Tyler Dunne and Justin Felder asked an interesting question on the last Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Packers podcast: If Packers fans had to choose, would they pick pass rusher Julius Peppers or trainer Pepper Burruss to have a great season in 2014?
The duo never really answered the question, so let’s answer it here. First, some context:
If Julius Peppers has a great season, it probably means he had 10-plus sacks and finally provided the Packers defense with a legitimate edge pass-rushing threat to complement, and enhance, everything Clay Matthews already does.
The Packers have tried first-round draft picks, undrafted rookie free agents, random dudes off the street and converted defensive tackles at the outside linebacker slot opposite Matthews. Nothing has worked out.
The situation was so desperate, general manager Ted Thompson took the rare step of signing Peppers, a free agent, to try and get Matthews some help.
Peppers’ snaps will probably be limited, but if he reaches double digits in sacks and forces teams to divert attention from Matthews over to him, it will provide a tremendous boost to the Packers beleaguered defense.
If Pepper Burruss has a great season, it means the Packers injury luck has finally turned around. I know one trainer isn’t responsible for the health of the team, but work with me on this one.
Since 2010, every single position group on the Packers has been hit by a major injury to an important player.
Two players — a pro-bowl safety and a running back picked in the fourth round — have suffered career-ending neck injuries. One of the best tight ends in team history likely won’t play again after a neck injury. Ditto for Johnny Jolly, one of the best comeback stories from last season.
Mike McCarthy says he’s had two healthy teams in his eight years in Green Bay: 2007 and 2011. In 2007, the Packers went to the NFC title game. In 2011, they went 15-1.
Whether you think McCarthy’s exaggerating or not doesn’t matter. It’s a fact that the Packers have been one of the most beat up teams in the NFL since 2010.
So let’s say Burruss comes up with a magical solution to the Packers injury woes and devises a way for the Packers to not be injury free, but at least finish in the top 5 for fewest games lost due to injury in 2014.
Would you rather have a healthy Packers team? Or a dominant Julius Peppers contributing to another Packers squad struck down by a massive amount of injuries?
The easy answer seems to be a healthy team. But keep in mind the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010 despite injuries and have made the playoffs the last two seasons despite an injury epidemic.
Maybe crossing your fingers that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get knocked out with another injury and choosing a productive Julius Peppers isn’t that bad of an option. A full season from Rodgers mixed in with 11 sacks from Peppers would go a long way in overcoming injuries to other areas of the team.
That said, gun to my head, I’d take a healthy team over a productive Julius Peppers. Yes, a legit complement to Matthews would be great, but the Packers can overcome a disappointing season from a player likely past his prime if the team stays in one piece.
What say you?——————