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Patriots Player Profile: Jabrill Peppers

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After a close 21-17 loss to the Raiders in Vegas, the Patriots have fallen to 1-5 on the season. One of the more exciting moments of the loss came on defense inside of the final five minutes of the first quarter. On a second and eight inside the Patriots’ 20, Garoppolo hit Davante Adams over the middle on a slant, and New England safety Jabrill Peppers came in and blew Adams up, causing an interception caught by Jahlani Tavai.

Unfortunately, the turnover led to no points, but it showcased Peppers’ big hit ability once again. In week one, Peppers put a big hit on Jalen Hurts to cause a fumble, so hopefully for New England, Peppers keeps this aggressive playstyle going. Throughout Peppers’ seven-year career on three different teams in the NFL, he has only had two seasons in which he was unable to cause at least one turnover, and one of those seasons was cut short by a torn ACL.

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Peppers may not necessarily be the first-round talent that the Browns were hoping for when they drafted him 25th overall in 2017, but he appears to be a competent, consistent player with a good amount of versatility. Peppers, who is now a safety, was originally drafted as a linebacker, and he was one of the first highly rated safety/linebacker hybrids at his time, he also had success in the return game in college. At Michigan, Peppers logged 510 total yards in punt returns, as well as 483 total yards in kick returns.

Peppers proved to be a true Swiss army knife for the Wolverines, playing 986 snaps his 2015 season, with 765 snaps being on defense, 171 on special teams, and 50 on offense. Peppers would act as a running back for certain packages, picking up 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns, as well as 82 yards receiving. Besides his first season in 2014 being cut short by injury, Peppers was constantly producing in college.

In his final season, Peppers was named All-Big Ten Defensive First Team and All- Big Ten Special Team First Team for his 72 tackle, thirteen tackle for loss, one interception and one forced fumble effort his junior year. In the return game, Peppers put up 310 punt return yards and a touchdown, as well as 260 kick return yards. Peppers was also the first player in Big Ten history to collect three individual honors since 2011, when the conference expanded its individual award recognition program.

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Before making big hits in the NFL and having a historic career with the Wolverines, Peppers was just a kid from East Orange, New Jersey who had a bit of a rough upbringing. Peppers' father spent most of his life in prison, while his brother was shot and killed in 2010. In an interview with Big Ten Network, Peppers touched on how the passing of his brother served as an inspiration to him, and a reminder to stay on a straightened arrow.

The New Jersey native would start his high school career at Don Bosco Prep High in Ramsey, New Jersey. Peppers immediately started at cornerback his freshman year, then he would also start on offense at running back in his sophomore year. In both Peppers’ freshman and sophomore seasons, Don Bosco won the State Championship and would be ranked by USA Today as the top team in the nation.

Peppers would move onto Paramus Catholic High School to play his last two seasons of high school football. The young Peppers would help lead the Paladins to two straight state titles, completing the rare achievement of winning the state championship all four years of his high school career. Peppers was named player of the year by MSG Varsity in his senior year and would come out of high school as a five-star recruit, being boasted as the number one prospect in the 2014 class by ESPN.

Peppers also ran track in high school, proving to be a great all-around athlete. Peppers set the Non-Public Class A Outdoor 100 meter dash record with a time of 10.77 seconds, with his best recorded time being 10.51 seconds. Peppers also won both the 100- and 200-meter dashes in New Jersey’s 2013 “Meet of Champions”. The safety/linebacker's track prowess showed itself in his combine performance, with him logging a forty time of 4.46. With his natural speed and 5’11’ 213-pound frame, Peppers certainly has the measurables to play that box safety/ linebacker role at a high level in the NFL.

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Besides winning state titles every year of his high school career, Peppers is no stranger to losing, with his first two years in the NFL being spent in Cleveland. After signing a fully guaranteed, four-year, $10.7 million contract with a $5.6 million signing bonus and being named the starting free safety for the Browns, the team would go 0-16. In the winless season, Peppers would pick up 57 total tackles, one interception, and three pass breakups in 13 games played.

The following year, the Browns had a much more respectable, but still not impressive 7-8-1 record, and Peppers would only improve, logging 79 total tackles, one sack, two fumble recoveries, one interception, five pass breakups and four tackles for loss. The following year, Peppers would be traded to the Giants, finding himself back in New Jersey.

The New Jersey native would spend three seasons with the Giants, putting up 276 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions, one touchdown, 17 pass breakups, and 13 tackles for loss. Peppers would end his Giants career on injured reserve with a torn ACL in 2021, before finally landing in New England.

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The following year, Peppers would sign a one-year contract with the Patriots, and he would prove to be a reliable defensive piece, playing in all 17 games, recording 60 total tackles, one fumble recovery, and 4.5 tackles for loss. In 2023, Peppers re-signed with New England for two years, so far, he has produced 37 total tackles, a forced fumble, three pass breakups, and three tackles for loss. Against the Raiders, Peppers had a decent game, putting up seven tackles and two passes defended, as well as the big hit on Adams to cause the turnover. It seems like at least for the near future, Peppers is here to stay.

This is the first time that the Patriots are 1-5 since 1995, but as mentioned before, the veteran safety is no stranger to a losing season. With Buffalo and Miami coming up in the next two weeks, there will be a clear challenge on defense to try and contain those two high-powered offenses, and Peppers will certainly be a part of that effort. For New England to remain competitive with teams like The Bills and Dolphins, they need to keep causing turnovers, like Peppers did last Sunday.

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