With all the focus on Panthers DE Julius Peppers and whether he is earning his $M a game salary I decided to do an in-depth look at his impact in the first half of last weeks loss to the Falcons. There were 29 defensive plays in the first half for the Panthers. I've detailed each below with Peppers impact and then provided a Homer vs. Hater type of analysis at the end. I'm not saying I'm going to do this type of drill deep analysis every week but certainly its worth looking at periodically throughout the season.
We already know that Pep only registered two tackles in this game and had no other recordable stat so don't expect much from this analysis that will make you feel better about him.
Play #1 - Lining up on the left side - Quick throw to the other side away from Pep
2 - Left - Takes inside move, LB's close up behind him with the RB essentially dodging around him
3 - Left - Contains RB stretch and forces him inside but FB effectively blocks Pep from making a play
4 - Left - FB completely knocks him off his feet on a pass to Gonzo on 1st down
5 - Left - Quick pass as Pep was handled by the RT with no help.
6 - Left - Takes an inside move and rides the RT across the field on a Turner run to the left. Though he gets an arm on Turner he is unable to bring him down as Turner gets
7- Left - Turner runs left side away from Pep
8 - Left - Pep bites on play action for one step, Ryan bootlegs out the right as Pep pursues but Ryan throws the ball before Pep gets close.
9 - Left - On a smoke play to Pep's side, he sees it and jumps to block the throw. He may have tipped it as WR Roddy White drops it
10 - Left - Turner runs to the other side
11 - Left - On the Marshall INT play, Pep takes an inside move and is double teamed and has no impact outside of maybe screening Ryan from seeing Marshall...that's a maybe.
12- Right side - On 3rd down, he is single blocked by Baker and has no effect on the pass play
13 - Right - Run to right side away from Pep
14 - Right - On a pass play, Pep tries an inside spin move but has no effect as Gonzales scores a TD
15 - Pep on sideline
16 - Left - Tries speed move to the outside but pass is delivered quick
17 -20 - Pep on sideline as Everette Brown and Tyler Brayton play DE
21 - Left - This is the play MP called ‘the patty cake' play. Pep takes an inside move as the RT and Pep take turns punching each other in the pads.
22 - Right - D-Lew gets his TFL too quick for Pep to do anything
23 - Right - Run to other side
24 - Left - Pep drops into coverage but the pass goes to the other side
Pep plays all remaining plays of the first half from the left side
25 - Pep takes an inside move and collapses the pocket with the result being a bad pass by Ryan
26 - Run to the other side away from Pep; Pep is blocked by the TE only
27 - On a pass play Pep tries the speed move to the outside edge and arrives a step late
28 - Pep takes an inside move on a run play to Turner; just misses getting Turner
29 - Takes an outside rip and just misses a hit on Ryan as he is again a step late
Play from left side = 19 or 66%; right side 5 plays or 17% and then 5 plays on the sideline 17%
- Number of plays where the play went away from him: 7 or 24 %
- Number of plays where Pep had no effect though he had at least a slight opportunity to do so: 15 or 52%
- Number of decent or good plays with positive results: 2 or 7%
- Number of plays on the sideline: 5 or 17%
Is it really reasonable to expect big plays from your best defender every game? Every player has off games and Pep is no exception. Besides, what's not considered by the Haters is the high number of times (24%) the play is designed to minimize Pepper's effect by going away from him. Also, teams have learned quick passes early in the game demoralizes the pass rush as Peppers and his team mates expect the pass to go out early.
Though it's apparent the Panthers are trying different things with him by moving him around they are also not being very creative with their pass rush, which is not Peppers fault. Peppers only gets a few plays a game to make an exceptional play and our expectations for it to occur every game is a standard we set only for Peppers.
Where to start? How about the fact the Falcons rarely if ever double-teamed him? In fact on several plays he was rendered meaningless by the FB alone. He also had zero effect going one-on-one with average at best tackles Todd McClure and Sam Baker. Pep and the lovers out there can't complain about the double teams because they no longer exist. I never even saw a RB bother to chip him.
I also take issue with the fact he seems limited in his arsenal of moves and only on a few plays appeared to be trying any power moves to the QB. Too often he appears content playing a containment role rather than a pressure role.
So am I being fair in this assessment Panther fans?