When the Browns traded for free safety Damarious Randall earlier this spring, at least one of his new teammates knew Cleveland was getting a special player.
Second-year safety Jabrill Peppers said he’s looking forward to playing alongside Randall, a former first-round pick who starred at cornerback for the Packers, and an overhauled secondary brimming with young talent.
“He’s a ball-hawk. I actually went home and watched a couple of his highlights,” Peppers said Wednesday after the team’s second OTA practice. “I didn't know he had 10 picks (in three seasons), so that's definitely one of the things that stood out, especially a safety playing corner.”
Randall, the 30th overall pick in 2015, is among several new defensive backs acquired by the Browns since the start of the new league year. A quick, rangy player who will move back to the position he played at Arizona State, Randall is expected to give second-year coordinator Gregg Williams a proven playmaker deep in the defensive secondary.
Peppers, the former Michigan standout and 25th pick in 2017, is one of just a few members returning to a Cleveland secondary that struggled last season. In an offseason full of roster changes on both sides the ball, the Browns traded starting cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor and moved on from other role players.
In their place, Cleveland picked up Randall, former Raiders starting cornerback T.J. Carrie, former Bills/Rams standout E.J. Gaines and former Chiefs corner Terrance Mitchell in free agency. Then in the NFL Draft, it selected former Ohio State star cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4 and used its last pick on lanky, athletic defensive back Simeon Thomas.
Peppers, who’s still in the process of getting to know his new teammates, said he's excited to see what the group can become come next season. “It’s definitely a culture shock,” he said, “but at the end of the day, those guys are all guys that make plays and earned the right to be starters and be in this league and guys that have played in this league multiple years and been pretty efficient. It’s only going to help."
“I think it gives us a different dynamic, we have a lot of DBs on the field who can do different things, play different positions and different disguises and make the quarterback’s job a little harder,” he added. “Definitely great acquisitions, guys who fit our defensive scheme extremely well.”
A former do-it-all star for the Wolverines, Peppers -- a former linebacker -- spent most of his rookie season playing deep despite a reputation as a tenacious defender closer to the line of scrimmage at Michigan. The addition of Randall and other playmakers on the perimeter should help the Browns put Peppers in a situation to do what he does best.
Asked about that dynamic, Peppers smiled and shrugged it off. Just like last year, he’s willing to do whatever Williams and the defensive staff need him to do.
“We're going to see. We’re exploring different things,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who can play a lot of different things on defense and we’re going to put everybody to their skill set and put 11 guys on the field who are going to be tenacious and go get it.”
That, of course, includes Randall.
“Having a guy back there who’s not only a ball-hawk but can play man-to-man against some of the best receivers in this league is going to be definitely something that we can use to our benefit,” Peppers said. “We look forward to him continuing making plays.”