Some Bears fans may be disappointed in what they have seen so far out of the team's huge free-agent acquisition. With just two sacks this season, Julius Peppers statistically looks as if he isn’t quite what everyone expected, and unfortunately, a lot of people look at stats as the “tell-all” of everything when it comes to football players.
But in Peppers' case, the statistics only tell a small part of the story.
After Peppers came into the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and started to get a lot of notice around the league for his superior play, opposing teams began to have to game-plan around him because of the kind of impact that he had on an offense. Teams used to put two blockers on him in passing situations and used to run away from him.
With Peppers getting double-teamed, that allowed another defensive lineman to go in and make plays. Peppers also made plays on his own, recording 81 sacks in eight years with Panthers.
Of course, there were some people who accused Peppers of taking plays or entire games off. The Bears didn’t think much of that though, as they brought him in to help their defense out.
After he had a solid preseason, hopes were high that he would be able to perform at same level in his first season in Chicago as he did in Carolina.
Things started out pretty promisingly. In his first game with the Bears against the Detroit Lions, Peppers had one sack and one forced fumble. He also knocked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford out of the game (Stafford was out for several games after that). Fans were happy, players were excited and it looked as if Peppers had finally arrived in Chicago.
He had a relatively quiet game against the Cowboys but showed up big against the Packers, even though he didn’t record a single sack in that game. Offensive linemen had holding calls and false starts as a result of lining up across from Peppers, and his presence was enough to rattle those that were there to block him. Those penalties helped contribute to the Bears' victory in that game.
He didn’t have his best game the next week against the Giants, but his first game back in Carolina since joining the Bears was something special.
Peppers deflected a pass, which he intercepted, and had four total tackles. Perhaps he was inspired by playing against his old team; the play was spectacular and helped lead the Bears to a win.
Peppers played okay, but he was quiet against the Bears' next two opponents (the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins), and it appeared as if he was struggling against Seattle’s rookie left tackle, Russell Okung.
Come the second half of the season, it’s time for Peppers to ramp up his production and help out his defense. Even if he doesn’t have the numbers, his effect on opposing offenses should be able to cause havoc with opposing offensive linemen and also give his teammates—in particular, Israel Idonije—a shot at making the plays that he can’t.
What Idonije was able to do in the Carolina game (2.5 sacks) was a direct result of what Peppers was doing on the other side of the line. He was taking up two blockers, allowing Idonije to slip in and get those sacks. This will happen more often as the season goes on and Idonije feels more comfortable getting in and making more plays.
Every player gets better as the season goes on. If Peppers does keep getting double-teamed, then at least we know there is someone else who can make the plays that Peppers can’t make.
Things will get better for the Bears, and Peppers will have a huge hand in it.