The 33-year-old Peppers really impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason with his endless energy. He was making plays on running back Matt Forte along the sideline and showed an enthusiasm and commitment that teams want out of their star players. It is certainly possible this could be his final season with the Bears. Peppers restructured his contract to free up $2 million in cap room for this season and that in turn bumped up his number for 2014 and 2015. Next year, he is now on the books to count $18,183,333 vs. the team’s cap. That number climbs to $20,683,335 in 2015. Before you discount the idea of the Bears keeping him next season at that high cap figure, figure out who the dominant pass rusher on the defensive line is going to be. It might be more difficult to replace Peppers than you think and the Bears better have a sure replacement plan hatched before cutting ties because without him the defense would look a lot more ordinary. Even if Peppers isn’t on the roster next season, he will take up a total of $8,366,668 in cap room combined over the next two seasons.
How will the two rookie offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills be attacked, specifically on passing downs? -- @jstuartdna from Twitter
That is a good question but the more I mull it over I think Cincinnati will be pretty straight forward. The Bengals were third in the NFL with 51 sacks last season and that was because they’ve got terrific personnel on the defensive line. Left end Carlos Dunlap and tackle Geno Atkins are going to create real issues for Mills and Long, who should get ample help from center Roberto Garza, tight ends and backs. But the Bears cannot ignore the right side of the line and Michael Johnson. To me, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will tell his players they’re talented enough to handle some rookies in their first NFL start. That will allow the Bengals to cover with seven. There could be some twist stunts and they will probably show some pressure in an effort to confuse the line count but you have to figure the Bengals are going to tell their high-priced linemen to go to work.
Was Phil Emery just blowing smoke when talking about his grading scale results on J’Marcus Webb? -- @Beasthart from Twitter
No. To refresh, Emery said earlier this week: “Really, for J’Marcus, he had played, I will say that 14 out of the 16 games last year he was sufficient or better. He had a lot of good games in that we grade sufficient, good, very good. Fourteen out of those 16, they were at least at the sufficient level, which you can win with that player and his performance on that particular day. Two of them were below that line. The obvious games were the first Green Bay game and the San Francisco game.”
The previous coaching staff wasn’t angling to be fired. Lovie Smith and Mike Tice were not running Webb out there week after week because they thought he was a bad football player. They knew he needed to become more consistent and Webb showed enough for the Bears to give him the first chance to pin down the right tackle job this season. If they didn’t think he could grow into the position, Emery would have launched him way back in February or March. There wasn’t any financial tie to Webb that kept him around. You check the numbers from Pro Football Focus and there are some positive games and bad games. Per their grades, five of the seven sacks Webb allowed came in the two games Emery referenced. Two sacks in 14 other games is not bad. That’s pretty good, in fact. The Bears use their own grading systems and Webb warranted a look this year. He just didn’t improve.
Why not use Devin Hester on special teams coverage units? It certainly would boost his roster spot value. He is obviously athletic enough, has experience tackling and getting off blocks from his days as a defensive back and would likely enjoy the opportunity to be on the field for more than just on returns. I understand the risk of injury, however, the Bears have several more than serviceable returners to put in his place in the event he is injured. Having Hester on coverage units might have allowed the Bears to keep one of the bottom of the roster projects that may have had to have been cut because of his lack of ability to contribute of special teams. -- Jason, Moline, Ill.
I would not rule Hester out as an option on coverage units but don’t expect it either. He could be involved on field goal blocking. Hester’s strength isn’t covering kicks. That’s just not his game. That’s kind of like saying Deion Sanders would have excelled on coverage units. Not really. Hester not performing on coverage units did not cost some emerging prospect a shot on the 53-man roster either. A lot of people have tried to make him something he isn’t. Let’s see how he does as a pure return man.