I’ve never seen a number unveiling get this much excitement.
And for those of you that may not know, Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next season for the Packers.
That’s quite a change for someone that was consistently coming off the edge as a defensive end in a three-point stance wearing No. 90.
But Peppers isn’t just an end. Thanks to Dom Capers and his crazy names, which have brought us the ‘Psycho’ defensive package, Peppers will be playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker called an elephant.
Personally, I don’t care if you call it strawberry shortcake because the name of Peppers’ position is meaningless. His stats and his motor speak for themselves. He’s been under double-digit sacks in a season just four times in his 12-year career.
The thing I like about Peppers most is his drive. I realize that he’s 34 and might be reaching the final leg of a strong NFL career. But the last time he didn’t play a full 16-game season was in 2007. That really says a lot to me. Especially for a guy that has played through a sprained MCL in his left knee, a broken right hand and a right knee sprain among other things. And the season that he suffered his right knee sprain was in 2007, a season in which he tallied his lowest sack output of his career with 2½. Yet he still managed to lead the Panthers in quarterback hurries.
Peppers is a guy that the Packers desperately needed. He’s a guy that will come in and not only contribute with a pass rush that has been forgotten, but he’s a vocal veteran that wants to win.
That’s a great combination for a team that has youngsters like Nick Perry and Datone Jones, who the Packers are counting on to break out and flourish.
Is it fair to compare Peppers to the 31-year-old Reggie White when he signed with Green Bay? No way. And I’m surprised I’ve seen people even make that comparison because it’s not not even close. White was a once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher who may never be copied again.
But that doesn’t mean Peppers doesn’t have plenty to play for.
In Peppers’ 12-year career he’s been in the playoffs four times. He lost in the Super Bowl to the Patriots, lost a couple of conference championship games — one to the Packers — and also lost in the divisional round. If anybody is hungry to win and win now it’s this guy.
The biggest reason Green Bay should be excited is because it will free up Clay Matthews. Usually stuck behind a wall of double teams, Matthews has had to scratch and claw just to see daylight. But now, teams will be faced with a decision. However, even that decision won’t matter much because whoever isn’t double-teamed will win his one-on-one battle the majority of the time.
Peppers is a game changer. He’s a dynamic athlete that has the speed to bottle up the edge that is so vital when taking on guys like Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. And by causing more problems near the line of scrimmage, you put less pressure on a secondary that has been more famine than feast.
So, the number assignment may seem like trivial news to most. And usually a number assignment is trivial. (I mean, I don’t remember hearing about the number of former Packers punter Paul McJulien was going to wear before the season, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). But it’s OK to get excited about this one.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn