Through two games, it’s clear that the New York Giants’ usage of Jabrill Peppers has not worked out.
Dave Gettleman tried to tell all his detractors of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade that the team really did get two first-round picks out of the Cleveland Browns, due to Peppers being selected 21st-overall in the 2017 draft. We all knew it was a load of hogwash then, but it looks even-more laughable now.
However, defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s plan for using Peppers has left a lot to be desired. Even an average football fan could probably tell you that Peppers is best used as a jack-of-all-trades rather than as a cover-safety. During his time at Michigan, the former All-American was deployed all over the field to get the most out of him.
If an opposing quarterback has to wonder where Peppers is on the field, he can become dangerous. Peppers is an all-word athlete, and can certainly be a productive player when he’s being used in a variety of different ways. His time in Cleveland showed us that his biggest weakness is being tasked with covering the deepest parts of the field, something James Bettcher has mainly asked him to do so far.
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Peppers has proven to be a capable blitzer, while also showing himself to be a stout run defender in the right situations – sound like any other New York Giant player who wore number 21? In my mind, the further away from the line of scrimmage that Peppers is, the worse the results will be. Cleveland found that out during his rookie year in 2017, and made the correct move to switch him to ‘box’ safety – he had his best season as a pro as a result.
The former Heisman Trophy contender mainly played ‘Will’ linebacker and strong (box) safety during his time at Michigan. Heading into the draft, there were loud concerns about whether or not he would be able to be a free safety like many were projecting him to be – I think we’ve found out the answer to that question.
The good news is, Peppers has shown qualities that are intriguing for a defensive coach. He’s always been a capable in man-coverage, something he doesn’t often get to display when he’s a free safety. Peppers could hold his own against some of the best receiving tight ends in football, if he was able to jam them off of the line, or at least be closer to the line of scrimmage.
Peppers has also shown the ability to cover the slot, something that is inherently valuable in today’s NFL. The ‘safety’ played a team-high 76 snaps (100%) this past Sunday, so it’s going to be important for Bettcher to realize these things before it’s too late. Peppers has seen his Pro Football Focus grade slip from a very-respectable 77.3 in 2018 (as a box safety) to an awful 52.2 in 2019.
James Bettcher cannot help Peppers’ puzzling missed tackles, or him getting absolutely-mauled by tight ends in run-blocking situations, but he can do his best to put Peppers in a position to succeed. The evidence points to him having the most success as a ‘rover’ kind of player, one that is tasked with a variety of different things, although it’s not commonly seen in the NFL. A coach needs to find ways to use the most of a player’s strengths, Peppers’ strengths are clearly athleticism and versatility.
The end results will hopefully be better than this, Via Arrogant Urban Meyer (@ArrogantUrban) on twitter:
Jabrill Peppers (21) paves the way for a Buffalo TD LOL. pic.twitter.com/qU1OvpObBy
— Arrogant Urban Meyer (@ArrogantUrban) September 15, 2019
Yikes. While this play doesn’t do the best job of showing a lot of what I’ve been talking about (he’s closer to the line, but really only because the Bills are inside the 15 with no receivers on that side), it highlights that Peppers struggles in space. He’s at his best when causing a reaction, not reacting to something else.
We’ll see if any changes are made moving forward – with what I’ve seen from Bettcher so far, I wouldn’t’ exactly expect it.
This content was originally published here.