Bears

Hoge’s Tweetbag: Addressing Julius Peppers’ Future

Julius Peppers. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Julius Peppers. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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By Adam Hoge-

(CBS) I’m usually the guy defending Julius Peppers when he has a quiet game on the stat sheet because he’s usually double-teamed and creates opportunities for his teammates by creating a push anyway.

Sunday was different though.

Even after re-watching the Bears’ 24-21 win over the Bengals, I didn’t see much from Peppers. He didn’t cost the Bears by any means, but he was partly to blame by the poor overall performance by the defensive line.

So, naturally, that has led to rushed — but still somewhat legitimate — questions about Peppers’ future in Chicago, which we’ll kick this week’s Bears Tweetbag off with:

After restructuring Peppers’ contract last week to create more cap space this season, he’ll now count over $18 million against the cap in 2014 and over $20 million against the cap in 2015. In the brutal NFL business, that immediately makes him vulnerable to be let go if he doesn’t maintain his high level of play. Now, Sunday was just one game and Peppers missed most of the preseason with a hamstring issue, so it’s possible he’s still trying to get back into game shape. He very well might have another Pro Bowl year, in which case the Bears might be fine with the cap hit next year. Keep in mind they have a lot of money coming off the books so they have some flexibility, although they also need to pay or franchise tag Jay Cutler and figure out what they’re doing with Henry Melton, who is playing under the tag this year.

Basically, it’s to early to be talking about the Bears cutting ties with Peppers, but his production is certainly worth watching. At the end of the year, the question is: Is the production worth an $18 million cap hit?

I think Emery deserves a lot of credit for closing that gap in certain areas very quickly. The most noticeable ones to me are at wide receiver and tight end, where he has added Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, while the Packers have lost Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. I alluded to this last week, but I’d give the edge to Jay Cutler’s targets over Aaron Rodgers’ targets right now.

Of course, there’s no question who the better quarterback is, but Emery is a smart guy and knows he’s not going to find the next Aaron Rodgers overnight. He’s working on other areas of the roster and placing an emphasis on the franchise bringing it’s own talent along through the draft, which is what the Packers have done so well under Ted Thompson.

I would imagine that’s part of it. The Bears indicated last week that they would be changing their practice squad from week-to-week and that there was a good chance Johnson would come back. Expect more of these moves every week. Johnson could be a valuable guy to have in preparation against Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick later in the season.

I think there’s always concern whenever you face a guy like Adrian Peterson, but the Bears’ defensive line was actually pretty good against the run against the Bengals. I’d be more concerned about the middle linebacker spot. D.J. Williams struggled to get off some blocks Sunday and can’t afford to have any hesitation against Peterson.

When you are facing a guy like Peterson, you need a complete team effort and strong, sound tackling to keep him contained. I know where you are going with the idea of using Bostic’s speed against him, but Williams has pretty good quickness too and it seems pretty evident that they trust him more than the rookie right now. Bostic didn’t receive any defensive reps against the Bengals and I wouldn’t expect that to change against the Vikings.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.