Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
A “hungry” Peppers is just trying to get better every day.
When new New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was asked what kind of defense he was going to call, the answer was “Yes”.
He said that he wasn’t going to be tied to a particular front or scheme, but would instead call a variety of looks based on what his players could do. The more versatility and flexibility on the defense, the more they will be able to do, and Jabrill Peppers could be a key cog in that scheme.
Though listed as a safety, Peppers blurs the lines between positions, playing some box safety as well as some linebacker. Graham is sure to employ Peppers in as many roles as he can to keep offenses guessing.
When Peppers spoke to the Giants’ media members on Wednesday, his return from injury, off-season training, and the versatility of the secondary were the main themes.
On his off-season training
This off-season has been anything but normal. While teams had to figure out how to do their draft prep remotely, players had work on their own to get ready for football in the absence of a normal off-season program. For Peppers, that had the added struggle of rehabbing from a season ending injury.
“It definitely sucked,” Peppers said of ending the season on the IR. “I want to be out there with the guys competing trying to help bring W’s home. To watch, it was hard. I liked what I saw from the guys. They stayed together, competed each and every week. Now I’m focused on this year.”
Over the course of the off-season Peppers was able to work out with other players, and a common theme emerged.
“We’re all hungry,” he said. “We play for one of the most prestigious organizations in the National Football League. We all know where it should be. We’re all hungry to be the best person on and off the field that we can be. It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating. We’re just doing our part to make sure we’re all the best that we can be.”
Peppers was specifically asked about his time training with rookie DB Darnay Holmes, but he took the time to say that he was happy to train with any of his teammates who could join him.
Peppers said, “Anybody who wanted to work out, I definitely welcomed. I’m all about comradery, getting to know someone. When you get to know people deeper than just on a football level, it makes that bond much stronger and you want to play harder for those guys. That was my main focus. He comes from a great university, I like the product that they put out.”
On the secondary’s versatility
Versatility and competitive toughness were Peppers calling cards coming out of the University of Michigan. He was played all over Michigan’s roster, on offense and defense, at times playing 90 or 100 snaps in a game.
And while he hasn’t played anywhere near that many snaps in a game in the NFL, teams have made use of that versatility. He has played free safety, strong safety, box safety, and as a linebacker in his time in the NFL, and now it seems the Giants want to add another tool to his toolbox: Cornerback.
It seems the Giants have been cross-training a number of their defensive players, and Peppers has been studying the cornerback position.
“I think, first and foremost, I will play wherever the team needs me to play,” Peppers said. “We’ve all been cross training and can do multiple things. Whatever the scheme is, whatever they see fit, that’s what it’s going to be.”
“Like I said, we’ve all been training at multiple things,” he added. “I think as a far as the position, you have to have great footwork. I think that’s the main component that I was trying to better myself on. Just the footwork, being patient, it’s just not for any specific position. I think if I better those things, it will help me translate my game.”
And though they’re young, the Giants have a safety group that brings an intriguing amount versatility to the back end of their defense. Julian Love is a cornerback turned free safety, Xavier McKinney played both deep and box safety, and Peppers is at his best as a box safety and hybrid linebacker. Each brings something different to the table, and Peppers thinks that will make them all better.
Peppers said, “We all can do many different things, each guy on the roster. Everyone looks like they are in shape, they are well conditioned, they are moving really well. We’re all just excited to compete against one another and keep making each other better.”