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Jabrill Peppers has Browns coaches at different spots excited about his potential
June 21, 2017 06:36 PM | Andrew Gribble


Chris Tabor didn't know a camera was rolling when he celebrated the Browns' drafting of Jabrill Peppers.

A few months later, Tabor stands by the exuberance. The Browns' special teams coordinator loves Peppers' potential as both a kick returner and punt returner and can't wait to see him compete for each of the spots when training camp opens in late July.

"I am excited about Jabrill returning," Tabor said. "Obviously, I thought he was electric in college as a playmaker and I think it is a matter of helping us get our return game to where it is supposed to be, where the Cleveland Browns are supposed to return the ball and hopefully we can get to that."

The excitement is similar when assistant defensive backs coach Jerod Kruse talks about the impact Peppers can make at his every-down position of strong safety.

"He can just do so many things," said Kruse, who works heavily with Cleveland's safeties. "He naturally has the ability to track things in space. It is just a little bit different on a thrown ball than a punted ball, but he has shown some things out here in some spurts during OTAs and the minicamps and the rookie minicamps that shows the reason why he is here."

Kruse referred to Peppers as one of the "best overall football players" in this year's draft class in the context of his ability to play a variety of positions, something he did to the extreme at Michigan. His mixed use won't be on that same level with the Browns -- he's a strong safety first and foremost -- but his first couple of months with the team provided coaches at multiple spots with optimism about the kind of impact he can make in their respective areas.

"If it involves a ball in everything he's done growing up in his life, he's been good at it," Kruse said. "You name it from rugby to soccer to baseball to football to basketball. The kid's excelled at everything he's ever done. He just has naturally instinctive ability to understand space and movement."



Peppers worked at strong safety with the second- and third-team defense throughout OTAs and minicamp and has hopes of elevating to the first group when the team returns for training camp. None of the Browns' 10 draft picks landed first-team spots from the onset of OTAs, as Browns coach Hue Jackson stressed that every member of the class would have to earn his respective spot.

Kruse said Peppers flashed plenty of what he showed on tape during his time at Michigan, where he starred on both sides of the ball and logged extensive snaps at both linebacker and safety. The next couple of months will be vital for both Peppers and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, as Peppers shows just how much he can help Cleveland as a rookie while Williams devises schemes that gets the most out of his unique ability.

"When you talk about being a third-level and second-level and first-level defender, he has those inherent traits," Kruse said. "The kid played seven to eight sports growing up. The spatial awareness he just naturally has from doing a lot of different things growing up attributes to those things he can do at all different levels.

"Gregg will have a great plan for him as we go into the season and as he continues to grow into the scheme. He can do a lot of things."

When it comes to returning punts and kicks, Tabor wants just one thing out of Peppers if he's able to win the job: Better numbers and consistency than the Browns showed last year.

Cleveland shuffled through a number of returners at both spots last season, as five different players fielded at least one punt and six took at least one kick. The Browns finished 26th in the league on punt returns and 28th on kicks.

Tabor stressed he's working with a number of different players at both positions to maintain the "stable" he likes to have. Peppers, though, carries plenty of intrigue.

"He was a good player and we're hoping it translates to this level," Tabor said. "This is a different deal for him but I have great confidence in how he approaches things and how he works at things that he has a chance to be a good one."

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