During his rookie season, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson impressed at times on the defensive side of the ball. He also struggled mightily early on, perhaps due to being thrust into the No. 1 corner role following a season-ending torn ACL for Greg Toler.
He captured the imagination of fans everywhere, however, every time he stepped back to receive a punt.
He was targeted early and often on defense throughout the course of the season. In fact, Peterson’s 113 targets were outdone only by Charles Tillman (115), Jason McCourty (117), Eric Wright (120) and Jabari Greer (121) for most in the NFL among corners.
The same five players gave up the most receptions in the NFL. It was Wright with 75, McCourty with 71 and the other three tied for third with 67 receptions allowed. (All stats courtesy of ProFootballFocus.)
For his efforts, his peers voted him the No. 55-ranked player in the NFL, as seen on NFL Network. Not because of his work as a corner, but because he was a legitimate threat to score a touchdown every time he fielded a punt.
ProFootballTalk.com reported the following:
“I feel pretty good for my first season at No. 55, but hopefully as my career progresses I’ll be looking to be in that Top 10 category somewhere,” Peterson said. “I definitely believe I made it through the record I set—tying the NFL record [for punt return touchdowns in a season]. I believe that’s primarily what got me in the Top 100. But this year I’ve been working more on my coverage skills and trying to be more of a shutdown cornerback versus that elite punt returner.”
Those coverage skills were better in the second half of his rookie season than in the first, though the statistics don’t show it. You could see it in his technique; it just never translated into receiver dominance.
Over the front eight games of the 2011 season, Peterson allowed 422 yards receiving, two touchdowns and recorded two interceptions for a 79.3 QB rating.
As stated above, despite better technique over the final eight games he allowed 447 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 90.1 rating.
Peterson says he wants to prove to people that he can be the shutdown corner Arizona drafted him to be, adding this to his interview with PFT:
“I expect to be a whole lot better,” he said. “I can’t wait to get out there for the first game and showcase what I’ve been working for this offseason, finally put it to work and show the world what I can do.”
With the entire summer still ahead, there is more time for Peterson to hone his craft and become the shutdown corner he claims he will be. He already possesses the necessary confidence and borderline cockiness—which is nothing new for the 22-year-old—to fit the part; how that translates in September and beyond will be fun to watch.