There are things Patrick Peterson knows he knows about playing cornerback in the NFL.
For everything else, there's Steve Wilks.
Peterson has been relying on the Arizona Cardinals' new coach, who established himself as a defensive backs guru before ascending to the top job in the desert, to fill in any blanks he has left.
After eight seasons, there aren't many. Peterson has become one of the league's elite cornerbacks, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl in each season he has played. He has established himself as a lockdown corner while quietly putting up numbers that could one day land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
To get there, though, Peterson still needs some fine tuning. If Wilks can have the same effect on Peterson that he had on Josh Norman, who visits Arizona in Week 1 along with his Washington Redskins teammates, he will have established himself as a true CB master.
"I pretty much started out with him as my coach," Norman said this week. "It was like the project that ended up being -- what would I call it? You know, Mr. Miyagi. It was just like that. It was just like that. Literally like to the bottom to the top, in a way. And the crazy thing is when you go out and go to places and do things you always still have that remnants of what you learned from Mr. Miyagi."
If Norman was Karate Kid Part I, consider Peterson as Part II.
Soon after the Cardinals were allowed to begin practicing in early April, Wilks began employing some of the same teaching methods he used on Norman while coaching him for seasons on the Carolina Panthers. But Peterson knew what to expect.
He talked with Norman this offseason about Wilks, who Norman offered nothing but praise, Peterson said.
"He said, 'Man, you're going to love everything about him as far as the way he gives you keys for the game, when to be aggressive,' things like that," Peterson said Norman told him. "I'm excited. I can't wait."
One of the first things Wilks talked to Peterson about was how to separate himself from other cornerbacks around the league. Wilks stressed that Peterson compete against himself rather than trying to compare himself to others on the field. Peterson is so gifted, Wilks told him, that playing at 85 percent is better than most guys around the league.
He used to say the same thing to Norman.
"Sometimes, at this level, when you get guys that great -- the Larry Fitzgeralds, the Patrick Petersons, the Chandler Jones -- sometimes they tend to coast," Wilks said. "And those guys love to compete and as a coach I got to make sure I continue to get those guys to focus on the little things. And when Patrick is out there, he practices hard. That's the one thing I love about him."
Wilks also told Peterson the obvious: Everyone in the NFL is good. It's the details, Wilks said, that'll set Peterson apart. Wilks has stressed that an added focus on footwork, technique, fundamentals and hand placement will help push Peterson to new heights.
Those who have played for Wilks know what comes next.
"He brings the best out of players when it comes to technique, assignments, allowing them to use their best capabilities and attributes," said safety Tre Boston, who played for the Panthers from 2014-16. "It's something that I've seen with Josh Norman. Every week, Wilks put something new on his plate and challenged him to become better each and every week, but he did it in a way that Josh knew, 'He wants the best for me.' So, he was able to bring out the best for Josh each and every week, and I can see the same for Pat P.
"You can kind of see his play starting to speed up a little bit in the preseason."
Fellow cornerback Bene Benwikere, who played for Wilks and alongside Norman for two seasons in Carolina, said Wilks has been successful with star corners in the past because of his ability to communicate with them.
"He listens to what players say," Benwikere said.
And that helps Wilks get players to reach their potential and "getting them to understand truly who they can be in this league," Boston added.
Which has led Peterson to Sunday, when he'll start Week 1 in a slightly different role than he has had the past five years. Instead of being a press-man corner, Peterson will mix in some zone coverage.
Wilks has taught Peterson to play more with his eyes.
In press-man, Peterson focused on his receiver and his receiver only. Now Peterson is attuned with the defense's big picture. By playing off coverage more, Peterson will be able to read the quarterback better, get a better beat on the quarterback's drops, recognize routes better and see route combinations evolve. But when the situation calls for it, Peterson will do what he does best and guard the offense's No. 1 receiver.
"Now I can evolve my game," Peterson said. "I always thought I was an overall great corner but now adding that to the game and really sharpening my zone coverage up, I think the sky's the limit."
All he needed was a new sensei.
Source: ESPN | Josh Weinfuss | September 6, 2018