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Pepper Johnson set to interview with Giants for defensive coordinator opening

If the Giants want to go with a

If the Giants want to go with a first-time coordinator the way they did with Ben McAdoo on offense a year ago, Pepper Johnson could be a strong candidate. Photo Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

If the Giants are trying to spice things up and recapture the halcyon days when they had a feared defense with snarling attitude and bruising play, their next candidate for coordinator could be the man for the job.

Pepper Johnson, who played linebacker for the Giants from 1986-92 and was a member of two Super Bowl-winning Giants teams, is scheduled to interview for the position vacated when Perry Fewell was fired last week.

Johnson, currently the defensive line coach for the Bills, is expected to meet with coach Tom Coughlin and others about the opening Monday.

Johnson, 50, played under Bill Parcells and was on the same linebacker units with Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks. He also was on the team when Coughlin was a wide receivers coach from 1988-90.

Johnson played for Bill Belichick with the Browns and under Parcells again with the Jets during his post-Giants playing career, which lasted until 1998.

After that, he spent 13 seasons as an assistant under Belichick with the Patriots -- coaching the defensive line and linebackers and winning three more Super Bowl rings -- before leaving for Buffalo last offseason.

He'll be the second candidate known to interview for the position in what is expected to be a wide and tedious search process. Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, a former head coach for the Bucs, interviewed on Friday.

Unlike other candidates, Johnson has never been a defensive coordinator or a play-caller, but his link to the team's past and the fiery energy with which he is known to coach (just as he played) could spark the defense. Coughlin said he is looking for a new coordinator to provide "invigoration" and "stimulation."

While Johnson could be a link to the Parcells-era teams, the Giants likely will reach into their more recent past as well during this search. Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008, is expected to be a candidate now that his duties with the Ravens ended yesterday with a loss to the Patriots.

Spagnuolo is the defensive backs coach and assistant head coach for Baltimore. Some in the Giants' organization have put Spagnuolo atop their wish list, but John Mara insisted that all coaching staff decisions be made by Coughlin.

Other possible candidates on the horizon include form- er Falcons coach Mike Smith, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

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