Patriots are with all that they’ve lost from their high-powered offense this offseason.

“They’re very vulnerable,” Kelly said. “From the standpoint of Tom Brady if you look at what he’s lost with your number one player Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Losing Welker is like for me when I was playing, losing Andre Reed. A guy you depend on not just week in and week out, but in clutch situations you always looked toward your number one target. Mine was always Andre Reed and when you lose a Wes Welker that’s going to hurt. There’s no doubt they have to feel something being without your four or five top receivers.”

New England lost top receiver Welker to Denver, they released Lloyd (2nd in receiving), Rob Gronkowski (3rd) is coming off back surgery and is a question mark for the start of the regular season, Hernandez (4th) is in jail and Danny Woodhead (5th) signed with San Diego.

Still, Kelly is confident New England’s head coach will devise ways around the offense’s personnel shortcomings.

“I’m sure Bill Belichick will find a way,” said Kelly. “He’s probably already got something up his sleeve. But I don’t really feel too sorry for them. I don’t really feel too sorry for them because sooner or later the Bills have got to rise to the top and if we have to take it that way, oh well.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick respects Gailey’s offensive acumen

Posted by Chris Brown on November 10, 2012 – 5:51 pm

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is regarded as one of the best coaching minds in the game, but he has great respect for the coaching acumen of Bills head coach Chan Gailey when it comes to offense.

“I think Chan does a good job offensively, he gives you a lot of things to prepare for. They’ve used different players on the Wildcat as well and their Pistol [with] the back behind the quarterback in the shotgun – he has a lot of different packages. He has a lot of personnel groups and formations,” said Belichick. “A combination of all of that wears on you defensively in terms of preparation. You have to get ready for all of it and he does a real good job of game planning that, keeping you off balance, making you defend a lot of things so that you can’t concentrate on just a few things. They go in and out of that.

“Chan does a real good job with his offensive game plan and utilization of personnel. It’s one of the toughest games that we have to prepare for. They definitely know what they’re doing and they do it well.” 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick on Fitz as a QB

Posted by Chris Brown on September 29, 2012 – 10:12 am

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked for his thoughts on Ryan Fitzpatrick and whether he has progressed as a quarterback.

“He looked pretty good last year,” said Belichick. “He’s looked good, period. I think he’s doing the same things. He spreads the ball around, gets the ball to the open receivers, kind of takes what the defense gives him. He’s not a guy that’s going to stand back there and hold the ball a long time. He’s going to get it, find somebody that’s open, give it to them and let them go.

“He’s athletic, he’s got good quickness in the pocket, he can avoid the rushers and also escape outside on bootlegs, roll-outs, scrambles, things like that. He has certainly an element of running with the ball, he becomes the sixth receiver in some of the third-and-medium situations [and] he can easily pick up the first down. He’s got that part of his game too. Overall, he manages the team well. He’s a smart guy, does a good job of recognizing defenses, taking advantage of weaknesses and getting the ball to players who can make plays, which they’ve got a lot of them.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Anderson on Brady’s work ethic

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2012 – 10:19 am

Bills DE Mark Anderson only played for one season in New England, but it was one that left an indelible impression on the pass rusher concerning Tom Brady and his approach to the game.

“Brady is a hard worker,” said Anderson in an appearance on WGR Sportsradio 550 Wednesday morning. “On the plane rides I’d sit right next to him. Every away game after that game he’s studying film. He’s already on to the next opponent win or lose. A very professional guy. He works hard every day at practice and knows how to do the little things right. I kind of look up to the way he handles situations. A great professional and a good guy.”

Anderson also explained how Brady and Belichick work together during the course of the week leading up to a game.

“He knows just about everything that’s going on with the defense and takes control of the offense,” said Anderson. “He and Belichick have meetings together. They work well with each other. Brady he gets all his information from Belichick and they work hard together. He really knows defenses and really knows where his players need to be.”

While Anderson wasn’t going to give details on Buffalo’s defensive game plan for Brady, he did stress mixing things up on Brady throughout the course of the game.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick to pull page from SB XXV?

