The Bears became the big player in free agency today when they signed DE Julius Peppers to an reported 6-year deal that could be worth $40-million over the first three years, according to ESPN's John Clayton.
But, when the shock of Chicago and GM Jerry Angelo being able to open up their wallets for Peppers wears off, we have to look at this move from a football perspective — and discuss why it is such a big play for the Bears.
Head coach Lovie Smith wants to play his Tampa 2 scheme — the same scheme that seems to come under fire when we see attacking, pressure defenses in New York with Rex Ryan and in New Orleans with Gregg Williams and the Super Bowl champion Saints have success.
That is what the league is transitioning to, but that doesn’t mean that the Cover 2 scheme is out of date. Instead, it takes key players, like Peppers, to make this system run and to produce turnovers — the exact reason it is installed on the first day of training camp. It’s the same system that Peppers played in under Ron Meeks, who previously worked under Smith, down in Carolina.
With Peppers, Lovie now believes that he has that rush end that can produce pressure on his own. Sure, the Bears will still run their share of zone blitzes and man pressures, but when they need to get off of the field on third downs, Peppers will earn his big money. And Lovie will call “Green 2,” where the front four has a free run to the QB, and the back seven gets to their landmarks.
The principle behind it sounds simple: rush four and drop seven into coverage to specific landmarks — with everyone facing the quarterback. But, that front four needs to provide the pressure that forces the ball to come out — where defenders on this scheme can plant and drive on the football.
In "Green 2," the front-four in Lovie's defense has no gap rules. They will rush to get to the quarterback, while the safeties will extend their drop to close to 20-yards, along with the corners sinking hard to protect them on any deep 7-route. In this case, you need a defensive end that can win in a one-on-one siutation and force the ball to come out quickly. The back seven can react to throw, scramble to the ball and get off of the field.
And, that is why I am a fan of this move — because he helps the system work. Think of the 2010 Bears with a healthy Brian Urlacher at MLB and a healthy Tommie Harris at DT along with Peppers. Sounds good, right? Add another safety, and now we are looking at a defense that can make plays.
I will agree that Peppers is overpaid, but that is free agency in the NFL. Peppers was the top dog in a stale FA pool outside of Aaron Kampman. And, when you get to set the market — like Peppers just did — the rewards in terms of money come big.
And, the moves for the Bears could keep coming. Chicago signed TE Brandon Manumaleuna to a five-year deal this morning and RB Chester Taylor this afternoon. This weekend is the Bears’ version of the NFL draft.
But, it starts with Lovie’s defense. Jay Cutler, Mike Martz, the Greg Olsen rumors, etc. are fun to talk about. However, Smith needs the parts for his system to work. And, he got that in Peppers.
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