Jabrill Peppers needed few words to say a lot.
The Giants’ co-captain clearly is having a difficult time digesting his drastically reduced role during the season-opening loss, as well as the possibility that it wasn’t just one-week specific.
“It’s different,” Peppers admitted.
Peppers played 97 percent or more of the defensive snaps in all 23 games he was fully healthy for during his first two seasons with the Giants. He played 1,001 snaps, including special teams, last season. Then he played just 30 of 66 snaps as the odd-man-out in a three-safety rotation in Week 1.
“It’s just the game plan right now,” Peppers said. “Whatever the coaches think is best for that week, that’s what it’s going to be.”
There are better and louder players on the defense, but Peppers — who constantly talks trash, flaps his arms and runs like he drank 10 energy drinks — is the emotional heartbeat.
“He adds a physicalness to our defense because I feel like he’s our enforcer,” cornerback James Bradberry said, “so definitely adds a different element when he’s on the field.”
Is it hard to replicate that high when he is coming on and off the field?
“You could say that,” Peppers said.
Xavier McKinney missed most of last season and Logan Ryan only was signed when McKinney was injured in training camp. Now that they are both healthy, the Giants favored that duo in pass coverage and used Peppers more like an outside linebacker.
In a self-described “subpar” performance, Peppers allowed four catches on four targets against the Broncos, after allowing 46 (fifth-most among safeties) last season. Other parts of his skill set compensated, and he was graded No. 46 of 94 safeties by Pro Football Focus.
“When my number is called, do a better job than I did last week,” Peppers said. “I’ve got to play better press technique. I gave up two big third downs. I gave up a catch in the red zone. Those are routes that I usually cover in my sleep.”
Peppers never left the field — playing offense, defense and special teams — as a five-star recruit at Don Bosco Prep and as a star at Michigan. He is in the mix as a punt returner for the Giants, but that alone isn’t reason to pull him off safety, so he is frustrated not to be able to do more to help a struggling defense.
“It’s fair to say,” Peppers said.
OG Shane Lemieux, TE Evan Engram and LB Cam Brown would not have participated in practice Tuesday, according to estimations after a walk-through. But the Giants haven’t ruled out Engram making his season debut Thursday against Washington.
“I hope so,” coach Joe Judge said. “I know he’s been pushing.”