As the New York Giants continue to get hit hard by the injury bug this season, they will now be forced to trudge on without one of their key defenders for the rest of the year.
Defensive captain and strong safety Jabrill Peppers suffered both ankle and knee injuries in Sunday’s 25-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers on October 24. And on Monday, Giants head coach Joe Judge told reporters that Peppers was headed to see a doctor for further evaluation.
The Giants then placed Peppers on injured reserve, per the NFL’s October 26 transaction wire. And while the initial belief was that Peppers would miss at least the next three games, the team revealed shortly thereafter that he tore his ACL and suffered a high ankle sprain, which will keep him out for the rest of the season.
With Peppers set to become a free agent in March, he has likely played his final game as a member of the Giants.
Prior to these season-ending injuries, his name was floated as a potential trade chip for the Giants ahead of the November 2 deadline due to his expiring contract. But with Peppers’ season now lost, his trade value has evaporated.
Peppers suffered these injuries on a second-half punt return against the Panthers and was ruled out for the remainder of the afternoon.
The fifth-year safety finished his 2021 season with 30 total tackles, one sack and four quarterback hits in six games, but his snaps had decreased significantly (58% on defense in 2021) compared to last year.
Peppers was acquired by the Giants as part of the 2019 offseason blockbuster trade that sent superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.
The 26-year-old spent a little over two seasons with the Giants and his best campaign came in 2020, where he recorded 91 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, eight tackles for a loss, 11 passes defensed and one interception.
Next Man Up
As has been the case all season, the Giants will now have to rely on the next man up with Peppers out for the year. But instead of filling one hole, they will be forced to replace two separate positions.
Peppers was serving as the third-safety on defense, alongside Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney.
He is also the Giants’ main punt returner, but with C.J. Board on injured reserve, this may leave second-year cornerback Darnay Holmes to take Peppers’ place receiving punts.
In six games, Peppers accumulated nine returns for 64 yards. He averaged 7.1 yards per return and his longest run back was for 19 yards.
As for the third-safety role, Julian Love will step in for Peppers at this spot. Love is in his third NFL season and has seen his snaps diminished as well.
Love has not played more than 69% of defensive snaps this season, which came in Weeks 4 and 5 when Peppers was dealing with a hamstring injury.
Love has 17 total tackles, two passes defensed and one quarterback hit across seven games this year.
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Rookie on the Rise
Although the Giants’ pass rush has struggled immensely this season, one bright spot of this unit has been rookie Azeez Ojulari.
Ojulari had a monstrous game in Week 7, recording 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and three tackles for a loss in the Giants’ victory over the Panthers on Sunday. As a result, he is now a finalist for Pepsi’s Rookie of the Week honors.
The Giants selected Ojulari as the No. 50 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. And so far, this choice has paid dividends, as the 21-year-old has 5.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, five tackles for a loss and 21 total tackles across seven games (four starts).
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