The New York Giants have made numerous controversial decisions in the 2019 NFL offseason. One decision that was met with a lot of criticism was the decision to let Landon Collins walk in free agency.
Landon Collins was a captain on the Giants’ defense in 2018. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl for the third year in a row. He was an ultimate fan favorite, but Giants general manager Dave Gettleman did not hesitate to let him walk away for nothing in return this March.
The departure of the Giants’ defensive captain left a giant hole on the back end of the defense. Gettleman quickly recognized this and made an acquisition to fix it. The Giants received the young, do-it-all safety Jabrill Peppers in a trade with the Browns.
The media has painted this out to be a disastrous move for Big Blue. But was it really? Is Landon Collins irreplaceable, or will Jabrill Peppers exceed expectations?
Why Jabrill Peppers Will Be An Upgrade:
Landon Collins was awarded 1st-Team All-Pro in 2016 with the New York Giants. Collins a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate that season. His incredible development with the team won him over with the fans and leaves high expectations for his replacement.
Some fans have already written Jabrill Peppers off. However, despite his high expectations, there are reasons to believe he will exceed them and prove to be an upgrade.
An Improvement In Pass Defense:
Landon Collins was a great run-defending, in-the-box strong safety during his time in New York. However, he was pretty much limited to this role in the past two seasons. He struggled in pass defense the past two seasons, which fans point out while discussing why the Giants moved on from the safety. This is something that third-year safety Jabrill Peppers already does better than Collins.
Peppers is a versatile safety who excels in run defense but is also solid in pass defense, unlike Collins. According to Pro Football Focus, Landon Collins posted a coverage grade of only 68.2 in 2018, ranked 45th out of all safeties in the NFL. PFF even went so far to say Collins would be a better linebacker than safety for this reason.
Jabrill Peppers’s Pro Football Focus coverage grade was much better than Landon Collins’s. Peppers recorded a coverage grade of 77.3. This was a 15.6 point improvement over his rookie season’s coverage grade.
Collins has struggled to play deep safety throughout his career because of his angles and lack of top-end speed got exposed down the field. All six of his pass-breakups in 2018 came either underneath or guarding the slot. Peppers also struggled as a deep safety but has excelled when playing a variety of positions.
Jabrill Peppers is a truly versatile, swiss army knife on defense. In 2018, Peppers was leaps and bounds ahead of where he was in 2017. This is because of the unique way the Browns used him in their defense. Most of his snaps were played at safety (281 snaps), but he played a lot of snaps at linebacker (172 snaps), edge (133 snaps), and slot cornerback (108 snaps), too, according to Pro Football Focus.
This lead to a better statistical season from Jabrill Peppers. He played all 16 games and finished with 79 combined tackles, 1 interception, 5 passes defended, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries.
Jabrill Peppers’s superior coverage skills will make him an upgrade over Landon Collins. Peppers has the ability to defend the run just as well as Collins. However, Collins’s inability to cover lead to his demise with Big Blue. Jabrill Peppers should not face similar issues.
Better Contractual Value:
Jabrill Peppers is also a better player in terms of value. Jabrill is entering his third season, meaning he is still on a rookie contract. His cap hit in 2019 is a measly $1,405,181 and $1,875,271 in 2020.
This is incredible value in comparison to Landon Collins’s $84 million contract with a yearly average cap hit of $14 million, especially when considering their similar playstyle and Peppers’s potential to be the better player.
He even looks better wearing number 21 as a New York Giant:
Jabrill Peppers is going to be the best player on the Giants’ new defense. Collins was arguably the best player on the Giants’ old defense. Peppers has big shoes to fill, but in James Bettcher’s hybrid defense, Peppers should thrive.