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The "I'm Sure He Won't Be, but is Playing Most Like a Bust" Disappointment
Everything you need to know:
No. 5 overall pick Patrick Peterson hasn't cracked the Cardinals' starting lineup. That "elite" corps has allowed 37 first-half points (most attributable to starters are core contributors, who are most likely to play then and only then) over three preseason games. Four touchdowns, three field goals.
If you play with the numbers, you'll find that, in relative terms, that equates to 24.67 points per game, just ahead of the Bengals' 2010 mark, No. 24 in football last year. Given that only one touchdown -- a two-yard plunge from Packers' reserve Alex Green—was rushing, you can put most of that on secondary.
Want more proof?
Starters' stat lines against the Cardinals this preseason:
|Player ||Team ||Completions ||Attempts ||Yards ||Average ||TD ||INT ||Rating
|Jason Campbell ||OAK ||6 ||9 ||66 ||7.3 ||0 ||0 ||88.2
|Aaron Rodgers ||GB ||9 ||12 ||97 ||8.1 ||1 ||0 ||126.0
|Phillip Rivers ||SD ||18 ||28 ||198 ||7.2 ||2 ||1 ||96.0
That's not all that impressive. Not the numbers opposing QBs have posted; they're solid.
But what they say about the lineup Peterson can't seem to crack, Greg Toller and A.J. Jefferson? "Who?!" is right—as is "why?!" as in, "why in the hell isn't Peterson running first-team reps yet?!"
I get that two of those round out my Top 5 NFL quarterbacks (coming soon). And that the preseason is defined by chicken broth-bland defenses with little complexity, at least that a defensive coordinator is willing to glean that early.
And, yes, corner makes for one of the sport's toughest transitions. If acclimating to the "game speed" of the NFL is rookies' foremost hurdle, it's going to be highest for DBs, expected to shadow some of the fleetest footed quicksters on the planet.
Given corners' delicate confidence, it's no wonder why Ken Wisenhunt is holding Peterson back, over thrusting him in the lineup and subjecting him to a humbling.
But that's what Peterson is paid (handsomely, for record; slated rookie wage scale or not) to do. The overwhelming optimism that he would (and can) is why the organization felt cozy enough to trade Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the Kevin Kolb deal.
Yes, Arizona needed a quarterback to pull it out of its post-Kurt Warner rut, making DRC somewhat expendable. But the organization hoped to stray from that era's atrocious defense, too. Tough to imagine that they let DRC go if they didn't expect PP to be the next CB (Champ Bailey).
Tough to imagine that they draft him at No. 5 overall.
But, if you remember, what rifled Peterson's stock atop most draft boards (including mine; I had him as the best player available) was his versatility. This was a guy you could stick in the slot, screaming down the sideline for wheel routes-turned touchdowns. A guy you could plop back on punt and kickoff returns, all but securing certain, unofficial victory in the field position battle.
I haven't seen any of that yet.
Sure the sample size is small; Peterson's only returned three punts. And the league near-legislated his distinctive competence out of the game by bumping kickoffs up five yards.
But just 8.33 yards per return this preseason? That was then-Chief rookie Javier Arenas' mark from a year ago.
If you're arguing that Arenas is a nice, underrated player whose selection and early development champion this new era of Chiefs viability, given their obvious draft savvy, I'm totally with you. But you're also proving my point: Peterson wasn't supposed to have a comp. He was that good.
That he does, though, suggests he hasn't been.