Half-ass interesting article
The emergence of Corey Wootton in his third season and addition of Shea McClellin as the Bears' first-round draft pick allowed the team finally to lighten the workload for Julius Peppers.
The Pro Bowl defensive end participated in 74.5 percent of the team's plays, according to NFL statistics provided to the Tribune, his lowest figure in three seasons with the club. Keeping Peppers fresh — he played 82.1 percent of the snaps in 2011 and 87.9 in 2010 — helped him remain effective throughout the season. The difference from 2010 to 2012 is 129 defensive snaps — roughly eight per game.
Peppers turned 33 earlier this month. His 111/2 sacks were his most for the Bears and his highest production since a career-best 141/2 in 2008. He tied a career-high with three sacks in the Week 16 victory at Arizona and had 11/2 in a Week 15 loss to the Packers. Peppers had three sacks in the final four games of 2011 but only one in the final four regular-season games in 2010 and the Bears tried to use their linemen in waves under former coach Lovie Smith.
The presence of McClellin as a third end filled a long-term void. McClellin played in 34.7 percent of the snaps, recording 21/2 sacks. But the Bears got tremendous production from Wootton, who placed third on the team with seven sacks playing only 54.5 percent of the snaps. The Bears finished with 41 sacks, eighth in the NFL and tying for the most in nine seasons under Smith.
Wootton took over the starting job at left end for the final five games from Israel Idonije, who played in 67.7 percent of plays, his lowest figure since 2009. Idonije produced 71/2 sacks, the most since his career-high eight in 2010. The 32-year-old is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and has expressed a desire to return. He was versatile at the end of the season, moving back inside to play some tackle.
A strong case could be made that Wootton was the team's most improved player. Cornerback Tim Jennings led the NFL with nine interceptions and made a surprise trip to the Pro Bowl. But the Bears signed Jennings to be a starter with a $6.6 million, two-year contract. Injuries and inconsistency plagued Wootton's first two seasons.
"The first two years were disappointing for me to be honest," Wootton said. "I knew this year I really had to show out.
"A lot of people had me slated to not even make the team. So, I knew this is what I had to work toward. I think I have gotten better every week. I am excited for the future here."
Here are some other numbers that stick out from the Bears' playing time statistics:
•Center Roberto Garza and left tackle J'Marcus Webb were the only two players on the roster to participate in 100 percent of their possible snaps — 1,046 on offense.
•Wide receiver Devin Hester's playing time dipped to 34.5 percent, just 361 snaps. Hester was at 45.7 in 2011 and as high as 66.0 in 2010.
•Wide receiver Brandon Marshall sat out for only 77 snaps, tops among skill position players and just ahead of tight end Kellen Davis, who missed 90 snaps.
•The new coaching staff will have plenty of tape to evaluate rookie guard James Brown. He made three starts and was on the field for 20.6 percent of the snaps.
•Cornerback Zack Bowman finished with 11 special teams tackles, tied for second on the team with Blake Costanzo, despite appearing in only 11 games and 41.7 percent of special teams snaps. Eric Weems led the team with 12 tackles and participated in 67.8 percent of special teams plays. Costanzo was at 65.5.