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I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, exactly how the Big Ten voters could come to this decision — What on earth were they thinking when they awarded Jabrill Peppers the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year?
Don’t get me wrong, Peppers is an awesome player, and any team would want to have him. He’s electrifying as a return man, can be dangerous with the ball in his hands, and is really, really good at shutting down and blowing up opposing screens and plays in the flat. Except that’s just it. That’s the only thing he’s really good at on defense. Not that the ability to sniff out a screen isn’t important or useful, but that can’t be what earns the guy the B1G DPOY honor. Especially when he’s got probably the best cover corner in the nation on his team.
If you don’t agree with me, or believe I’m just being a hater, take a look at Peppers statistics in Big Ten Play and where he ranks among Big Ten players.
Does impact on the field go beyond stats? Of course. But that’s not to say that numbers don’t matter. Even if you wanted to throw out the numbers completely, Peppers winning DPOY still doesn’t add up. He’s a good tackler that’s very quick to get around the field and to the ball carrier when he does make a play, but too often in run defense is Peppers just not strong enough to get past opposing linemen. I also wouldn’t trust him one-on-one in coverage. While his speed is probably his greatest asset in his game, it can also be a detriment when he’s not allowing a play or gap to develop and essentially runs himself out of the play.
Lauding Peppers as the Defensive Player of the Year allows us to look at just his defense in a vacuum. That means no special teams, or offensive skills are to be taken into account when determining this award. If you are going to look at Peppers’ defensive skills and responsibilities solely, he doesn’t even come close to being the best in the Big Ten. He’s not even the best defensive player on his own team.
This will most likely be taken as a piece that is bashing Peppers, but it’s not. He’s a good defensive player. Far from great, and even further from a liability. This is bashing the hype surrounding him. The hype that inexplicably translated itself into an award crowning him the best defensive player in the Big Ten.