BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Fans and media aren’t the only ones asking Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams why Jabrill Peppers is playing so deep at safety.
During his weekly press conference on Friday, Williams revealed that he fielded that very same question from an unnamed person within the Browns organization this week, and his response to it was priceless.
“Because I told him to,” Williams told them. “If he no longer does what I tell him to do, he is going to be your intern or someone else’s intern in the building. He is going to play where I tell him to play.”
The Browns drafted Peppers because of his versatility, big-play ability and athleticism but everyone outside of Williams and his staff want to know, are they maximizing Peppers’ talents?
“How many deep balls have we given up?” Peppers said this week when asked about playing so deep. “We haven’t really been tried deep so that is the game plan right now. Until they change it, that is what the game plan is.”
The Browns were one of the worst teams in the league in a lot of categories a year ago defensively but Williams has focused on improving 2 of them immediately – deep balls and tackling – and it’s paying off because of the decision to play Peppers deep.
“When you take a look at how well he has played, there have only been 4 passes thrown farther than 20 yards against us this year – 2 have been interceptions, 1 has been an incompletion and 1 was caught by [Steelers WR] Antonio Brown that still pisses me the F off,” Williams said. “That was a punt. That wasn’t a throw. That ball should have been knocked down, carted off or turned over. No way should that pass have been complete. Jabrill is doing very well. He is doing very well.”
Head coach Hue Jackson supports Williams’ strategy.
“This is more about we discourage the opportunity for people to throw it over our head,” Jackson said. “If you don’t want to get the ball thrown over your head, just make sure that there is somebody deep enough where they don’t try to throw it over your head. That is how that works.
“It is not about the corners or not having confidence in the corners. This is something we truly believe discourages teams from trying to throw the ball over our head. You have not seen a ball go over our head that way.”
Peppers is an intricate part of Williams’ plan, and also the perfect fit.
“I have given every single defensive back a chance to prove that you can be the angel of this defense,” Williams said. “The angel is the person who covers everybody else up. He is the angel.”
Williams explained why he believes safeties are misused at all levels of the game today.
“The tackling in space, he will tell you right now it is 10 times easier doing it from that position,” Williams said. “I used to be a DBs coach a long time ago, too. I shake my head in this high school and college stuff that I see and NFL stuff that I see where you place a safety 12 to 14-yards deep. Then you tell him to sprint back 25 yards and then break on the ball. You have to understand how much distance he can travel after he transitions out of a backpedal instead of just standing there flat-footed and letting Jabrill cut it loose.”
According to Williams, Peppers can line up in 18 different positions on the field and it’s expected that he’ll line up at times a little different this week against Indianapolis because Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett doesn’t have the same big arm that Ben Roethlisberger or Joe Flacco have.
“You will see him in different places this week in certain spots because of what we want the quarterback to believe. To believe, not to know, but to believe,” Williams said.
Peppers isn’t the first safety Williams has done this with either.
“I first started out with [former Redskins DB] Sean Taylor, who is the best football player I have ever coached,” Williams said. “The day he broke the record on [Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Brett] Favre throwing the most interceptions in NFL history, he had the opportunity to get 5 that day. He dropped 2 other ones.”
Williams sees the big-play, interception, game-changing potential in Peppers, which is why he has him designated as his angel in the defensive backfield.