In July of 2009 Southtunnel put up an excellent fanpost examining Julius Peppers and his comparison to other top DEs in the NFL. You can find that original fanpost here.
While I agreed with ST at the time that Peppers was a superior talent there were some trending statistics to his performance which I found worrisome, namely his performance against bad teams vs. his performance against good teams.
For this analysis I compared Peppers with players who at the time were considered the best collection of DEs in the NFL. This list was: Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Mario Williams, Justin Tuck and John Abraham. These defensive ends represented the highest sack totals in the NFL for the preceeding 3 years in total.
Boiling the argument down it was my theory that Julius' raw sack numbers were extremely skewed in his favor by having moster games against sub .500 teams, while often being absent in games against good competition, represented in this analysis by any team who went over .500.
I'm going to revist this theory now showing the numbers from then, to now as well as comparing Peppers to the top performers in sacks in 2009 to help us understand where he should truly fit among the top DEs in the NFL.
When the last analysis was done the following was found out about Julius Peppers:
In the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons 83.3% of Julius Peppers' total sacks came against teams who finished their corresponding season under .500
Here are the equal statistics for the other examined DEs:
- Jared Allen: 65%
- Dwight Freeney: 64.1%
- Mario Williams: 40.9%
- Justin Tuck: 57.7%
- John Abraham: 49.1%
From this comparative analysis it appears that Peppers indeed has a situation where the vast majority of his sacks come against poorer teams, compared with other top defensive ends. Please understand that this is solely an analysis of sack totals, not QB pressures, blocked kicks, distrupted passes etc. We all know how many extra things Peppers brings to the field, but this is more an attempt to see why Peppers is often charged with being inconsistent and finding a trend through looking at the primary indicator for DE success, sack totals.
Let us now examine the top five DEs in the NFL for sacks in 2009 and see how this trends. I am looking only at defensive ends, not 3-4 OLBs for obvious reasons. For the sake of clarity an 8-8 team will be considered 'sub .500 for this analysis'.
Jared Allen: 14.5 sacks (9.5 vs. over .500 teams - 4 vs. sub .500 teams) 27.5% of sacks vs. sub .500 teams in 2009
Dwight Freeney: 13.5 sacks (4.5 vs. over .500 teams - 9 vs. sub .500 teams) 66.6% of sacks vs. sub .500 teams in 2009
Will Smith: 13 sacks (7 vs. over .500 teams - 6 vs. sub .500 teams) 46.1% of sacks vs. sub .500 teams in 2009
Trent Cole: 12.5 sacks (2 vs. over .500 teams - 10.5 vs. sub .500 teams) 84% of sacks vs. sub .500 teams in 2009
Andre Carter: 11 sacks (4.5 vs. over .500 teams - 6.5 vs. sub .500 teams) 59% of sacks vs. sub .500 teams
The 2009 numbers show us a similar trend to the previous three seasons with those corresponding DEs. With the exception of Trent Cole the top DEs in the league do not have a skewed sack total where over 70% of their sacks come against the bottom half of the league. For years 06, 07 and 08 Peppers average 83.3% of his sacks against these worse teams. So, how did 2009 compare to his previous seasons?
Julius Peppers: 10.5 sacks (4.5 vs. over .500 teams - 6 vs. sub .500 teams) 57.1% of sacks vs. sub .500 teams
What does this tell us? Essentially this shows that there was a distinct shift in Peppers' quality of production in 2009 from the previous three seasons. Though his numbers are still slightly skewed towards the poorer teams, it's definitely not enough to assert that his stats for 2010 were 'padded' in the same way they were for 2006 and 2008.
Of course, there are numerous reasons for this seachange in Peppers. It could be Ron Meeks' system, it could be his desire to perform for a new contract- whatever this reason could possibly be, which I wont postulate on at this time. Provided Julius Peppers can maintain a high level of production and remain in the upper echelon of sack production (6th in 2009) then he definitely is worth a giant contract extension.