Lots of Packers fans have been disappointed with the play of Julius Peppers in the preseason.
Well, get over it.
He’s entering his 13th NFL season and as a 34-year-old, he knows exactly how to prepare himself for what matters most: Week 1 at Seattle.
I chuckle every time I sift through sports talk radio and hear fans blather about how Peppers needs to prove something to them. What does he need to prove? He’s an eight-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro. He’s pretty good.
Did Peppers look a little slow in the rain at Tennessee? Sure, but just about everybody looks slow on a muddy and soggy track. And he had a tackle for loss at St. Louis in limited action.
Peppers is to the point in his career that coaches aren’t going to squeeze out much in terms of motivation or aggressive play. He’s heard just about every “Win one for the Gipper” speech and has been around enough rah-rah teammates during his time in Carolina and Chicago.
Right now for him it’s about regular season performance. If he goes all out in Tennessee and sprains a hamstring in the rain, does it matter? Nope, because it’s preseason.
This is the time for veterans to fine-tune their game. Get their bodies back into rhythm, kick-start their muscle memory, and prepare for the long and grueling NFL season.
The preseason is also the time for younger players to make splash and raise an eyebrow or two. Are those guys going full speed? Heck yes they are, mainly because the majority of them are fighting for a roster spot or a job.
Schematically, the question is going to fall on defensive coordinator Dom Capers just in terms of where the best spot is for Peppers to play. Obviously, lined up opposite of Clay Matthews on the right side would be the most ideal. But, I could see Peppers lined up alongside Matthews on the left at times, as a move to dare the offensive linemen how they prepare to block those two.
Put it this way, the Packers didn’t agree to pay Peppers a three-year $26 million deal to produce in the preseason. I realize that Peppers is the Packers’ shiny new toy on a defense that desperately needed some help.
If you want a pretty good gauge of what Peppers will be like this year, look no further than Sean Jones of 1996. The 34-year-old defensive end was fourth on the team with five sacks and he also forced three fumbles. Peppers doesn’t need to have his ninth Pro Bowl season. If 2014 is a carbon copy of 2013 when he had 7½ sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles, the defense will be just fine. And just like LeRoy Butler, who had the best season of his career in ’96 with 6½ sacks, perhaps Micah Hyde or Sean Richardson can bring that needed nastiness to the line of scrimmage as well.
Is Peppers still one of the best at rushing the quarterback? I cannot answer that. But I can’t wait to find out at Seattle when we will know for sure.——————
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