For most of the past five seasons, cornerback Patrick Peterson’s role on the Cardinals defense was clearly defined.
Peterson was the prime example of what former coach Bruce Arians called “dude” pass coverage, as in, “you got that dude.”
For Peterson, that dude was always the best receiver on the field. But a new coaching staff and a different defensive philosophy might mean some changes for Peterson.
No one is quite sure yet, because coach Steve Wilks’ staff and players have spent only four days together. But Peterson is open to new duties, especially if it means he sees more passes thrown his way.
So far, he’s “very intrigued” with what he has seen of the defense being installed by coordinator Al Holcomb, especially the change from a 3-4 base to a 4-3.
“I thought we were built for a 4-3 since I’ve been here, but obviously coaches want to go with their schemes,” Peterson said. “I think it’s going to make us that much faster, much more disciplined, because guys can literally just line up and play football. Taking the thinking out of it.”
By definition, the change to a 4-3 has an impact on the front seven more than the secondary. In a 4-3, Peterson could still “travel” every week to defend the best receiver, just as he did in the 3-4, and there is statistical evidence to support that strategy.
According to Pro Football Focus, over the past three seasons Peterson ranks first among cornerbacks in fewest yards allowed per route in coverage.
Offenses tend to avoid throwing in Peterson’s direction, which is the main reason he has only 12 interceptions over the past five years. In that period, 12 cornerbacks have had more.
“We haven’t talked much about scheme for me yet,” Peterson said, “but I do know I’ll have No. 1 receivers for the most part. But I’m excited that Coach is going to continue to let me play in that role, hoping that my role could increase in this defense because I would love to be more involved.
“The plays I know I can make, I’m not getting that opportunity.”
So how do the Cardinals help create those opportunities? That’s the challenge.
They could move Peterson around more in coverage and play more zone. They could improve the pass rush. And they could find an above-average starter to pair with Peterson.
That’s been a never-ending quest since Peterson was drafted in the first round in 2011.
Peterson has started every game in his career, but each year the Cardinals have tried new faces at the other cornerback spot, including Richard Marshall, A.J. Jefferson, William Gay, Jerraud Powers, Antonio Cromartie, Justin Bethel, Marcus Cooper, Brandon Williams and Tramon Williams.
Some of those players had at least a modicum of success and were allowed to leave via free agency the following year, leaving a void again.
The job is open again this year, and there is no clear No. 1 candidate. Brandon Williams, a third-round pick in 2016, has shown no signs of being able to do the job. Tramon Williams, who played well after becoming a starter midway through last year, signed with the Packers. Bethel, who failed in multiple attempts at the job, signed with the Falcons.
So it’s a position the Cardinals could look to fill in the draft April 26-28.
“I feel if we get us a solid No. 2 corner, like we did in Tramon, we can be very, very dangerous and also present more opportunities for me,” Peterson said.
Source: AZ Central | Kent Somers | April 6, 2018