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Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson excited entering new, more diverse role

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

In February, Patrick Peterson was fresh off a fine Pro Bowl performance that included two interceptions but no MVP to show for it.

With Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians retired and the feeling of success washed away by what Peterson believed was outside disrespect, he let it out.

Peterson didn’t want to be the nice guy anymore. He wanted to earn respect he felt like he didn’t receive as the Arians-led defensive staff tasked him with taking away half of the field. Opponents accepted it, never throwing passes his way and never allowing him to make game-changing plays.

Under new Arizona head coach Steve Wilks and new defensive coordinator Al Holcomb, Peterson sounds rejuvenated with a new, more diverse role.

“I’m definitely digging it,” the cornerback told Bickley & Marotta on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I’m going to be doing a lot of different things that I have not done up to this point in my career — my NFL career — as far as playing a little bit more off, as far as coming around the edges a little bit more, being more involved into the scheme in terms of, like I said, blitzing more, being on both sides of the field, moving around a little bit more.”

Wilks and Holcomb inherited a defensive team that returns many of the same leaders as 2017.

Almost all of those leaders are changing roles.

Peterson will not be latched on to a single side of the field for entire games. Defensive end Chandler Jones, who was labeled as an outside linebacker in Arians’ scheme, will be setting up in a three-point stance the majority of the time.

Deone Bucannon, the $ linebacker, retains his position name but will play more as a traditional middle (MIKE) linebacker.

“I think this year, Coach Holcomb is definitely going to explore (new roles) with the tools that he has on his defense,” Peterson said.

“You got (safety Budda Baker) pretty much being the chess player — you don’t know what the heck he’s going to be doing. Obviously, you got Deone moving into that MIKE position right now, so we’re a little bit faster at the linebacker position … being a little bit more natural now for (defensive tackle) Robert Nkemdiche being in a 4-3 system, having him playing straightforward now.”

Dishing on the wide receivers

Who better to ask about the Cardinals’ holes at the receiver spot than the man tasked with defending them during June mini-camp?

Arizona lost receivers John Brown and Jaron Brown this offseason but returned the prolific Larry Fitzgerald, who pushed potential retirement off for another year.

The Cardinals drafted Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk in the second round but also signed Greg Little and Brice Butler, two NFL veterans with experience as role players.

“I believe we kind of answered that one question briefly by bringing Greg Little and kind of filling that X (receiver) void. Brice, he has a great resume — I’m quite sure he can be an X for us as well but I believe he’s been nursing an injury since he got with us,” Peterson said.

J.J. Nelson, the speedy 26-year-old with two 500-plus yard seasons in 2016 and 2017, is also someone Peterson said is ready to make a leap.

“He’s becoming, I believe, more and more … an all-around receiver as far as not only just being a deep threat. He’s now running pretty much every route in the book — running more slants, running more comebacks, a couple digs.

“Previously, he never pretty much ran all the routes in the route tree.”

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