Bears

Most Important Bears: No. 2 Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Julius Peppers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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(CBS) As we count down to Bourbonnais, a panel of 15 670 The Score hosts, reporters and producers ranked their top 10 most important Bears players for the 2012 season. We compiled the rankings into one master list and will release the 10 Most Important Bears over the next 10 weekdays.

Next up:

No. 2 Julius Peppers

We documented how important the defensive line will be this season with Henry Melton at No. 9 on this list and Shea McClellin at No. 10. But those two players are important because they need to give Julius Peppers some help. If Peppers isn’t healthy and on the field, the Bears’ Cover-2 could be a mess.

Peppers has sometimes been bashed for being a little inconsistent, but for the most part, he’s been the most dominant defensive player on the Bears the last two seasons. With the additions on offense, the defense needs to have one last big season and it really starts with the push from the defensive line. There aren’t a whole lot of reliable veteran options besides Peppers, and the Bears need him to be drawing double teams and blowing up single teams when opponents get lazy.

Look, the Bears have made acquisitions to provide competition in the secondary and on the rest of the defensive line, but those two areas are still the weaknesses of the defense. The key to make the whole thing work is having Peppers healthy, on the field, and productive in 2012.

The Rest Of The List:
No. 3 J’Marcus Webb/Chris Williams
No. 4 Brian Urlacher
No. 5 Brandon Marshall
No. 6 Matt Forte
No. 7 Lance Briggs
No. 8 Gabe Carimi
No. 9 Henry Melton
No. 10 Shea McClellin

The 10 Most Important Bears were decided by 15 Score contributors who ranked their most important players from  1-10. The rankings were then compiled into a master list by assigning point values to the votes (a No. 1 vote is worth 10 points and a No. 10 vote is worth 1 point).

The panel: Mike Mulligan, Zach Zaidman, Laurence Holmes, Matt Spiegel, Adam Hoge, Jason Goff, Matt Abbatacola, Ben Finfer, Jay Zawaski, Nick Shepkowski, David Schuster, Herb Lawrence, Craig Miller, Dennis Gambino and Brendan McCaffrey.