Dan Bernstein from 670 The Score called it the single greatest free-agency day in the history of Chicago sports based on the what the Bears did Friday, signing defensive Julius Peppers, tailback Chester Taylor and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna.
The prize, of course, is Peppers, as the five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection is the new face of a Midway Monster pass rush that hasn't been very monstrous in recent years. The former North Carolina Tar Heel said at his introductory press conference Friday at Halas Hall that he's comfortable playing on either side, so it remains to be seen if Alex Brown is going to move from right end to left end or not. Defensive end was arguably the team's No. 1 priority heading into the offseason since coach Lovie Smith's version of the Cover 2 is dependent on consistent pressure from the front four, and general manager Jerry Angelo responded by getting the premier available player on the market and an all-decade performer from the last 10 years.
The one knock on him appears to be his bad habit of taking a play off from time to time, but according to Panthers teammate – and former Bears safety – Chris Harris, it only looks that way because the game comes so easy for him.
For an insider's perspective on Peppers and what he can do for the Chicago defense, BearReport.com consulted with Adam Caplan, the senior NFL reporter for Scout.com and Sirius NFL Radio personality. ...
Strengths: He has tremendous strength and quickness for such a big-bodied player. Peppers has been one of the league's top pass rushers for several years, and his numbers show it. He can manhandle offensive lineman when he plays at his maximum level. Peppers is also an underrated run defender.
Weaknesses: It's been well documented that Peppers' effort and motor aren't as consistent as both should be from game to game or even play to play. Because of his apparent inconsistent effort over the years, it has been harder for Carolina's defense to maximize its potential. He's also been criticized for playing at a high level mostly against the poorer teams and not playing at a high level against the better teams.
Caplan Says: Peppers is obviously a tremendously talented defensive player, but he can't ever be counted on to give top effort from play to play. I think that's what you're dealing with each game with him. You have to accept that he tends to drift for whatever reason. With D-line coach Rod Marinelli teaching him, hopefully Peppers will finally find that ever-elusive consistency that's been missing for so many seasons. I'd give the move a thumbs-up for aggressiveness, but you have to be awfully careful with expectations. Usually, the 30-year-old mark signifies that the player is on his downside, not on the way up.
JC's Take: Because he has registered double-digit sacks in six of his eight pro seasons, something Adewale Ogunleye only did once in a Bears uniform and Brown has never accomplished, Windy City football fans may not mind so much if Peppers takes a play off here and there should he remain as productive as he has been in the past.
No question about it, Peppers plugs a major hole up front and is going to have his share of highlight-reel plays at Soldier Field, but we don't know yet how much his mere presence will make the defenders around him better. Can Tommie Harris wreak havoc in the middle to complement his new-found edge pressure? Will Brian Urlacher be able to roam sideline to sideline unencumbered again? Is finding a difference-making free safety now less of a priority? Until live bullets start flying around again in September, we'll simply have to wait and see.
Angelo said Friday that he wasn't looking to make a statement but to make a better football team, and all indicators suggest he's on his way to doing just that.
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Scout's Analysis: DE Julius Peppers
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