Spotlight Shine: Ranking the DEs

DE Julius Peppers (Getty: Steve Dykes)

Each week during the offseason, Tyson Qualls plans to analyze one position for the Chicago Bears to see how they measure up with the other 31 teams in the NFL. Where do Julius Peppers and the DEs rank?

Summary
The Bears made a huge splash during the offseason, signing one of the top defensive ends in the NFL. Julius Peppers adds a new and exciting dimension to the pass rush and should draw frequent double teams. The tendency for the opposing offense to focus on Peppers will unquestionably provide numerous opportunities on the other side for both Israel Idonije and Mark Anderson. Soldier Field's finest are geared up with one of the NFC's most feared pass rushers and will create intense pressure for enemy offensive linemen on a weekly basis.

Strengths
Peppers is the prototypical defensive end and uses his physical talent to dominate his opponents. His size, speed and agility are unmatched in the NFL. The rumored starter for next season, Idonije, has Peppers' size and should benefit from finally being able to focus on one position. If the Bears decide to start Peppers and Idonije, they will boast two ends 6-6 or taller with a combined weight approaching 600 pounds. The runt of the bunch, Anderson, is not exactly undersized at 6-4 and 255.

Weaknesses
Not many, if any, of the weaknesses will come from Peppers. During his eight-year career, he has posted only two seasons with less than 10 sacks. The Bears' biggest concern should be how he reacts after hitting a huge payday. Following a stellar rookie season, Anderson has yet to show the same ability to get to the quarterback. The runner-up Defensive Rookie of the Year, he recorded 12 sacks in 2006 but has just 9.5 total over the last three season. After forcing four fumbles in Year 1, Anderson hasn't created a turnover since 2007. His lack of consistency and progression is part of the reason why Idonije is leading the race for the other starting spot.


DE Israel Idonije
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Potential
Peppers is locked up for the long term and could potentially retire as a Bear. He should have at least two or three Pro Bowl-caliber seasons left in the tank. As long as he is capable of producing the expected numbers, the Bears' defensive ends will be near the top in the NFL. Idonije is now 30, but he should be able to bridge the gap between finding another end in the draft or Anderson rediscovering his talent.

Final Word
The Bears should move into the top five at the defensive end position in 2010. This past season, the Bears' starting defensive ends – Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye – finished with 12.5 total sacks. Peppers can out-produce that number single-handedly. With the expected return of Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker, the defensive attitude will get a much-needed revamping.

Rank: 2nd

The Bears' rank second at the defensive end position. The duo of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney from the Indianapolis Colts ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL. Directly behind the Bears are the Minnesota Vikings. As for the rest of the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers currently rank 23rd and the Detroit Lions come in at 30th.


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Questions or Comments? Contact Tyson Qualls via Twitter @tysonqsports or send emails to tysonqsports@gmail.com.

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