For the first time in a long time, Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is able to enjoy an occasional break on the sidelines while his teammates take some snaps.
“I feel fresher coming out of the game more than I have in the past here,” Peppers said. “We have guys developing, so I feel more comfortable coming out of the game.”
Today, a comfortable Peppers could make for a very uncomfortable Sam Bradford.
The Bears (1-1) will have an opportunity to pester another pocket passer when they host Bradford and the Rams (1-1) this afternoon at Soldier Field. After an ugly loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 2, the Bears are in a four-way tie in the NFC North.
To regain a winning record, the Bears will count on their defensive linemen to create pressure against Bradford. The Bears’ pass rush has been a bright spot with eight sacks in two games, including five against Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Like Rodgers, Bradford prefers to stand in the pocket instead of scramble for yards. The Rams’ No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft has thrown for four touchdowns
and an interception in his first two games this season, and his 112.4 passer rating trails only Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons and Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers.
Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Bradford continued to improve.
“This guy is a heck of a quarterback,” Marinelli said. “Great release. The ball comes out nice. He doesn’t want to run a lot, but he’s really smooth in the pocket.”
So far, the Bears have fared well against players with that skill set.
Neither Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (two carries for 9 yards) nor Rodgers (three carries for minus-6 yards) tested the Bears with their feet in Weeks 1 and 2. Both quarterbacks combined for three touchdowns and four interceptions against the Bears’ defense, which has averaged one sack per quarter this season.
At that rate, the Bears will register 64 sacks to tie for third place in franchise history. The overall team record is 72 sacks, which equals an average of 4.5 per game.
If all goes well, a few more sacks could be in store for the Bears today.
Bears defensive end Corey Wootton said he preferred rushing pocket passers such as Bradford instead of mobile quarterbacks such as Michael Vick.
“You definitely have to be more aware of your rush lanes when you’re going against a guy who can scramble, as opposed to a drop-back guy,” Wootton said. “Bradford can run, but he’s more of a pocket guy. Those are the guys you like to rush. Guys like Vick and them create some problems sometimes.”
The Bears likely will not be tested by a dual-threat quarterback until Week 8 against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Week 4 opponent Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys extends plays with his feet but is not a dangerous straight-ahead runner.
Yet next up is Bradford, who never has faced the Bears in his three-year career.
Peppers will be looking to add to his career sack total of 102. During his intermittent breaks on the sidelines, he’ll gladly share some pointers with younger teammates.
“I don’t think its anything new,” Peppers said. “I’ve always been willing to share any knowledge I have because, at some point, I’m not going to be around, and it’ll be up to those guys to perform. So whatever I can give while I’m here and teach them and allow them to learn from me, I’m happy to do it.”