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An excited Jabrill Peppers will give the Giants his best

Safety is making his homecoming to New Jersey

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

On the eve of the 2019 NFL Free agency period New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman executed a trade that could change the course of the Giants’ franchise for the next decade — and certainly changed how the 2019 season will play out. That trade, of course, was sending Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.

Lost in the scrum over whether the move was right or wrong is that the Giants acquired third-year safety Jabrill Peppers, a former first-round pick out of Michigan. Peppers was the player added to the trade to push it over the edge and a player the Giants hope can fill the void left when they allowed Landon Collins to leave via free agency.

But for Peppers, right now, it just means coming home to his native New Jersey and play for the team he grew up rooting for.

“I was excited,” Peppers said, when asked his reaction to finding out about the trade. “(I) get a chance to play football and do it in front of the home state. It was definitely an exhilarating feeling.”

“I’m just excited to play football again,” Peppers added. “Excited to go to the Giants and be one of the best players I can be. I hold myself to a high level and I intend to play at that level.”

That attitude was the first thing he mentioned in his scouting report of himself for fans. “They’re getting a hard worker,” Peppers said. “A guy that’s going to do whatever it takes to win. Me personally, I feel as though I haven’t even showed a third of what I can really do.

On learning the Giants’ defense

Now that Peppers is a Giant, he will have to learn James’ Bettcher’s defense. It is a defense that places a lot of stress on the safety positions, because of it’s reliance on the safeties to apply pressure through blitzing, rotate coverage to disguise pressure, and hold up in aggressive Cover 1 schemes. There is a premium placed on communication as well as being in the right place in the right time.

Peppers said, “I’m anxious just to get there and have a fresh beginning, and immerse myself in the culture and tradition, learn the schemes and be the best player I can be.”

And when it comes to learning that scheme, he will have a great resource in the form of veteran safety Antoine Bethea, who was with Bettcher when he was defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals.

“I’ve talked to him [Bethea] briefly,” Peppers said. “He’s a hell of a player and I have fine knowledge of him. He’s a veteran guy who’s made a lot of plays on the ball, made a lot of tackles, he’s played in the system before, so I’m eager to pick his brain and play alongside of him and roam that secondary back there.”

On the pressure placed on Peppers

It could be fairly assumed that the way in which Peppers came to be on the Giants — as a part of the Beckham trade, and a replacement for Landon Collins — there would tremendous pressure on the young man.

Dave Gettleman, however, doesn’t believe that there is any added pressure on Peppers to perform, saying, “He doesn’t feel that pressure, he is thrilled to be coming home. He is very close to his mom, he is going to live in Bergen County, I think. I don’t think he feels that pressure. He is just excited to be a Giant. It’s the team he grew up cheering for, this kid’s coming home. I don’t think he feels that pressure, and we certainly aren’t going to put that pressure on him. There is no reason for there to be that kind of pressure on him. He is coming here to be a safety, play football and help the New York Giants win games. It’s that simple.”

Gettleman added, “I’m not putting them [expectations] on him. He was an important piece of the trade. I didn’t trade Odell straight up for Jabrill Peppers. Jabrill was an important piece to that trade. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I believe in his ability. We watched film, we evaluated and we did him coming out.”

As for Peppers himself, all he can say is that he will give the Giants, and Giants’ fans, his best. He said, “Again, I’m just going there to be the best football player I can be. I hold myself to a high level and I attend to play at that level. That’s about as best as I can give to you.”

However this trade plays out, what consequences — intended and unintended — ripple out from the splashiest move of the year so far, there is at least one clear winner in the trade: Pepper’s family.

“They’re excited, they’re excited,” Peppers said. “It’s a much easier commute than Cleveland, Ohio. So, that works out.”