CHARLOTTE – You know that meme, “Find someone who looks at you the way (blank) looks at (blank)?”
Yeah, that applies to Julius Peppers and Aaron Rodgers.
The future Hall of Famers played against each other a bunch and then became teammates (and really good friends) in Green Bay from 2014-2016.
They squared off one more time in 2017 after Peppers came back to Carolina and Rodgers’ Packers visited late in the season. As you all know, Peppers retired following the 2018 season.
So, with the Panthers traveling to Green Bay this weekend, who better than Peppers to analyze the challenge of facing Rodgers?
“There’s no shortage of things he does well,” Peppers said. “We can talk all day about what he does.”
Here’s where it starts for Peppers when breaking down Rodgers’ greatness.
“Pocket awareness. He has this ability to manipulate the pocket and evade the pressure with just a slight movement. He loves to step up and escape to the right – dangerously effective when he does this,” Peppers said.
“But the intangibles he brings to the team go unnoticed sometimes. His intellectual approach to the game is sometimes overlooked. People look at all the highlight reel throws and the big play touchdowns. He does that well, but he plays the game pre-snap very well. That makes him an elite player.”
Allow Peppers to go into more detail on that subject.
“There are going to be a lot of checks, alerts, dummy calls, things of that sort,” Peppers said. “He tries to get a look at the defense and get the defense to show their hand. He’s also trying to do that to get you offsides. His voice inflection on his cadence and his hard count is an overlooked skill. Once or twice a game he’s going to get the defense to jump offsides and he’ll take a shot downfield.”
Speaking of taking shots, Peppers recalled two plays in particular when he was bearing down on Rodgers. You can listen to his breakdown in the video above.
The first was in 2008 when the Panthers were up in Green Bay. Rodgers was in his fourth season but it was his first as the full-time starter following Brett Favre’s departure.
“He was scrambling out to the righthand side and I came and put a pretty good hit on him right on the sideline – it was actually out of bounds,” Peppers said. “But it was a pretty good hit. He got up from that hit and pounded his chest a few times, pointed first down. I was like, ‘OK, this guy is really tough.’ I didn’t know much about him at the time, but I knew he would be a great player. That was toughness personified on that play.”
Then there was the 2017 matchup in Charlotte when Rodgers made his return to action after missing time with a collarbone injury.
Late in the game on fourth-and-14, Peppers had a clear path to Rodgers, who had his eyes fixed downfield.
“I beat my guy pretty good and he’s just sitting there in the pocket waiting. He didn’t see me at all. I’m just coming free,” Peppers said. “If I really wanted to, I could have put a big hit on him. I knew he was coming off the collarbone surgery and this was his first game back. Not to say I took it easy on him, but … at this point in time I’m just going for the ball, I’m not trying to really level him.”
Peppers put Rodgers on the ground and the Panthers won the game. After that sack, Peppers checked on his former teammate, who responded with a thankful helmet tap.
“I like Aaron,” Peppers said, “and I have a lot of respect for him as a player.”