It’s slam Bill Belichick the GM season. The long-time head coach of the New England Patriots, and third member of the NFL 300 wins club, is being maligned for not winning more during a rebuild.
Bill can’t draft players. All of his free agent signings suck. His coaching staff is abysmal. The blue jersey-blue pants uniform is Belichick’s fault. The new lighthouse is too big/small. $15 for a beer?!?!? That’s Belichick.
It’s a typical blanket statement that tells a different story when you look under the sheets. The rookies are slowly contributing more. As the team gets healthier, overall play is improving.
And it seems things started turning after Jabrill Peppers slammed Las Vegas Raiders receiver Davante Adams.
Jabrill Peppers has become an impact player for the New England Patriots in his second season with the team
It was as if it was planned. Shortly after the analyst said the Patriots defense hadn’t forced a turnover in three weeks, Peppers apparently heard his cue. He hammered Adams with a clean shoulder to the sternum, the ball popped up, and fell into Jahlani Tavai’s hands.
A reminder for the Belichick the GM sucks crowd: Peppers originally signed as a free agent in 2022. He re-signed with New England for 2023.
Remember Belichick’s magic touch for finding underappreciated players on other teams and turning them into stars in New England? Peppers might be Belichick’s latest find.
For those who forgot, Peppers was a ridiculously versatile draft prospect out of the University of Michigan. Peppers played safety, cornerback, linebacker, returned punts and kickoffs, and even had snaps at running back and wide receiver.
He was selected for the All-American team, won the Ronnie Lott Trophy, was the 2016 Big Ten defensive player of the year, and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting primarily as a defender.
Peppers was selected 25th overall by the Cleveland Browns. It was expected that Peppers, along with first pick overall Myles Garrett, would lead the defensive transformation for the Browns.
Though Peppers played well, the Browns decided to trade Peppers to the New York Giants to acquire Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon after just two seasons in Cleveland.
Peppers made his presence felt in New York, and even was voted a team captain in 2020. But after three years in The Big Apple, Peppers wasn’t brought back.
Bargain Bill found his latest deal. He scooped up Peppers and added him to his deep safety room. Though Peppers finished the 2022 season on injured reserve, he showed to be a solid run defender.
This year Peppers is everywhere, and making a bigger impact. Besides the pick he forced against the Raiders, Peppers forced a fumble against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he picked off his first pass as a Patriot in the 29-25 win over the Buffalo Bills. He is Pro Football Focus’ sixth-ranked safety and continues to be a force on run defense (PFF top-rated run defender at safety).
Peppers gives it his all on every play. He’s animated as he goes through his adjustments and communicates with his teammates before the snap. His passion overflows after he drops the ball carrier for a two yard loss or generates another big play. And his teammates feed off of it.
"I just try to be as crazy, energetic as I can. And it’s not that I’m a psychopath, I’m just more willing to run into another grown man at full speed than a lot of guys are."- Jabrill Peppers
Peppers’ emergence comes at the right time for the Patriots. This is the first season without Devin McCourty, a long-time team captain who retired after the 2022 season. McCourty’s leadership can’t be replaced simply by swapping in another player.
Even though Peppers wasn’t voted a team captain, it doesn’t mean he can’t lead. His energetic, high-impact style of play, plus his willingness to do anything to help the team, makes Peppers a leader without the title. He’s not a McCourty behind-the-scenes leader, but Peppers certainly has a Lawyer Milloy vibe to him.
Belichick doesn’t have the wins to mask the front office mistakes right now. The team pays the price on the field for errors behind closed doors.
But like Peppers crushing Adams, momentum can change quickly. A couple of wins before the bye week could position the Patriots with an outside shot of challenging for a playoff spot.
If that happens, Peppers will have a hand in it.