INDIANAPOLIS -- Julius Peppers ought to serve as an inspiration to the handful of veteran Chicago Bears defensive ends who are expected to switch roles and become 3-4 outside linebackers/edge rushers.
One of the most feared 4-3 pass-rushers of his generation, Peppers' decision to sign with rival Green Bay last offseason forced the 13-year veteran to transition from his customary defensive spot to outside linebacker, where Peppers primarily operated out of a two-point stance.
The results speak for themselves.
Peppers started all 16 games for the Packers, registering 44 tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, 11 passes defensed and two defensive touchdowns.
In two playoff games, Peppers tallied 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
That type of productivity convinced Green Bay to bring back the 35-year-old, eight-time Pro Bowl selection for another season, even though Peppers is scheduled to earn $9.5 million ($8.5 million base salary, $500,000 roster bonus and $500,000 workout bonus) in 2015.
“I’m still the only one who doesn’t understand why this question comes up,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. “Yes, he’ll be back. He looked very comfortable and had a great year. He made an impact both on the field and in the locker room. It was unique to get to know Julius throughout the process once he signed as a free agent.
I think he looks great in green and gold.”
Bears head coach John Fox, who coincidentally coached Peppers for eight years in Carolina, is hopeful Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young can enjoy similar success in the Bears’ new 3-4 hybrid look on defense.
However, there are no guarantees the Bears’ trio of pass-rushers will be able to accomplish the feat.
Young had a terrific first season in Chicago with a career-high 10 sacks in 15 games, but Allen and Houston both failed to live up to expectations. Although Allen held up OK versus the run with 64 tackles, he finished 2014 with a disappointing 5.5 sacks. Meanwhile, Houston’s lone sack of the season came against New England reserve quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the Bears’ humiliating 51-23 loss to the Patriots in Week 8. Houston celebrated the sack (the game was over at that point) by tearing his ACL.
“We’ll line them up there, what they become is up to them,” Fox said. “In Willie’s case he’s coming off an Achilles surgery, you know same thing with Lamar Houston, he’s coming off an ACL. You know I had two guys a year ago, Chris Harris and Von Miller were coming off ACLs and they both had Pro Bowl seasons. So again, that’s all part of the process, you know, getting guys healthy, medically, and getting them ready to play. We’re working on that as we speak daily.
I haven’t seen Allen, so it’d be hard for me to evaluate until we get him out there. But he’s a good football player, he’s got good instincts. My experience has been that works in a two-point or a three-point stance.”