Should Bears fans be worried about Julius Peppers?

Should Bears fans be worried about Julius Peppers?
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

For the second week in a row, Julius Peppers was virtually nonexistent on the field on Sunday afternoon. But, his one tackle against the Vikings was an improvement over the goose egg he put on the state sheet after the Bears’ Week-1 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

During the week leading up to the match-up against Minnesota it was revealed that Peppers was suffering from the flu, but despite missing practice on Thursday, we were told he would be ready to play.

Peppers ended up playing 47 snaps on defense against the Vikings and once again appeared to be invisible going up against left tackle Matt Kalil, who said this of his performance versus J.P.: “I think I had a really good game against him. He’s still a tough player to play against. I think he’ll be alright only two games into the season.”

During his press conference Monday afternoon, Marc Trestman said of Peppers, “He was not healthy [Sunday]. He was probably sicker than he was the two previous days. He wouldn’t say it. But in his defense, I don’t know that he had the energy to play as hard as he could possibly play.”

Lance Briggs was also asked about Peppers’ performance, or lack thereof, and said, “One thing I’m not worried about is Julius Peppers.”

Briggs may not be, but should Bears fans be worried?

Peppers’ ineffectiveness in Week-1 against a backup left tackle (Anthony Collins) could have been due to the fact that he took just 14 snaps all of the preseason and was still not quite in football shape, but in the end he finished with no quarterback sacks, hurries or even a tackle against a backup.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker credited the Bengals scheme earlier last week saying, “They did a good job [on Peppers], they had a good plan coming in. They have a good coaching staff and some really good players. This was a good football team. We all want to play better this week. He’s always pretty focused, and I have complete confidence he’s going to come out and give us his best effort.”

The Bengals’ gameplan did its best to keep quarterback Andy Dalton upright by getting the ball out of his hands quickly, which helped slow Peppers down, but Dalton did have ample time to throw on multiple occasions.

This past Sunday, Peppers faced a more difficult task going up against Kalil who finished with a +2.0 rating according to Pro Football Focus, a vast improvement from his -3.0 rating from a week prior against the Detroit Lions. On a few occasions, mostly in their nickel package, Peppers was moved inside to defensive tackle, but he was again shut down by the Vikings’ left guard Charlie Johnson and center John Sullivan.

I am willing to give Peppers a pass if he truly was feeling the effects of the flu. Combine his illness with the fact that they were playing on a slick, wet field, and it is tough for any defensive lineman to have a productive day.

Peppers has not gone the first three games of a season without at least one sack since 2007, and he has only gone that deep into the year without a sack twice in his previous 11 seasons. While it certainly has been frustrating to watch him these past two weeks, his overall body of work suggests that he will be able to return to form.

Hopefully that return to form comes Sunday night against a struggling Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line. For the time being, I am with Lance Briggs on this one.

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