Numbers show Peppers earned his salary
Bears DE was on field for 87.9 percent of snaps last season
By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter 7:47 p.m. CST, March 7, 2011
In eight of the nine drafts Jerry Angelo has run with the Bears, the team has selected a defensive end.
The only time the Bears did not was 2005, when they used their third-round pick in a trade for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. So it stands to reason that Corey Wootton, last year's selection in the fourth round, should expect competition to be on the way.
When you look at the regular season playing time statistics from 2010, it's apparent the Bears need someone to step forward, whether it's a veteran or a newcomer. According to numbers provided by an NFL source, defensive end Julius Peppers was on the field for 87.9 percent of the Bears' defensive snaps last season, earning the $20 million he was paid. Opposite him, Israel Idonije played 80.2 percent of the snaps en route to posting a career-high eight sacks, which matched Peppers' total for the team lead.
But the Bears like to play their linemen in waves and you have to wonder if the starters would have been even better with a more productive third option. Peppers and Idonije combined for 3 1/2 sacks in the final seven games, including the playoffs. Did the ends, both 31, wear down?
Despite seeking help in the draft annually, the Bears haven't had an impact nickel pass rusher since Mark Anderson had 12 sacks in 2006 and was runner-up for NFL defensive rookie of the year.
The Bears need to replace the playing time of defensive tackle Tommie Harris (52.4 percent) and they will have to re-sign unrestricted free agent Anthony Adams (56.1 percent) or find someone to fill his role too.
Interestingly, the tackle who got the most action was Matt Toeaina (58.1 percent), and he was discovered at the end of the 2007 season when he was signed off the Bengals' practice squad. Henry Melton will get a chance to replace Harris after getting his feet wet at the under tackle position.
Before the arrival of Peppers and promotion of Idonije, Alex Brown and Ogunleye had been the primary starting ends for a run of six seasons. Typically, they were on the field 70 to 80 percent of the time.
The higher use was normal for Peppers. Although he played only 75.9 percent of the snaps in Carolina in 2009, he had two seasons with the Panthers in which he played 93 percent of the snaps, including in 2008 when he had a career-high 14½ sacks. But Idonije, who was used in a rotation at tackle the previous season, played only 30.9 percent of the snaps in 2009.
Offensive line is also a top need. Because of injuries and the shuffling Mike Tice did in search of the right combination, the Bears had eight players with 132 plays or more. Center Olin Kreutz and tackle Frank Omiyale were on the field for all 980 snaps.
At wide receiver, Devin Hester was on the field for 66 percent of the snaps, second behind Johnny Knox (88.2). He finished with 40 receptions for 475 yards and four touchdowns. Earl Bennett saw action on 49.3 percent of the plays and made 46 receptions, just five fewer than Knox.
For more analysis of the playing time statistics, see chicagobreakingsports.com/bears on Tuesday.
Plenty of time to play
Only linebacker Brian Urlacher and cornerback Charles Tillman were on the field more for the Bears defense last season than Julius Peppers. That's partially because the team didn't have a consistent nickel pass rusher. Here is how playing time on the line for 1,038 total snaps broke down, according to figures provided by an NFL source:
DE Julius Peppers 912 snaps, 87.9 percent
DE Israel Idonije 832, 80.2
DT Matt Toeaina 603, 58.1
DT Anthony Adams 582, 56.1
DT Tommie Harris 544, 52.4
DT Henry Melton* 344, 33.1
DE Mark Anderson 136, 13.1
DT Marcus Harrison 82, 8.9
DE Corey Wootton 84, 8.1
DE Barry Turner 22, 2.1
* Melton also played some defensive end