The dog days of the offseason are finally behind us now that training camp is underway, just in time for our countdown of the Top 100 Chicago Bears of all time to really heat up. As we get closer to the season opener, we get closer to naming the #1 Chicago Bear of all time.
Julius Peppers was the 2nd overall pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2002 NFL draft after a dominant career as a DE at North Carolina. As a sophomore with the Tar Heels, Peppers led the nation in sacks (15) and then as a junior was a unanimous all-American and won the Chuck Bednarik award (Top defensive player), the Lombardi award (best collegiate lineman) and the Willis award (best defensive lineman). Peppers finished his college career with 30.5 sacks in 32 starts.
It didn’t take Peppers long to make an impact in the league. He had 12 sacks as a rookie in just 12 games played. Peppers played in Carolina for 8 seasons and finished with 81 sacks and 5 Pro Bowl selections. In 2010 the Panthers offered Peppers a 4-yr, $54M extension, but he choose the Bears offer of 6-yr, $91.5 instead. The Bears offered a couple more years and about 2 mil more per season which was enough to bring Peppers to Chicago. The Bears defense had fallen to 21st in the league in points allowed during the 2009 season and the Bears were looking for a spark. They replaced DC Bob Babich with Rod Marinelli and long-time DE Alex Brown with Julius Peppers. The Bears defense was much better after the addition of Peppers, going from 21st in points allowed to 4th in 2010. Peppers was only decent statistically with 8 sacks, 54 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions though he did make the Pro Bowl for his all-around impact.
The next two seasons Peppers got back to the double-digit sack totals the Bears expected when they signed him. Peppers had 11 sacks in 2011, 11.5 sacks in 2012, didn’t miss a game in either season and made the Pro Bowl both years. His impact on the defense went deeper than just sacks. Peppers gave the Bears defense someone who had to be game planned for and the double-teams Peppers constantly faced freed up other D-linemen to make plays. In Peppers first three seasons with the Bears, the defense finished 4th, 14th, and 3rd in points allowed.
In Peppers 4th season with the Bears his play slipped drastically; He still had a respectable 7.5 sacks, but would disappear for long stretches of games and didn’t seem to have the same burst off the edge he showed in his first few years with the Bears. The whole defense was terrible and finished 30th in the league in points allowed. The Bears would have owed Peppers $18M in 2014, so they decided to cut him loose after a mediocre 2013 season. Unfortunately Peppers signed with the rival Packers, but he gave the Bears three Pro Bowl seasons totaling 175 tackles, 10 forced fumbles, and 38 sacks.
What do you think of the ranking? Too high? Too low? I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself. We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.