Cleveland Browns: Week 12 defensive takeaways

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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(Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Jabrill Peppers finding space to operate

Cleveland Browns fans are not your typical friendly fan base. They are quick to judge and can become nasty in the snap of a finger. Consistency in their thinking is not a constant, however. Though, one thing they typically agree on is a pure dislike for University of Michigan and players coming from there.

Braylon Edwards comes to mind.

That said, it has not been an easy transition for Michigan’s former Heisman candidate Jabrill Peppers. The NFL hasn’t come as easy as many expected it to for Peppers who played numerous positions in college.

The Browns drafted him to play safety and his athleticism and playmaking ability are a decent fit for him to play there. However, he is frequently lining up more than 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage, limiting his opportunities to create plays.

Of course, head coach Hue Jackson spoke about playing Peppers closer to the line in order for him to do what he does best… make plays:

"“We have to play with what we have, and he has been our best free safety back there thus far,” Jackson said, “but I think we see his skill set as being closer around the ball."

Since that comment in early November, fans have seen Peppers in the mix more and more often. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is still lining him up deep, but has incorporated the rookie coming closer to the line more each week.

Peppers struggled immensely tackling opposing players in the open field early in the season. Missed tackles and penalties have stunted the perception of Browns fans as he was considerably well-liked for being from Michigan initially. However, as stated above, Browns fans don’t need a large sample-size to rush to conclusions. Whether it’s Peppers experiencing growing pains or him simply not playing where he needs to be – the fans will jump on him.

Hue Jackson’s comments seem to have altered Gregg Williams’ philosophy on how he plays Peppers, and it’s for the better. It will be interesting to see if they continue playing Peppers closer to the box in the remaining weeks. It will be incredibly important in determining whether he is fit as their starting safety or if Cleveland should use an early draft pick on addressing the position.

Next: Week 12 offensive takeaways

Regardless, the usage of Peppers has been a glaring issue for the Browns. It’s trending in the right direction, however the team needs to cater to his playmaking ability. That doesn’t happen 25 yards from the line of scrimmage. His freedom is expanding and hopefully he takes advantage of it as it continues.