It’s hard to believe that we’ve talked Vikings-Panthers for the past 3 days but haven’t yet mentioned DE Julius Peppers. Maybe it was because of his 2.5-sack season in 2007, but for some reason Peppers doesn’t get as much hype as he used to.
If you take out that substandard 2007 season, here is a list of his sack totals beginning in his rookie season (2002): 12.0, 7.0, 11.0, 10.5, 13.0 and 14.5. So far this season, Peppers has 8.5 sacks. That’s a grand total of 79.0 sacks, which ranks him 1st in Panthers history. Peppers, a 4-time Pro Bowler, is also 1st in franchise history with 24 forced fumbles and 8 blocked kicks.
As you can see, Peppers is an ultra-productive player. But he is also dangerous because of his versatility. He can play on either side of the line of scrimmage and he has a beautiful blend of size (6-7, 283 pounds), speed and power. As a result, offensive coordinators around the league are well-aware of the Panthers stud DE, regardless of the amount of hype he receives.
“You definitely have to know where he is at,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Thursday. “He can turn it up at any time. Obviously he’s an elite pass rusher. He’s really got all the moves that you need. He’s got enough speed to get around the edge. He can change the speed to power. They’ll use him in stunts so he can end up on the inside. So they do a great job with him and obviously at any time he can show up.”
But that’s been the criticism of Peppers as of late, mostly because of that 2.5-sack effort in ’07. Some say Peppers turns it on and off, rather than leaving it on at all times. While box scores certainly don’t tell the whole story, you can see where Peppers’ critics are coming from if you look at game-by-game logs in Peppers profile.
I’ll assure you right now, though, that studying his game-by-game box scores to try and guess if this Sunday night will be an “on” day or an “off” day for the DE is a useless exercise. There are plenty of reasons to think Peppers will be at his best in terms of effort on Sunday night.
First of all, he’s playing against one of the NFL’s most lethal offenses and against an all-time great QB in Brett Favre. Any defensive player with an ounce of competitiveness – and Peppers is as competitive as any – loves a challenge. Secondly, this game is in prime time and will be televised by NBC, giving it a high-profile nature that seems to bring out the best in star players. Lastly, Peppers will share the field on Sunday with another superstar DE – Jared Allen. Peppers and Allen have trained together and Allen did not hesitate this week to express how he feels about Peppers as a player.
“Peppers is a beast. He is an absolute beast,” Allen said, according to Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune. “He does things that sometimes I wish I could do. I have nothing but good things to say about him. For how big he is, he moves so gracefully. He does things at that end position that set precedent of themselves. He has been a player that I have always liked to watch.”
So the Vikings have a challenge this weekend in trying to keep Peppers cool. Peppers is listed as the RDE on the Panthers online depth chart, meaning those of us watching Sunday night’s game will be treated to a colossal matchup – LT Bryant McKinnie vs. Peppers.
Hopefully Mt. McKinnie can keep Peppers cool.
Tags: Darrell Bevell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 2 Comments »