Bears lineman Idonije making the most of Peppers Effect
Nice to see izzy getting the props deserves.. and making brown an afterthought.. though some don't seem to like that
Bears lineman Idonije making the most of Peppers Effect'
By Matt Trowbridge
Blocking a Donovan McNabb pass that nickelback D.J. Moore returned for a touchdown didn’t seem like a big deal to Israel Idonije.
“He was looking straight at me. I put my hands up,” Idonije said.
But it was a big deal.
“It was pretty much all Izzy,” Moore said.
It was a play that kept the Bears tied with Washington 7-7 after one quarter Sunday despite being outgained 144 yards to minus-5 at the time.
“Our defense is playing good ball. Our foundation is still set,” coach Lovie Smith told Chicago reporters Monday, the day after the Bears’ 17-14 loss to the Redskins.
Three players get the lion’s share of Chicago’s defensive credit: linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and $91.5 million defensive end Julius Peppers.
A fourth should be added: Idonije.
“He’s playing really well,” Peppers said. “The guy goes out and practices hard every day. He’s getting a chance now. We expect him to make plays. So far he’s living up to it.”
The Bears knew that no matter how many zillions they spent to bring in Peppers, he couldn’t make a difference alone. But they said the Peppers Effect would help Chicago’s other three defensive linemen.
At first glance, it hasn’t worked that way. Chicago has actually gotten worse in sacks, dropping from a tie for 13th last year to a tie for 23rd this season.
“The pass rush is good,” Peppers said. “Sacks are overrated.
“That’s how they are going to measure you, especially as a defensive end, but that’s overrated. Hurries, get a quarterback to throw an interception — those type of things are worth more than just getting a sack.”
Those other numbers do show an improved pass rush. Chicago has climbed from 31st in passes defended to 14th and from a 22nd-place tie for interceptions to seventh.
In all those numbers, Idonije has been a team leader. His team-high 4 1/2 sacks are more than double Peppers’ two. He’s also forced two fumbles, tying Peppers, and knocked down two passes. His 22 tackles are six more than anyone else on Chicago’s defensive line.
“I just do what I’m supposed to do,” Idonije said. “I’m trying to solidify myself in the position. I want to show that I can be that guy in this league. I can produce. That’s all I’m trying to do, letting my team know that I can help us.”
Idonije has looked good at times in six previous years for the Bears, but coaches kept moving him to defensive tackle, even after they had him lose 40 pounds to play end.
Or they sat him on the bench behind lesser players like Mark Anderson, whom the Bears finally cut after four games this year.
Idonije didn’t mind the wait.
“Everything in our lives happens when it’s supposed to happen, so it’s the right time,” Idonije said.
For him. And for Chicago (4-3). Idonije says the Bears, armed with a defense that ranks second in the NFL in points allowed (16.3 average), can still be who they thought they were before losing the last two games.
“The team that we put on the field after the bye is the team that we are and the team that we are supposed to be,” he said.
Maybe. If nothing else, the Bears are at least who they are supposed to be at both defensive end spots.
Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge