Many people were wondering why Ted Thompson opened up the checkbook and signed Julius Peppers last March.
The 34-year-old justified the three-year $26-million contract with a special game in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
He hasn’t tasted playoff football since 2010, so he had every right to be excited and you could say he was pretty charged-up.
This has been an up-and-down year for the Packers’ linebacker. There was the 49-yard interception return vs. Minnesota and a 52-yard interception return vs. Philadelphia. Both touchdown returns showed off how freakishly athletic the 6-foot-7, 287-pound Peppers can be.
However, in the season finale against Detroit, Peppers played 33 of 70 defensive snaps but didn’t make any statistical impact whatsoever. On Sunday, he showed up in a big way.
He played 35 of 56 defensive snaps against Dallas and had four total tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles that led to 10 points.
Ironically, Peppers turns 35 when the Packers tee it up in Seattle to take on the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. He doesn’t look or act like a player in his mid-thirties.
He has started every regular season game since 2009. Heck, he has started every game he has played in during his entire 13-year career except two.
The Packers really need Peppers to keep getting better. It’s going to be his job to contain the edge and prevent the Seattle jitter-bug quarterback from consistently winning third down.
I liked the Peppers signing last spring. It gave plenty of hope to a team that has hemorrhaged so much big-play yardage to running quarterbacks and elite skill players.
Opposing teams know that Peppers isn’t going to tally 14.5 sacks like he did back in 2008, but they know they still have to respect the guy with great power, speed and an oversized heart.
“Pep really had a great game, especially in limited reps rushing the passer,” Clay Matthews said.
You can be surprised by the initial sticker shock of Peppers’ deal, but without him on the field, the Cowboys likely win — and another year with Rodgers is wasted.
The next three to four seasons are critical win-now years and the Peppers signing proved that the Packers feel the same way. He’s not playing as much, but he’s giving the Packers all he’s got right now and that’s all they ask.
An aging former Bears defensive end was never supposed to be the savior of the defense.
Don’t tell him that. A trip to Arizona will be determined by how well he defends the zone read.——————
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