Pepper viewed as head coach candidate

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com comes up with a list of 10 NFL assistant coaches he believes are top candidates to become head coaches in the future. One of the coaches on the list is Pepper Johnson, who leads the Patriots' defensive line.

Writes Prisco: "He has worked under Bill Belichick since 2000. He first worked with the linebackers, but moved over to the defensive line in 2005. His players have pushed for him to be coordinator, which tells you they like him. But when Dean Pees left last year, Belichick didn't name a coordinator. That's because he is the de-facto coordinator, which makes sense since he is a defensive wizard. Johnson also played under Belichick, which means he has two decades of his knowledge in his head. That means something. Not being a coordinator also does, however."

The 46-year-old Johnson enters his 12th coaching season in 2011. In addition to leading the defensive line, Johnson also directs the "Dirty Show", a.k.a. the Patriots' scout team. Bill Belichick annually lauds Johnson's work in this area.

Last year, Vince Wilfork commented on why he felt Johnson would be a top choice to become defensive coordinator.

"Pep gives it to you raw and uncut, and whatever comes out of his mouth, you have to respect that because you know he's been a player at this level, on championship defenses," Wilfork said in a piece posted on ESPNBoston.com. "I like a coach who looks you in the face and lets you know how he feels about you. There is no beating around the bush. He has a lot of respect from me as a coach and as a person."