Julius Peppers played his college football at North Carolina before going number two in the 2002 draft. He played his first eight seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He then took his elite edge rush to Chicago, and later Green Bay. Peppers left Carolina because he believed he was better suited to a role as a 3-4 linebacker. His performance through the second half of his career tells us he was not wrong.
Peppers was one of the most terrifying athletes to ever pop up in the NFL draft. At 6’6″ and 283 lbs Peppers ran a 4.63s 40-yard dash at the 2002 combine. To put that in perspective, that was .01s quicker than last year’s first overall pick Myles Garrett. Peppers was also 2″ taller and 10lbs heavier in an era where the pre-combine training was not nearly as strenuous and specialized as it is now. Peppers is not the same player he once was. He was limited to 499 snaps in 2017. He is still a very good player, however, and if he were willing to come to Detroit for his swan song he would be incredibly valuable to the 2018 Lions.
How Julius Peppers Wins
Peppers still possesses athletic ability that is beyond what a human being of his size should have. The Carolina Panthers used that fact in 2017 to create nightmarish match ups for offensive linemen. He is not the same player he was in his younger years, but he is still a freak. Peppers is listed at 295 lbs by the Panthers, putting him in the same size category as many offensive tackles. He was used almost exclusively against the right side of opposing offensive lines, giving his an extreme advantage athletically. Offenses typically have their best pass protector and more athletic offensive tackle on the left side. Peppers has the ability to kick inside on passing downs, and thrives as the closed end on rushing downs.
Peppers is an expert at exploiting leverage and momentum. He is strong and fast enough to get most offensive linemen into bad positions. He is like the ancient monk that weaves and dodges the efforts of his opponent and sends them flying with their own strain and body weight. This is not to say he lacks power, Peppers can bull rush a tackle every bit as effectively as he speed rushes. Peppers tends to use about a three to one power to finesse ratio to lull his opponents to sleep before making them look foolish. The fact that he has both attributes in abundance is his greatest weapon. In the above video Peppers has set his man up to expect a bull rush, and breaks off at the last moment for the easy sack.
How Julius Peppers Loses
When an offensive tackle can match Peppers speed and agility Peppers is usually beaten. Linemen who do not can keep up with Peppers and also keep their balance tend to have an easy day. Those are few and far between, however. The Panthers tended to move Peppers inside on passing downs against those teams. He also has a tendency to overestimate his physical capabilities. While he’s as good once as he ever was, he is not as good as he once was. The effect is that Peppers will allow himself to get out of position occasionally and fall just short of making an incredible play. At his age,