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Browns excited by ‘dynamic’ Jabrill Peppers’ potential on punt, kick returns

Posted May 15, 2017

Former Michigan star did both at a high level in college

The tape didn’t lie.

Moments after the Browns tabbed Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers with the 25th pick, Hue Jackson walked through the team’s facility in search of special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. The Browns head coach knew how much Tabor coveted Peppers’ skill set on special teams, particularly when it comes to what he can do with the ball in his hands as a returner.

“Are you kidding me?!” Tabor shouted as Jackson delivered the news.

Peppers saw the video, of course, and laughs a bit when it’s mentioned. He admitted it feels good to be wanted, but now he’s making it a goal to validate his coaches’ excitement.

“Coach Tabor said he thinks he was more excited when I was, but I was like, ‘I don’t think so,’” Peppers said before Saturday’s rookie minicamp practice. “It definitely feels good to know you have coaches that believe in you that much and are that excited about what you can bring to the team. I’m definitely excited about getting to work and bringing those thoughts and those ideas into fruition.”

It started at Saturday’s rookie minicamp, as Peppers fielded the first of what’s expected to be many punts over the next few months. He’ll be in the team’s competition at punt returner, which featured a number of different faces last season, as well as kick returner, a similarly unstable group in 2016.

He’ll have to fend off the likes of Duke Johnson Jr. and Mario Alford if he wants to continue doing what he did during his final two seasons with the Wolverines.

“It is something that I like to do,” Peppers said. “They think I do it pretty well so I’m definitely going to compete for being a punt and kick returner.”

The way Peppers describes it, he essentially won an open tryout to return punts during his second season at Michigan. Peppers was already poised to be busy on defense, where he played as both a linebacker and defensive back, but the competitor in him drove him to add another title to his resume.

“When (Michigan Head Coach Jim) Harbaugh got there, he didn’t know us from a can of paint,” Peppers said. “Basically, all of the skill position guys, we had racing events. The fastest guys, he put back there. He then saw who looked natural doing it and things like that. Like I said, I’m a competitor. I didn’t really care who was back there before me or anything like that. I’m just going to try to do what I got to do to compete.”

The Wolverines only have an opening now at punt returner because Peppers left.

Over two seasons, Peppers fielded 38 punts and returned them for an average of more than 13 yards. He had longs of 41 in 2015 and 54 in 2016, taking one to the house in a rout of Colorado. On kicks, Peppers notched longs of 49 and 55 and averaged more than 25 yards per return.

The Browns in 2016 averaged 6.7 yards on their 30 returns and had a long of 18. Six different players combined to average 18.6 yards on kick returns.

Peppers’ plate could be very full as a rookie, but if he can show he’s the player to improve those numbers, the Browns won’t hesitate to use him in that capacity.

“The guy has potential to be very dynamic that way,” Jackson said. “We are going to give him an opportunity to be that.”


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