When the Cleveland Browns used what ended up one of three draft picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft on safety Jabrill Peppers, they were well aware of the fact that they were adding to their team a player who has a versatile skill set and who can contribute to their team in a number of different ways.
We have already had some of their coaches draw comparisons between their rookie and former Browns return man and wide receiver Josh Cribbs, which is something that I wrote about last month. But now, just yesterday, it was the man himself who stepped up to chime in on Peppers, who will likely see return duties in Cleveland this year.
Appearing on a segment on NFL Network, Cribbs told a panel that he is “excited on what [Peppers] has the potential to bring” to the Browns. Speaking of the team for whom he spent most of his career playing from 2005 to 2012, he said, “we look good on paper, but we still have to go out and play the game and that’s always the most important thing”.
Referring to comments made by one of his former coaches about the rookie being in Cribbs’ mold, he was asked what that means, and he responded, “I hope that means scoring touchdowns and being a factor on the team”. Cribbs is tied for the most kick return touchdowns in NFL history, mind you.
“I think that is a boost, an honor given to him”, he said of coaches saying that Peppers reminds them of Cribbs. “’This is the guy I want you to emulate. You can step into his shoes. You have the speed, you have the size’. That’s the ‘Cribbsy mold’”, he said.
“When you look at returners, you look at small, quick, shifty, running 4.2. I was more on the bigger side” Cribbs went on. “I wouldn’t let the DBs tackle me so easily. If I got out in the open, I felt like I had the speed to break away but the power to shift, to fend off those would-be tacklers”.
Peppers is probably going to be a day one starter on defense for this Browns team, but it is unclear how quickly the team will try to utilize him in other facets of the team, including even offense. It is worth keeping in mind that he has never been a full-time safety before, so he is still learning that position while simultaneously transitioning from the college level to the pros.
But returning a couple of kicks should be within his comfort zone, since it is something that he did at Michigan, averaging over 13 yards and 39 punts and almost 27 yards on 18 kick returns. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to ask him to contribute in this area as a rookie.