After two games there has been a lot of talk and a lot of questions about the play of Green Bay’s big free-agent acquisition Julius Peppers. Through two games, the ultra-talented Peppers has just eight tackles and no sacks and at times has looked a little bit lost. That is because the Packers have tried to play him at outside linebacker, when it’s clear he needs to stick to what he does best; playing defensive end and rushing the quarterback.
To their credit, Peppers played more snaps as a 4-3 defensive end than a 3-4 outside linebacker against the Jets last Sunday and even though he didn’t register a sack, Peppers applied pressure on quarterback Geno Smith and finished the game with 3.5 pressures, more than any other Packer. Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that his run defense has been horrible, particularly when he stands up as an outside linebacker.
Yes, he is adjusting to playing on his feet for the first time in his career but unless things change quickly, he should see snaps only as a defensive end or as an outside linebacker in pass rush situations. At 34 years old, Peppers is still elite when it comes to pressuring the quarterback and that is the reason why Green Bay signed him. Stopping the run was never something he was good at and it seems foolish to try and teach and old dog new tricks.
There was a clear difference against the run when third-year man Nick Perry was in the game at outside linebacker compared to Peppers. At times, the Pro Bowler seemed disinterested and did a poor job of setting the edge. Say what you will about Perry, when it comes to setting the edge, no one on the roster does it better. Against the run, he is akin to a brick wall. There is no movement.
I can see why the Packers want Peppers to do both and even if they try to use him in pass rush situations he will still get run at. Yet, Green Bay can protect him and use him more exclusively as a down lineman, where is more comfortable and more likely to make game-altering plays. After two games, it’s clear that Peppers can still get after the quarterback, so the Packers should let him focus solely on that, while letting others like Perry handle the grunt work of stopping the run.