GLENDALE — Two is greater than one. But is two better than one?
Bruce Arians believes so, especially given the playmaking ability of Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
The first-year head coach initially discussed the idea of pairing the former LSU teammates on punt returns after the team made Mathieu a third-round pick (69th overall) in the draft back in April.
The idea has resurfaced here in training camp.
“We have the potential to really have three back there if we want with Javier (Arenas) too,” Arians said. “We will have — and especially bad weather days — you always want to have twin safeties to where that ball is not hitting the ground and getting 20 yards a roll on a crappy kick, but the ability that we have with Patrick and Tyrann as special punt returners, yeah, it’s hard to kick away from two of them.”
Though which two?
Arenas returned punts in each of his first three seasons in the league while with Kansas City. Antonie Cason, the former UA standout, is another option, having gained experience the past three seasons in San Diego.
But Peterson is the main option; and in 2011 was the only option.
He led the league his rookie season with 699 punt return yards, while tying the NFL single-season record and setting the franchise all-time record with four punt return touchdowns on his way to being named to the Pro Bowl.
“I’m all open for sharing punt return duties,” said Peterson, who did not have a return TD last season. Despite teams kicking away from him, he still finished fourth with 426 punt return yards.
“I believe it can have a huge benefit for us because all of us can get the ball in the end zone,” he continued. “Now we don’t need to worry about those guys kicking the ball out of bounds when I’m back deep. Those guys are just as dangerous as I am with the ball in their hands.”
The Peterson-Mathieu tag team (or any pairing on punt returns, for that matter) has yet to be on display through the first four days of training camp.
“I haven’t heard too much of it, but it will definitely be exciting to be back there with Patrick,” said Mathieu, who at LSU his last year returned two punts for scores and averaged 15.6 yards per return, fourth-best in the nation.
“I mean, I wouldn’t mind being back there with Patrick, I doubt if he’ll let me catch it though,” he said smiling. “I might be just a decoy on that play. I’ve got to work on some blocking.”