Did you hear Julius Pepper’s name called on Sunday? Cause I sure didn’t. And this surprised the hell out of me. He was lined up against John St. Clair on the left side and after watching St. Clair get abused by Dwight Freeney the week before, I expected the worst.
But he was a nonfactor. At one point even, St. Clair laid out Peppers as he tried coming around the edge. It was an impressive display for a man who has been a career back up until now. He has exceeded my modest expectations against two top tier defensive ends. And with two more big games against some strong defensive lines, he has given me reason to hope.
The Bucs have always had a solid defense and a strong D-line. The Eagles (despite the most recent shootout with the Cowboys) come with a variety of blitz packages and line stunts that can wreak havoc on blocking schemes and assignments.
St. Clair has done an admirable job at left tackle (which makes me feel better knowing that Fred Miller will not be playing) and if he can continue to show me this type of play through the next two games, I will feel a lot better about the Bears chances this year.
Another lineman I was impressed with so far is Josh Beekman. Staring at left guard, he has shown more promise than I realized. What is more he has shown improvement and the ability to adapt and learn, something I did not feel Terrance Metcalf did or even could do. He has had a couple penalties and I have witnessed him missing blocks every once in a while. But I thought I saw it more in week one than I did in week two.
I am not saying that he or St. Clair have been Pro Bowl players. Freeney still got to Orton, McKie was still stuffed on fourth and 1 with the game on the line. But both have given me reason to hope that the Bears offensive line is and will not be as bad as everyone had feared going into the year.
I will feel even better if both of these guys continue to play smart and hard and show signs of improvement over the next two games . . . that and keeping Miller and Metcalf on the bench.