In last Sunday's contest against the Lions, Bears DE Julius Peppers lined up all over the defensive line. For the majority of the game, he stayed out on the right edge but on five plays he slid inside to defensive tackle. He had a lot of success on the interior, something Bear Report looked at in details earlier this week.
It was assumed by most that this was a coaching decision, that coach Lovie Smith and coordinator Rod Marinelli were calling in the times in which Peppers was to switch positions. Yet that isn't the case. Apparently, it's up to Peppers as to when he wants to move along the line.
"Whenever he feels like it, he's like: ‘Hey, let's switch. Let me go inside this play.' I just go, ‘OK'," DT Anthony Adams said. "We've got a lot of unselfish players on this team. We work on it in practice, in walk-throughs. It's not anything new, but he's just making it work a little more nowadays."
Peppers was able to work over Detroit's guards from the tackle spot last week, something for which they didn't appear to be prepared. By rushing up the gut, opposing teams can't chip on him the way they could if he were on the edge. This offers him a one-on-one matchup with an offensive guard, a situation in which Peppers typically excels.
Going forward, the six-time Pro Bowler will be given the freedom to pick and choose where he wants to play on any given down. In that way, he'll only move from his typical right defensive end spot when he feels comfortable doing so.
"He's got ability to move around in the game, more in the nickel package and some in our base package, too," Marinelli said. "So we set it up, these are the things he may like to be inside at, feel good about. We might see a matchup that we like and he's got that ability. He's got to be comfortable to go in there and do it. That's why I give him the flexibility to do that."
It's likely Peppers will line up at tackle even more this week against the San Diego Chargers, who could be without three of their top guards. Although Adams said an inexperienced guy isn't always an easy target.
"You're in the NFL for a reason," Adams said. "Usually when guys get shots like that, when they get their opportunity, usually guys come in and do well. "
Still, if Peppers can create a mismatch against a third-stringer, it's hard to imagine him passing that up.
"The last thing you want is all the protection going to [Peppers]. Some [teams] have done that," said Marinelli. "You have to be careful with it. We've got a package for him and it fits and everybody else … and it's simple enough to do."
Peppers is practicing this week for the first time in nearly a month, meaning his injured knee is moving closer toward full health. Considering how well he's played with just one good knee, it will be interesting to see what type of impact he'll have going forward with two healthy legs.
"He's running around pretty fast," Marinelli said. "He looks good and fresh. So I think he's OK."
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.