New Giants safety Jabrill Peppers, whom the Browns selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, is still highly-regarded in NFL front offices. Peppers, of course, was a key part of the trade that sent Odell Beckham to Cleveland, and Browns GM John Dorsey was loathe to let him go, while Giants GM Dave Gettleman was adamant that the former Michigan star be included in the deal.
We have already heard that Big Blue envisions a versatile role for Peppers. Although the club sees him as a classic strong safety, Peppers will not line up in the same position from snap to snap and will be asked to line up deep, up near the line, at slot cornerback, and at nickel linebacker. And, as Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com writes, the Giants had their starting safeties on the field for almost all of the team’s defensive snaps last year, so Peppers — who didn’t play more than 76% of the defensive snaps in either of his two seasons with the Browns — could be looking at a healthy increase in playing time.
But will that increase carry over to special teams? Dunleavy observes that the Giants’ return game was a mess last season, and Peppers could help in a big way. He was a quality return man with the Wolverines, and while he has not been as electric in that regard at the professional level, he has been at least serviceable. New York’s coaching staff thinks he can thrive as a returner if he continues to get the opportunity.
Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said, “[Peppers] is a for-sure ball-handler. Can make all the cuts full speed. He just brings juice.”
It remains to be seen whether Peppers’ heavier workload on the defensive side of the ball will force the Giants to keep him on the sidelines when they send out the special teams units. But Dunleavy expects Peppers to be the primary punt returner and to flank Corey Coleman on kickoff returns (Dunleavy believes Coleman will remain the team’s No. 1 kickoff returner given the stability he brought to that role last season).
If Peppers does need a breather, the club also has the sure-handed Golden Tate and rookie Darius Slayton at its disposal.
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