The Arizona Cardinals have gotten off to a hot start in 2012 largely due to the play of their defense.
Through the first five games, they are in the top half of the league in all major categories.
This unit has allowed just 334 yards per game (tied for 11th) and 15.6 points per game (fifth). In addition, they have 17 sacks, five interceptions and six forced fumbles.
Arizona has transformed its defense into one of the top groups in football. Over the past couple of seasons it has brought in some quality players through trade, free agency and the draft.
One of its most notable pickups was cornerback Patrick Peterson. Selected with the No. 5 overall pick of the 2011 draft, Peterson was one of the biggest corners coming out of the 2011 class.
He stands at 6'0" and weighs in at 219 pounds, with a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash. His great combine along with a solid junior season at Louisiana State University were convincing enough for the Cardinals to take him, despite their needs at quarterback and offensive line.
In his first NFL game for Arizona, Peterson had a pick six on the first play he was in the game. Although it was just the preseason, he set the bar very early in his career and has not looked back.
The rookie had many game-changing moments in 2011. During his first regular-season game, he ran back a punt against the Carolina Panthers. This score turned out to be the game-winner.
Over the course of the season, Peterson would tack on three more punt-return touchdowns—one of which went for 99 yards in overtime to beat the St. Louis Rams.
By doing so, he tied Devin Hester with the most punt-return touchdowns in a single season. He also set franchise records for longest punt-return touchdown and most punt-return yards in a single season.
In addition to being named to the Pro Bowl, Peterson was the only rookie to be named to the 2011 All-Pro first team. However, it was as a kick-return specialist, not a defensive back.
Even though he was great on special teams, many questioned his ability as a corner. In his rookie year, he had two interceptions, defended 13 passes and recorded 64 tackles.
Peterson was pretty much a lock for the No. 1 corner job heading into his sophomore season, and those who questioned his ability as a corner were the same people who talked down about the Cardinals secondary.
Through five games this year, he has 15 tackles, five defended passes and two interceptions. With over two-thirds of the season left to play, he could very well end up with six or seven interceptions.
Peterson has developed a lot since coming into this league and has proven that he is one of the better corners in football. The question now is, with Darrelle Revis out, is he the best?
There are probably some people who think he is, indeed the best corner in football. While he is one of the top corners in the league, he is not the best.
It is too early in his career to call Patrick Peterson the best in the game at his position. Players like Brandon Flowers and Cortland Finnegan are ahead of him for now.
When you factor in his age and his special-teams ability, then he is one of the first guys I would draft when trying to form a defense.
If you take the special-teams part out of his game, then Patrick Peterson is not the best corner in football. Sorry Cards fans.
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