As we inch closer to the start of the regular season, more and more predictions and proclamations are being released.
Good news, though? The Arizona Cardinals continue to dominate them.
The latest projections are from NFL Media analyst Elliot Harrison as he looked to pinpoint the 2016 All-Pro Team. Harrison selected Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in his secondary.
Peterson edges out Jason Verrett, a yound player I’m very high on. Peterson can do it all, from holding the fort when isolated outside in man coverage to “traveling” with the opponent’s top receiver. Not to mention, when he picks off a pass, Peterson is always a threat to take it to the house. Most importantly, he has become a team leader. And that’s why he’s here.
Another important part of Peterson’s game that Harrison didn’t mention is his health, as the 26-year-old has not missed a game in his first five years in the league. Peterson recorded a career-high seven interceptions in 2012 and while it might appear that his production has declined since that season, opposing quarterbacks have generally shied away from throwing toward his side of the field.
Arizona signed Peterson to a five-year, $70 million contract extension in 2014, which keeps the defensive back under contract through 2020.
Mathieu was my Defensive Player of the Year before getting hurt late in the 2015 season. He is the queen on Arizona’s chessboard, a roving playmaker who can cover the slot, blitz off the edge or line up as a classic safety. Quite simply, the most impactful defensive player in the NFC.
While health is an important part of Peterson’s game, it has been a detriment to Mathieu’s. The 24-year-old tore his left ACL and LCL in 2013, then tore his right ACL in 2015. Mathieu was having a career-year in 2015 before he went down in Week 15 in Philadelphia. He snagged five interceptions, 89 combined tackles and even scored a touchdown. Mathieu’s abilities allow defensive coordinator James Bettcher to create unique blitz and cover packages.
Arizona’s third-round gamble in 2013 on the “Honey Badger” has definitely paid off, as Mathieu is seen as the heart and soul of the defense, and possibly the entire team. The Cardinals front office showed their belief in the defensive back by giving him a five-year, $62.5 million contract extension earlier in training camp, making him the highest-paid safety in the league.