Posted by Chris Brown on February 3, 2012 – 9:55 am

While the Giants pass rush will most certainly be a focus for Bill Belichick and his offensive staff, the very talented Giants receiving corps is also a concern. Cruz, Manningham and Nicks are one of the top trios in the league with all three capable of the big play. But I believe Belichick will employ a similar tactic to the one he utilized in Super Bowl XXV as defensive coordinator of the Giants when they squeaked past the Bills 20-19.

James Lofton had a huge playoff run that first Super Bowl year for the Bills, but Andre Reed was still Jim Kelly’s go-to guy that allowed for quick passing over the middle. Victor Cruz works similar routes in the middle of the field and has shown great run after the catch ability as well. In Super Bowl XXV Belichick at times would put a linebacker on Reed and they’d smash the heck out of him off the line of scrimmage.

Any chance they got to put a lick on him they’d bury him, even on run plays. Reed had eight catches in Super Bowl XXV, but they went for a pedestrian 62 yards, with a 20-yard catch on a 2nd-and-11 his longest in the game. Afterwards Reed said it was the hardest he had ever been hit in a game.

I think Victor Cruz, knowing how much Manning depends on him in the pass game, should expect a lot of linebacker attention off the line and better have his head on a swivel because the Patriots are going to try to intimidate him physically in this one.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller has Belichick impressed

Posted by Chris Brown on December 29, 2011 – 10:51 am

C.J. Spiller has been one of the most productive backs in the league since he entered the lineup as a starter in place of the injured Fred Jackson. It’s been enough to leave Patriots head coach Bill Belichick impressed.

“I think Spiller has had the last whatever it has been, six weeks or however long since Fred’s been hurt, he’s been more productive than any back in the league – big plays, consistency,” Belichick said. “He’s picked up right where Jackson left off and he’s had a tremendous amount of production. It’s not all outside, it’s a good mix of inside running, outside running. He’s broken tackles, he’s out-run guys, he’s made good decisions in terms of his run reads and things like that. He’s been very productive.”

In the month of December this season Spiller is tied for 3rd in the NFL with a 6.1 yards per carry average and stands fifth in total yards from scrimmage with 463.

“He’s been very impressive,” said Belichick. “He’s pretty dynamic. Handing the ball to Spiller, however they get it to him – screens, passes, inside runs, outside runs, draw plays, he’s been productive on all of them. He’s really done a good job.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick wary of Stevie

Posted by Chris Brown on December 29, 2011 – 7:37 am

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick grinds game tape to a pulp. That’s why when asked about Stevie Johnson’s production this season especially against some of the better corners in the league like Darrelle Revis and Champ Bailey he didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, he did a good job, but Johnson has had a lot of success against everybody,” said Belichick. “He’s dangerous down the field and has catch and run plays like he had against the Giants, where he takes a short pass and turns it into a long play. He’s tough on the catch and run plays, he’s tough in the red zone and he can vertically get down the field as we saw, as the Jets saw. He’s gotten a lot of people, he’s had a lot of production.”

Johnson is 36 receiving yards from posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the first time in team history.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Pats began practicing day early

Posted by Chris Brown on December 28, 2011 – 4:27 pm

The Patriots have clinched a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, but there’s still home field advantage to clinch. It’s unclear if that’s the main reason, but per Bill Belichick the Patriots are preparing for this one every bit as much as any other. In fact according to TE Rob Gronkowski the coaching staff scheduled an extra day of practice on their typical off day of Tuesday this week.

“We started our practices (Tuesday),” said Gronkowski. “We’re going to be preparing for the Bills like it’s any other game.  We’ve got to win this game, it’s another big game and we don’t like losing around here so we’re taking this game [seriously].”  

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick ranting explained

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2011 – 9:27 am

Some Bills fans are still wondering what happened when Bill Belichick was arguing with the officials after Fred Jackson’s catch and run to the goal line was reversed and ruled down at the one. Here was head referee Carl Cheffers explanation.

“Coach Belichick wanted an explanation as to what was going to take place after the replay,” said Chevers. “Obviously we had a reversal. We put the ball at the half-yard line. The clock was going to start. He wanted a confirmation of what was going to happen at that point. I went over there and explained to him that the ball was at the half-yard line. He asked me when the clock was going to start. I said as soon as I was done with the explanation with him that I was going to go out on the field and start the clock. He stayed down there. I didn’t understnad exactly why he stayed down there. I went back over there and he said he wanted a timeout. So I gave him his second charged timeout.”

