Peppers at defensive tackle intriguing
Rushing from middle on passing downs, he can create much mayhem
On the NFL
November 18, 2011
Outside linebacker. Safety. Tight end. Quarterback.
Julius Peppers is such a special athlete he probably could moonlight anywhere and help the Bears in spots.
But he could be a difference-maker at defensive tackle.
Anyone who watched the defensive end slide inside Sunday against the Lions would agree. On four plays as a three technique, or under tackle, Peppers had a sack, a quarterback hit and a pressure.
"He ran right by that guard," said Hall of Famer Dan Hampton, who knows a little about moving from defensive end to tackle. "How could he not do that every time? In a few plays in there he had more production than Henry Melton had in three games."
It would behoove the Bears to play Peppers at the position a lot more than a handful of snaps Sunday against the Chargers, who are decimated at guard.
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers are expected to play Tommie Harris quite a bit. If the Bears' former first round pick hadn't gotten injured and old, this might not be a discussion. But he did, and the Bears cut him in the offseason.
The team has struggled to find someone who can create havoc consistently from under tackle ever since Harris started to decline.
Peppers can be that player. He has been practicing quietly at the three technique position all season.
You wouldn't want to turn him into a full-time defensive tackle. That would put him in the middle of too much traffic and expose him to too much punishment.
But it's a different world on third downs.
Hampton was a defensive end his first two years in the league. In Hampton's third year, when Buddy Ryan started using the 46 defense more, Hampton started playing three technique tackle on passing downs. He was made a full-time defensive tackle the following season and eventually became the nose in the 46. He bounced back and forth through his career, but ended up playing roughly 51/2 of his 12 seasons inside.
That took a toll on Hampton's knees and undoubtedly shortened his career. But it also might have shortened the careers of some quarterbacks he faced.
Hampton probably made his greatest impact as a tackle. Given the importance of the under tackle in the Bears' scheme, Peppers could do the same.
"As a defensive end you can affect (only) so much of what happens," Hampton said. "If they turn a guard to you or chip you with a tight end, you're basically going to be a non-factor. But if you're coming up the middle, with his (6-foot-7, 287-pound) frame, it's a force. It's a deal breaker."
Moving Peppers closer to the quarterback can be like having him shoot layups instead of 3-pointers.
Having him in front of the quarterback instead of to the side of him likely would lead to more batted passes. Even if Peppers isn't getting a piece of the football, he can block the quarterback's vision with those long arms.
The Bears' other pass rushers might benefit from Peppers the DT more than Peppers the DE.
Peppers at tackle enables to Bears to dictate protections. In some cases, offensive lines will start turning the center to Peppers, which will leave every pass rusher on the backside with a one-on-one opportunity, and it will leave the offense very vulnerable to a backside blitz. It also presents opportunities for zone blitzes, with Peppers dropping.
Position versatility gives Peppers a chance to line up on all five offensive linemen — whoever is weakest. And it forces each of them to prepare for him, and sweat about him.
Peppers played a little tackle a few years ago when he was with the Panthers and he said he enjoys it.
"It's no different," he said. "It's all rushing the passer. The contact, you just get into the rush a little faster. That's the only difference. It's more of a phone booth type thing. You're close to the action quicker. You don't have as much time."
Tackles usually aren't as tall as Peppers, but being 6-5 didn't hinder Hampton inside.
It wouldn't hamper Peppers, either. But you can bet it would Philip Rivers.
It's a good idea as long as they don't over do it. The advantage he's always enjoyed is being able to line up at either RDE or LDE and rush against the opponents weaker OT so this just adds one more post he fan come from. We need to get a better inside rush and if this get's it done I'm all for it. Seems to me like Wootton should be about ready to return and Addison has been activated now that Reed is gone so one of those two needs to step it up on the outside.
Melton may have improved his play last game but he still doesn't impress me as a pass rusher the way Okoye and Paea do. I'm puzzled by why those guys aren't getting more playing time vs the Melton/Adams combo. To me solving the pass rush problem is a whatever it takes situation but I don't want to see Peppers playing at DT too much especially on that bum knee. Too much damage can be done to that inside. You don't ask a thoroughbred to pull a plow.
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