Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Daniels was the most impressive player on an otherwise poor Packers defense last season, but it’s a defense that figures to be significantly better next season. Clay Matthews will return to health, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a massive upgrade at safety, and the Packers added another pass rusher in Julius Peppers after re-signing Mike Neal amid reports linking him to teams like the Arizona Cardinals.
Peppers is a huge wildcard for the Packers next season, because there’s no doubt that he was once an elite talent, but he hasn’t shown much over the past couple of seasons for the rival Chicago Bears. The Bears unsurprisingly dumped him off before making huge upgrades to the defensive line (Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen, and Willie Young), and the Packers signed him to a three-year deal worth $26 million that barely contains guaranteed cash. It’s a significant deal for a 34-year-old, but it isn’t a true gamble given the steep escalating nature of the contract after the first season.
The Packers look poised to line him up in different spots and use him as an “elephant” to get the most out of the veteran, but the biggest concern with Peppers- aside from how much he has in the tank due to age- is how motivated he is after dealing with a large number of work ethic questions in Chicago. According to Daniels, that doesn’t appear to be a problem right now.
Daniels told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tyler Dunne, “Julius is 34 years old, and he outruns everybody in practice. I guess what I learned from him is that you have to bring it every day because he’s a guy who definitely does. At 34, playing defensive end, flying around faster than some defensive backs, linebackers, receivers, running backs — everybody. I definitely learn from that.”
We’ll see if Peppers hustle at practice translates into consistent pressure and high motor on Sundays, but it’s a good sign in the early going during a time of year when there isn’t much to go off of. Here’s to hoping that Peppers can give us an encore of the displays that once made him one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL, and he was also one of the best run defenders at the 4-3 DE position at one point. Questions over scheme fit also remain, but shifting him around could be beneficial and perhaps lead to a set role that will lead to a bit of a renaissance for the vet.