An NFL scout who recently studied tape of Julius Peppers surmised that the Packers signed him in hopes that Peppers at age 34 still can summon some difference-making pass-rush skill in their biggest games.
He said Peppers, 6-6 and 283, always has had a motor that runs hot and cold, and that hasn’t changed as he’s grown older. Peppers had only 7 sacks last season for Chicago after getting 22 ½ in the previous two years combined.
“He’s a little bit of a freak of nature, a big athletic guy,” the scout said. “But everybody gets old, that’s part of the deal. You’re talking about a 34-year old guy, who’s been a freak athlete but he’s also been banged around a lot in a violent game. He still can flash but he’s inconsistent, hot and cold.
“It sounds funny to talk about potential with an aging veteran like that, but that 's what it is. A lot of it depends on the D-line coach and coordinator. You still have to coach him hard, keep him motivated. There will be games, like playing against his old team or a big division game, where he’ll light it up and play at a different speed. There will be other games where you won’t see that.”
The scout said Peppers’ run defense is OK but that the Packers signed him to rush the passer.
“He’s better at (defending the run) when it goes away from him because he can still chase it down,” the scout said. “He has some natural strength at the point of attack, but that’s’ not who you’re buying. You’re buying a guy who can pass rush.”
The move surprised the scout because Packers general manager Ted Thompson usually doesn’t offer relatively big contracts to free agents from other teams and also disdains signing aging players. However, Thompson has seen Peppers regularly the past four years as a member of the Packers’ NFC North Division rival Chicago Bears.
The scout also said that from his research, Peppers appears to be a good teammate and locker-room influence.
“Sounds like (Peppers) is a guy (Thompson) has admired over the years and appreciated for his athleticism,” the scout said. “He must have felt if (Peppers) has anything left he’d like to see it, and he thinks it’s going to be good for the locker room. When they bring in young players and draft picks, this a guy who will be a good influence, and they’re going to listen to.”