Overlooked in the furor over the Giants sending Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns in what, for bookkeeping purposes will actually be recorded as one trade, is the quality young safety the Giants got as part of the return.
Let’s get to know a little bit more about Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers is the Landon Collins replacement
We knew entering the offseason that the Giants would be looking for a free safety. Once they let Landon Collins leave in free agency, they also needed a player who could fill the box or hybrid safety role.
Per Pro Football Focus, Peppers was on line of scrimmage or in the box on 329 snaps, lined up as a slot or wide corner on 155 snaps, and played deep safety on only 281 snaps in 2018.
The Athletic [subscription only] broke down Peppers’ game in December. There is a lot for Giants’ fans to be excited about. The Athletic’s Sam Gold says:
As offenses have evolved over the past few years, hybrid defenders have become more popular in the NFL. The desire to have a player who can play zone coverage, man coverage, can blitz, all while being able to set an edge in run support has become a valuable commodity. During the 2017 NFL Draft, a player who fit all of these characteristics came out of the University of Michigan. I’m of course talking about Jabrill Peppers.
The former first-round prospect has become a key part in the Browns’ defense. He can cover. He can play in the box as a third linebacker and he can blitz, as well. His role is multiple and it really helps disguise the coverages and play calls.
Pro Football Focus likes Peppers’ game
PFF says the hybrid safety role he played in 2018 was “far more conducive to his skillset” that the free safety role he was in as a rookie.
He hasn’t grabbed the headlines like Jamal Adams, but Peppers was a productive defensive chess piece in his own right. His 12 pressures were the third-most among safeties last year, and his 23 coverage stops ranked 18th – and Peppers is only still getting familiar with the position.
Somewhat ironically, the closest corollary to Peppers at the position is actually the guy he’s replacing. Landon Collins spent over half his snaps as a rookie at deep safety and got even more exposed as the lowest-graded safety in the NFL. In Year 2, Collins shifted to a box role, and the natural playmaking ability took over as he led the position in stops. In 2018 though, it was Peppers who actually graded out higher for PFF.
While receiving two first-rounders back might have been more exciting, getting Peppers is like receiving a first-rounder you’re certain you’ll hit on. With three more years of team control at a much lower price than Collins, the addition of Peppers in yesterday’s trade is far from inconsequential.
Peppers is on his rookie contract
That means the Giants can control him inexpensively for the next two years. Peppers carries a cap hit of $1.405 million this season and and $1.875 million in 2020. As a former first-round pick, the Giants will also have the ability to pick up his fifth-year option in 2021 should they want to.
Peppers is coming home
Born in East Orange, N.J., Peppers was a four-time state champion in football. He played on two title-winning teams at Don Bosco Preparatory and two more at Paramus Catholic High School. He was a two-time USA Today High School All-American.
Peppers was also a high school track star, winning both the 100 and 200-meter dashes in New Jersey’s 2013 Meet of Champions.
Chris Pokorny of SB Nation’s Browns website, Dawgs By Nature, answered some questions about Peppers.
Q: How good of a player is Peppers?
A: It was a little bit hard to judge Peppers during his rookie season because he was played out of position. But once the Browns traded for Damarious Randall last season, Peppers moved to the strong safety position and it was clear that was a more natural fit for him.
Q: Is he more of a free safety or a box safety? Or, can he fill both roles?
A: Definitely a box safety. Peppers is not bad in coverage, but keeping him closer to the line of scrimmage maximizes his tackling and overall aggressiveness. A good defensive coordinator can move him around a bit, but strong safety is definitely playing into the strength of Peppers’ game.
Q: Is there anything we should know about the kind of person he is off the field?
A: Giants shouldn’t have any worries. Peppers caught some nonsense from a segment fans because he played collegiately at Michigan, but there is nothing that should make the Giants worry about him when he is away from the facility.