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Julius Peppers is the best newcomer for the Carolina Panthers in 2017

The Panthers brought back an old friend to shore up the defensive line for 2017, and the move has paid off.

When the Panthers signed defensive end Julius Peppers to a one-year contract back in March, most people thought it was strictly a move to shore up depth on the defensive line. The Panthers had already re-signed Mario Addison to a three-year contract and both Charles Johnson and Wes Horton were given two-year deals to stay in Carolina, so all we needed was a fourth guy to add to the rotation. Peppers made perfect sense for that role - he’s 37 years old and is getting closer to the ‘ride out into the sunset’ phase of his NFL career - so it was a no-brainer for the Panthers to bring him on board for one last hurrah.

We didn’t expect him to do much, but we at least knew he could come into the game for a few snaps to take pressure off of Addison and Johnson. That’s all we should really expect from a 37-year old defensive end, right?

We were so wrong, y’all.

Julius Peppers is currently on pace for 18 sacks. Yes, 18. If he kept up that pace, it would be the most sacks in a single season since 2014 (Justin Houston had 22 and J.J. Watt had 20.5). Now, it’s unlikely Peppers will keep this pace up for the entire season, but still - he’s currently on pace for more sacks than anyone has had in one year since 2014. And he’s 37. Let me repeat that - he’s 37 years old. When Houston and Watt both had their amazing 2014 seasons, they were 25. Let that sink in.

Just to paint a picture of how mind-blowing this is, I’ll share a personal story.

I’m 37 years old. Yesterday, I was taking a walk with my wife and kids through our neighborhood, and my nine-year old daughter challenged me to a race. For some reason that I still haven’t figured out, I agreed. I made it about 30 feet before I stopped and nearly collapsed on the street.

Now, I’m no athlete by any stretch, and I’m sure if I ate properly and worked out every day I’d probably be able to make it at least 50 yards before feeling like death could come for me at his earliest convenience, but still - I’m 37 years old and I can’t beat a nine-year old in a foot race. The fact that Julius Peppers is 37 years old and can wreck NFL quarterbacks like he could ten years ago is nothing short of sorcery.

When the Panthers brought Peppers back they were hopeful he would be able to fill a ‘veteran depth’ role on the defensive line while the young guys got the chance to have break out seasons. Instead, it is Peppers who is having another break out season and is reminding the Panthers that this new guy in town might just be the same guy they drafted in 2002. I’d say the Panthers made a good decision to bring him back, wouldn’t you?

*- Season sack totals courtesy of Pro Football Reference


How many sacks will Julius Peppers get in 2017?

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