By Adam Hoge-
A panel of 14 Score hosts, reporters and producers ranked their top 10 players in terms of how important they will be in determining the success or failure of the 2013 Chicago Bears. We compiled the rankings into one master list and will unveil one of the 10 most important Bears each weekday as we countdown to training camp.
(CBS) There might not be a Pro Bowler in the league as underappreciated as Julius Peppers.
Despite accumulating 11.5 sacks last year, there were still strange cries from fans (and even a member of this voting panel) about Peppers not being effective enough. Eleven and half sacks, by the way, were the most he has posted in his three years in Chicago and he played all 16 games while battling plantar fasciitis and constant double teams.
The Bears' defense relies on heavy pressure from the defensive line and Peppers' presence on that line is crucial. If you look closely at the tape, Peppers plays a role on almost every single impact play (sacks, tackles for loss, pass deflections, fumbles forced, e.t.c.), even if it is just simply drawing an extra blocker for someone else on the line to make the big play.
Part of the unwarranted criticism of Peppers comes as a result of his personality. He's a quiet guy who never seeks out microphones. In fact, he largely avoids them, which is why he has never really emerged as a face of the franchise over the last three seasons. That may change slightly this year with Brian Urlacher gone, but it doesn't necessarily have to. The perception of Peppers doesn't really matter as long as he continues to produce the way he has the last three years in Chicago.
Peppers is now 33 years old and in his 12th NFL season so wear and tear certainly is a concern. It will be interesting to see if the Bears limit him at all in training camp and practices as they did last year when he had the plantar fasciitis.
There's a decent chance the defense takes a step back in 2013, but for it to have any chance to continue to its dominance, the Bears need Peppers on the field.
The 10 Most Important Bears Panel: Dan Hampton, Hub Arkush, Zach Zaidman, Laurence Holmes, Matt Spiegel, Adam Hoge, Matt Abbatacola, Ben Finfer, Nick Shepkowski, Herb Lawrence, Joe Ostrowski, Chris Tannehill, Adam Harris and Dan Durkin.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.
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