Belichick’s answer as to what happened on the far sideline sounded consistent with Cheffers recollection of the conversation.

“I took a timeout,” he said. “I went down to call a timeout. [The officials] were waving me back, and I was going down there to call it.”

Posted in Inside the Bills

30 is the magic number

Posted by Chris Brown on September 24, 2011 – 11:30 am

There are a lot of statistics that will be spewed on Sunday morning on all the pre-game radio shows leading up to the 1 pm kickoff between the Bills and Patriots, and I’ll be one of the many doing that spewing. But if there’s one magic figure for the Bills defense it’s 30.

That’s the point threshold the Patriots have hit in each of their last 10 games stretching back to last season with their 39-26 victory at Pittsburgh last Nov. 14th. Here’s the rundown of points per game in those 10 contests for New England.

11/14/10 – W – @ Pittsburgh 39-26
11/21/10 – W – vs. Indy 31-28
11/28/10 – W – @ Detroit 45-24
12/6/10 – W – vs. NY Jets 45-3
12/12/10 – W – @ Chicago 36-7
12/19/10 – W – vs. Green Bay 31-27
12/26/10 – W – @ Buffalo 34-3
1/2/11 – W – @ Miami 38-7
9/12/11- W – @ Miami  38-24
9/18/11 – W – vs. San Diego 35-21

This current 10-game streak of scoring 30 points or more is second only to the Rams ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ team that from 1999-2000 scored 30 points or more in 14 straight games.

As you might have noticed New England won each and every one of the 30-point games on this 10-game streak. Under head coach Bill Belichick the Patriots are 63-2 when they score 30 points or more. So holding them to less than 30 points is a must if you even want a shot at victory. 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick on Fitz

Posted by Chris Brown on September 21, 2011 – 2:09 pm

Bill Belichick had some praise for Ryan Fitzpatrick’s game thus far in his conference call with the Buffalo media Wednesday.

“Ryan did a great job against us in the first game last season,” said Belichick. “He’s very smart, we all know that, and does a great job in reading defenses and checking the plays, getting them into the right play against different looks, and he’s accurate. He makes good decisions with the ball, and makes quick decisions. He’s certainly good with the ball in his hands.

“As a scrambler he can avoid guys in the pocket and make plays with his feet as well as his arm. He’s working with a lot of good playmakers, both skilled players and the offensive line. He’s done a great job, and he’s got a lot of good players working with him there.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Pats ready to deal 2nd 1st?

Posted by Chris Brown on March 21, 2011 – 1:20 pm

There are reports that the New England Patriots, holders of six picks in the top 92 selections of this year’s draft, could be convinced to part with their second first-round pick at 28.

The Patriots also have the 17th pick in addition to the 28th and they’ve got the first pick in round 2 (33rd overall), so it’s understandable that New England would be willing to move out of the 28th spot knowing they’d be picking a mere five picks later anyway.

The San Diego Union-Tribune cites San Diego Chargers sources as saying that there has been a lot of “chatter” regarding the availability of the Patriots pick at 28. New England is known for trading back and stockpiling picks, which is why they have six in the first 92 this year to begin with.

In an interview at the owners meetings with, Belichick said the following when asked about the availability of the 28th overall pick via trade.

“I don’t know,” said Belichick. “We’ve traded them before. We haven’t traded them.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Belichick on Bills QB switch

Posted by Chris Brown on September 22, 2010 – 4:22 pm

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked about the quarterback change made by the Bills to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“We played against Fitzpatrick last year, we played against Edwards,” he said. “I think they’re both capable guys and they have a lot of good, skilled players around them. Whoever they put in there we’ll have to be ready. We’ll get ready for both quarterbacks and all the players that are on the active roster.

“We all know that could change in a heartbeat. We just have to have a good week of preparation and do a good job of executing our defenses and not letting their big-time skill players have a field day and make a lot of plays against us.”

Belichick, as he usuallys does, builds up the opponent every year prior to playing them.

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Posted in Inside the Bills