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Cleveland Browns

Peppers could provide unexpected spark for Browns on special teams

FILE - In this April 28, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns' Jabrill Peppers answers a question during a news conference at the NFL team's training facility in Berea, Ohio. Before taking the field and covering a wide receiver, Browns rookie Jabrill Peppers defended his reputation. Under scrutiny after being placed in the NFL’s drug program for a diluted urine sample taken at the scouting combine, Peppers said that he has no history using illegal recreational drugs and that Cleveland doesn’t have to worry about him getting into any trouble. Peppers, drafted in the first round by the Browns last month, addressed his recent failed test on Friday, May 12, 2017, as Cleveland’s rookies began their three-day minicamp. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
(AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

The Cleveland Browns’ decision to use one of their first-round picks on former Michigan linebacker/defensive back Jabrill Peppers will pay off more ways than one.

Not only have they received a significant upgrade in defensive talent, but with Peppers on the roster, they also get an experienced return man to help out on special teams. The Browns need all the help they can get after ranking near the bottom of the league in both kick and punt returns in 2016. One would have to go as far back as the Josh Cribbs days to find an explosive return man in a Browns uniform.

Peppers, a Swiss Army knife talent, has the potential to be that kind of player, while also lending a helping hand on defense and quite possibly on offense, if needed. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh never wasted a moment in thinking up creative ways to get the ball into his hands.

He can do everything.

However, the Browns seem particularly impressed by what they’ve seen so far from him on special teams. Browns special teams coach Chris Tabor even went as far as comparing Peppers’ build to that of Cribbs, a three-time Pro Bowl return man.

“The way [Peppers is] built, he kind of reminds me a little bit in the Cribbsy mold,” Tabor told the Akron Beacon Journal last week. “He has some thickness to him. If you look at our past returners, even when I was in Chicago with Devin [Hester], Devin was a little slighter guy. Travis was a really slight guy. [Peppers is] a mix of more of a Cribbsy and can go north-south. But I thought he had good vision coming out, and you could see it on a lot of plays where he could just create on his own, and I think those are good traits in a returner.”

Peppers as a returner could pay off big if he’s able to consistently put the offense in good field position. It would take tremendous pressure off an offense that struggled on most possessions last year.

The Cribbs comparison is obviously too soon, even if we’re simply talking about their physiques. It still draws up the assumption that Peppers, who has yet to even take a snap in the NFL, is being compared to one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history. Peppers has the makings of a truly special player for the Browns in a multitude of different areas, and that’s where the focus should stay.

He’ll have every opportunity to add substance to the hype once the season gets here.

*****

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