How do you gauge one Bears importance over another? How the hell do I know? But I'm giving it a shot. In what has become my favorite series of posts I do here on Windy City Gridiron, due mainly to the good conversations we get going, I'm up to number #3.
What's more important to the Tampa 2 style of defense the Bears employ, a rush end or the 3 technique tackle? A game changing DT can make things so much easier for his fellow D-Linemen, but so can a dominant defensive end. There are a lot of expectations (and dollars) attached to #3 on my list, defensive end, Julius Peppers. The Bears are counting on Peppers to bring a swagger to their defense, and to get the unit back to a point of giving offenses fits.
I don't like to bring up money when talking about a player, they are entitled to get every penny they can get, but with what the Bears are paying Peppers he needs to have a big time season. I set the over/under on sacks for him at 10.5, but I think, at the very least, he has to rack up double digits. I think anything less will be labeled a disappointment by the fans and the potentially brutal media. The only way him getting less than 10 sacks and not getting drug through it by the media is if his line-mates benefit from his presence and have career type years. Which could be a great byproduct of his signing.
Number 4 on my list, Tommie Harris, has a great chance to have a bounce-back year. By all indications, he's healthy (finally) and he'll benefit from some one on one blocking. The defensive end duo of Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije have a chance to make plays opposite Peppers, simply because most offensives will either use a slide protection or send help to the Bears left side. If tight ends and/or backs are concerned with the left side of the Bears defense (Peppers and Harris), then once Anderson or Idonije beat their man (or Chicago's right DT for that matter), they'll have a clear path to the QB.
Now back to Harris for a minute. If he's playing like he ended last year, he may draw some double teams leaving Peppers one on one. And there are
very few, check that, there are no right tackles in the NFL that can block Julius Peppers one on one.
The Peppers effect could help out more than just his fellow line-mates. Having a defensive end that can get into the head of opposing quarterbacks will be a plus for the Bears secondary. Us Bears fans know how ineffective a QB can be at times when he's rushing his reads and throwing before he's set. An improved pass rush will allow defensive backs to play a little tighter, and keep them from having to cover for soooo loooong. If offenses are worried about helping on Peppers, that will leave one less blocker to get out on their linebackers. Bottom line is, if Julius Peppers has a "Julius Peppers" type year, everyone of the Bears defense will benefit.
The list so far:
#10 - Robbie Gould - Kicker
#9 - Matt Forte - Running back
#8 - Olin Kreutz - Center
#7 - Mike Martz - Offensive Coordinator
#6 - Chris Harris - Safety
#5 - Chris Williams - Left Tackle
#4 - Tommie Harris - Defensive Tackle
#3 - Julius Peppers - Defensive End