By now you’ve heard the big news in the NFL that Ted Thompson has made the decision to sign Julius Peppers as the newest Green Bay Packers free-agent. We always wonder if free-agent moves will impact our team for the good in the coming season, but this particular move reminded me of Ron Wolfe’s courting of Reggie White.
Back in 1993, when the Packers brought on Reggie White, their defense had been struggling. Ranked 23rd in the league, the Packer defense was the Achilles’ heel that always seem to have the Packers falling short in the playoffs. The signing of white changed all that.
In 1992 before the Packers acquired Reggie White the team recorded only 34 sacks. Their defense was 23rd in the league in yards and 15th in the league in points.
A lot of teams were hesitant to even court, Reggie White. He was, after all, 31 years old and many teams wondered how much he still had to offer. Reggie answered the question in grand fashion, as the Packer defense rose to second in defense in yards and ninth in points. The team sack total rose from 34 sacks in 1992 to 46 sacks in 1993. That’s a 35% increase on the number of sacks.
The Packers are currently in a position, defensively, that very much mirrors 1992. In 2013, our defense was 25th in the league in yards and 24th in the league in points. We did, however, have 44 sacks on the season which, while not stellar, was 15th the league.
If the presence of Peppers could generate the increase that the presence of White did in 1993, our sack total would be pushed up to 59 sacks and would put us above the league leader for 2013. While I’ll be the first to admit that Julius Peppers is no Reggie White, the presence of Clay Matthews on the other side could easily push our sack total to astounding levels. Add to that the very real possibility that Matthews and Peppers may come at quarterbacks from the same side and you have a nightmare situation for opposing offense of coordinator’s.
Aging defensive ends
As I mentioned earlier but Reggie White was 31 years old when he came to the Packers. There’s little doubt that the question of age plays into how much impact you can expect from a free agent. However, there is one key indicator that suggest this is a very good move for the Packers.
In his four seasons with the Bears, Julius Peppers started every single game. That’s 64 games without missing a start due to injury. This fact alone is encouraging for Packer fans who have had to endure seasons plagued by injury. In fact, it could be argued that the Packers 25th ranking in defense in 2013 was largely due to injury. They never seem to be able to build any rhythm or cohesiveness because there were always new players trying to fill new roles.
Even if Peppers can muster an injury free season, that alone will be a step forward for the Pack.
Tale of the Previous Two Seasons
Once again, Julius Peppers is no Reggie White. When Reggie came to Green Bay he was coming off two outstanding seasons. In 1991 he recorded 15 sacks, one interception, and 100 tackles, and in 1992 he recorded 14 sacks and 81 tackles.
Peppers had a good season in 2012 where he recorded 11.5 sacks. However 2013 was his lowest sack total in his career, as he mustered just seven sacks.
What I wonder about Peppers’ lack of productivity in 2013 is what was the driving force behind it? Peppers is 34 years old. So we could simply be that he’s lost a step. However, I wonder more if Peppers tenure with the Bears didn’t leave a bitter taste in his mouth. I wonder if Julius got to the point where he had no faith in an injury riddled Jay Cutler to ever lead his team to the Super Bowl.
The Reggie White Effect
Julie’s Peppers is no Reggie White, but we don’t really need him to be. All we really need is for him to resurrect the Reggie White effect and help our defense rise from obscurity to dominate in the NFL.