Bryant McKinnie (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
Last year, Bryant McKinnie struggled mightily against DE Julius Peppers, then with the Carolina Panthers. Now that Peppers is with the Chicago Bears, McKinnie will get the chance to right last year’s wrong twice a year. McKinnie, Peppers and others gave insight on it, and McKinnie was honest about the confrontation last year.
Bryant McKinnie classified his outing against defensive end Julius Peppers last year as one of the two toughest games of his career, and the previous one was as a much younger left tackle facing Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Almost 11 months removed from his struggles against Peppers last year, McKinnie is preparing to face him again on Sunday. Now that Peppers joined the Chicago Bears via free agency, McKinnie will face him twice a year as division rivals.
Actually, right tackle Phil Loadholt is also expected to see Peppers, as the Bears move around their star defensive end as he searches for the best matchup to exploit.
“He’s a prideful guy. He’s aware of that,” Childress said of McKinnie. “He’ll see him on that side, of course, and you’re also going to see (Peppers) show up on the other side too. Typically he goes to the open-ended side. We’re going to get a chance to see him twice a year now, so that will be a little difference.”
Last year, Peppers had one sack, three quarterback hit, a tackle for loss and a pass defensed, and eventually McKinnie was pulled from the game in the second half.
“Usually on the road, no matter who the tackle is and if you have a premier pass rusher, they usually get help,” McKinnie said after that game. “I didn’t get any, but that’s not to blame. Still at the end of the day I’ve got to do what I have to do … you’ve got to be comfortable and I don’t think I was comfortable with a lot of stuff that I was doing. I feel like the penalties and stuff were kind of throwing me out of whack because then I started concentrating on not getting penalties. I was kind of behind sometimes on the snap count.”
Later, McKinnie said he was trying to avoid a tell in his stance he felt was picked up in a previous game and he overcompensated for that, taking away from his quickness off the snap. However, on Friday McKinnie said he also had a high ankle sprain suffered two weeks earlier against Arizona and dealt with plantar fasciitis late in the season as well. He also was having issues with the snap count and ended up with a false start and a holding penalty.
In short, there were a lot of converging issues that contributed to McKinnie’s struggles, and a Pro Bowl player like Peppers was able to exploit them.
Peppers was asked if his eyes light up when he sees McKinnie on the schedule, but he downplayed that.
“I really don’t want to get into talking about last year. That was last year,” he said. “It’s a whole new season against players that have improved. I’ve improved in different things. I’m playing on a different team, different scheme. So last year was last year. We’re looking forward to playing the Minnesota Vikings of 2010.”
McKinnie prefers to keep the film review on 2010 games as well. He said he didn’t watch last year’s game against Carolina because the defensive end is playing in a different scheme this year.
I’ve just been studying what he’s been doing this year because he’s changed teams so I have to learn what he’s been doing this year,” McKinnie said. “… I don’t need to go through last year’s game. I just need to see what he’s done this year and study those moves.”
So far, Peppers has only two sacks, but he’s been contributing in the run game as well. Clearly, he is a player that offenses scheme against when planning their attack, giving help to whichever offensive tackle is facing him.
“You usually talk about that, whether you’re going to cover a tight end over on that side or there’s going to be a back fading to that guy. All those protections are different,” Childress said. “Sometimes you’ve got to stand by yourself because nobody’s going to be left in the backfield. Sometimes you’re going to make sure that both the tackles get help with the rush coming off the edge.”
Peppers said switching from side to side doesn’t allow an offensive tackle to get in a rhythm against him, but it also doesn’t allow him to get set up moves on a consistent basis. Either way, his presence has helped the Bears’ other starting defensive end, Israel Idonije, who leads the team with five sacks.
But Peppers will remain the focus of most blocking schemes because of his consistent success in the past.
“I don’t think I could surprise anybody in this league right now. I’ve been playing well for a long time. I’m used to being game-planned for, and I’m used to having extra attention,” Peppers said. “It’s just one of those things you have to deal with being one of the elite players in your division. You have to deal with that and find out ways to beat it. You just have to be patient and keep working. Sooner or later things will start going your way.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.