If there is any one of the Rams new position coaches with plenty to smile about, it’s Bill Johnson. As the new defensive line coach, Johnson’s taking over the group largely considered the club’s best strength over the last few years.
As a longtime NFL defensive line coach, Johnson plans on having his experience only enhance what’s already in place.
“We’ve been evaluating these guys for the last number of days and they’re really fun to watch,” Johnson said in a recent interview with therams.com. “I feel like it’s a privilege to be able to work with these guys, and see if maybe some of this experience can help one or two of them. But I think it’s a strong nucleus of this football team and that’s what we plan on keeping it that way.”
Johnson is coming off an eight-year stint as New Orleans’ defensive line coach, where he — like offensive line coach Aaron Kromer — was part of the staff to win Super Bowl XLIV. Prior to that, he held the same position for the Broncos and Falcons, coaching with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in Atlanta in 2002 and 2003. The familiarity with Phillips was part of what drew Johnson to join head coach Sean McVay’s staff in Los Angeles.
“Tn the NFL circles, you get to talk to a lot of people,” Johnson said. “And, obviously, Sean’s had a good reputation the last number of years and I sort of knew that he was on track. Age really doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s knowledge and production — that’s the whole thing in this business.
“And then Wade Phillips is a guy that I’ve worked with before, and that sure was a plus for me,” Johnson continued. “So I was excited about coming here with a brand new staff and all new people and start a new beginning.”
With Phillips as defensive coordinator, Johnson will have to help implement some changes to the front seven as L.A. moves to a 3-4 base defense. Johnson said his group will spend plenty of time working on fundamentals in order to prevent on-field errors.
“We’re going to make sure that with a new scheme — I think it’s going to be a multiple scheme, a pressure scheme, a scheme that’s going to fit a lot of these guys more than people think — is make sure they don’t make mistakes,” Johnson said.
One player Johnson is particularly excited to work with is defensive tackle Aaron Donald. While he may have a bit of a different function in Phillips’ 3-4, the defensive coordinator has said eh will do his best to put Donald in as many one-on-one situations as possible. And with Donald’s considerable skill, he should fare just fine.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind-type guy,” Johnson said. “He’s very violent, very strong. You’ve got some natural ability. And instincts play a big part in this. Not only does he have athletic ability, he has tremendous instincts. And that’s a pretty good formula for a football player.”
But for Johnson, the best aspect of his new position with Los Angeles may not have much to do with what’s on the field. Johnson’s son, Billy, is entering his fifth year in the Rams’ personnel department. Now, the father-son duo will get to work alongside one another in the same organization.
“When he finished playing ‘ball at Georgia, he had an opportunity to go to New Orleans, but I thought it was good for us to separate and he go his direction,” Johnson said. “But it just so happens we ended up on the same team. So we’re going to take advantage of that.”