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Giants 2021 roster profile: S Jabrill Peppers

Could Giants’ secondary depth cost Peppers playing time?

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Football Team
Jabrill Peppers celebrates after an interception last season.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jabrill Peppers is the Energizer Bunny of the New York Giants’ defense. Peppers isn’t the best player in a deep and talented Giants’ secondary, but he plays with an infectious spirit and passion. Oh, and he makes a lot of plays, too. Especially if you keep him in attack mode near the line of scrimmage.

“I’ve tried to get him to play with more patience, more poise and that is a daily struggle with Jabrill because he’s so go get ‘em,” Giants defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said last season. “Go get ‘em and I’ll figure it out after I got ‘em. I’m like, no let’s slow down, let’s make sure we’re going to get the right guy, the right thing in the right way and now go.”

The basics

Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 213
Age: 25
Position: Safety
Experience: 4
Contract: Playing on fifth-year option worth $6.77 million | 2021 cap hit: $6.77 million

Career to date

Peppers has always been more athlete than instinctive, technically-sound football player. It’s why, going back to his collegiate days at Michigan, the Wolverines occasionally used him on offense. It’s why he has had some success as a return man. It’s why, despite 4.46 97th percentile 40-yard dash speed, he failed as a free safety in Cleveland and has been better close to the line of scrimmage.

After three seasons of tantalizing with his athletic gifts with both the Browns and Giants, Peppers had his most productive season in 2020. He had career bests in tackles (91), tackles for loss (8), sacks (2.5), passes defensed (11) and tied his career best in stops (27).

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham put Peppers’ versatility on full display. In 912 defensive snaps, Peppers played 383 in the box, 264 in the slot, 44 as a wide cornerback and 143 at free safety.

Peppers has also had success as a punt returner the past two seasons with the Giants, averaging 12.4 yards on 19 returns.

2021 outlook

Graham will likely continue to use Peppers in the multitude of ways he did last season. The defensive coordinator loves movable chess pieces he can use to match up with opposing teams and to try and disguise the defense’s intentions.

Peppers, who turns 26 in October, should continue to play at a high level. The question I have is whether Peppers, used to playing full-time on defense throughout his career, might see a reduction in playing time due to the depth at Graham’s disposal.

Second-year safety Xavier McKinney is probably going to need full-time snaps. It’s doubtful Logan Ryan is coming off the field. James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson are holding down the outside cornerback spots. Darnay Holmes and rookie Aaron Robinson are the likely slot cornerbacks. McKinney can move down there, too, as can Ryan. The Giants also have more linebacker depth this year, so perhaps some of Peppers’ time in the box could be reduced.

Peppers may also not be used as often in the return game with the Giants having selected Kadarius Toney in Round 1.