Julius Peppers rests on the bench during a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on Nov. 14. The Bears defeated the Vikings 27-13.
The acquisition of Julius Peppers was a surprise to many Bears fans. It's not that they were unhappy -- who wouldn't want a five-time Pro Bowler on the team? -- but it wasn't the Bears' most glaring need. After all, the defense was not bad. It was the offense who struggled mightily in 2009, so what impact could he make?
As it turns out, an enormous, meteor-sized impact.
What he does well: Peppers is an athletic freak of nature. As he runs around the field, it can be easy to forget that he is 6-foot-7, 285 lbs. He and Jared Allen are the only two defensive ends in the league with two interceptions, and he leads all defensive ends in pass deflections with nine. Add to that his eight sacks, and he is statistically the Bears' best defender.
But Peppers' impact goes beyond his numbers. He makes the players around him better. He is such a match-up problem that the opposing offenses have to assign two players to keep him away from their quarterback. That allows the rest of the Bears' defenders to flourish. Israel Idonije improved from 2.5 sacks in 2009 to 8 in 2010, tying Peppers for the team lead. Urlacher didn't have any sacks in 2008, his last full season. This year? He had four.
What he needs to improve on: The knock on Peppers' play has long been that from game to game, he is inconsistent. That didn't change on his arrival in Chicago, as Peppers had rough games against the Seahawks, Cowboys and Jets. The biggest problem with his tendency to run hot and cold is that he was cold for the playoffs. He had four tackles in the post-season. That's it. The Bears will only have success in the post-season with Peppers at his best.
But that doesn't take away what he did overall. The biggest indicator? In 2009, the Bears' defense ranked 21st in points allowed. In 2010? Fourth.