TEMPE, Ariz. — When looking at the New York Jets’ passing attack, the most worrisome threat down the field is easily receiver Brandon Marshall.
Now in his 11th season (and second with the Jets), Marshall leads the team in receiving yards, with 363, and is second in receptions, with 24. His 54 targets also pace the team, with 37 of them coming in the last three games.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall has had at least 100 receptions in six of his last nine seasons, and is someone the Cardinals will certainly be mindful of Monday night.
“You know, Brandon’s been doing it for a very, very long time,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Very physical, fast. He’s a guy that gives you everything. Very, very physical — especially at the line of scrimmage — with me being a press corner, he loves to use his strength, his arms, to get by me, over me. His favorite tactic right now is the pull-through.
“Yeah, so he’s still very talented and still got a lot left in the tank.”
Peterson figures to get the nod against Marshall for most of — if not all of — the night, as with Eric Decker on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, the six-time Pro Bowler would seem like the logical choice for whom defensive coordinator James Bettcher will deploy his shutdown corner on.
Understanding the Jets have been trying to get the ball in Marshall’s hands, with a weapon like Peterson, Bettcher has an option previous Jets opponents did not.
“You look at Pittsburgh, they singled (covered) him a bunch; you look at a couple other teams they doubled him,” Bettcher said. “So it’s been a little bit of everything — and Decker was playing in the Kansas City game. It’s been a little bit of everything, and you’ll see different things through the course of the game when we play them, absolutely.”
Bettcher made sure to point out Quincy Enunwa, another Jets receiver who actually leads the team in catches and has seen his role grow in Decker’s absence, as someone the Cardinals must be wary of.
But the premier matchup figures to be Peterson and Marshall, and it’s one the cornerback is hoping to have all night long. If he does, it will be a battle of two very physical players.
“With my game, I always want to be aggressive at all times; I want to make sure that I am able to bring the fight to the receiver at all times because receivers don’t like that, but he’s the type of receiver that does like that,” he said. “The last time I went up against Brandon was two years ago (writer’s note: it was actually four years ago, when Marshall caught six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in a 28-13 Chicago Bears win). I don’t really remember the matchup, I just remember the first play of the game, we were in a Cover 2, and he just came and bulldozed me on a pass play.
“I’m like ‘ref, he’s blocking me,’ but that’s his game. It’s going to be a hell of a matchup; can’t wait to see how I fare out Monday night.”
Since we got to chat with coordinators Harold Goodwin and Bettcher Friday, there was not any news on injuries other than what is in the official report, which can be found here. If you’re wondering, the only change from Thursday’s report is that tight end Darren Fells was upgraded to a “full” practice.
A better PP21
Now in his sixth season, Peterson has firmly established himself as one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks.
Yet, he’s apparently still getting better.
According to ProFootballFocus, through five weeks he has yet to allow more than three catches or 38 total receiving yards in a single game, and is leading the league with an average of 0.47 yards surrendered in coverage per snap and an average of 20.9 coverage snaps between catches allowed.
In layman’s terms, few passes have been caught against him, and the ones that have been are not exactly game-changers.
Peterson says yes, he thinks he’s playing better now than he did last season, which was a goal of his following a successful 2015.
“That’s always my goal,” he said of improving. “I felt there were some things I needed to clean up in the 2015 season, although I did do some great things, and I did clean those things up. I do think, as of right now, I’m having a better year than I had last year.
“I just want to continue doing the things I need to do to help this team win ballgames. If my assignment comes of guarding the No. 1 receiver, I want to do that to the best of my ability, not let him score, get off or have a big game. I understand if I do that at a high level, we have a pretty good opportunity to win. So I want to continue doing that.”
Asked where he thinks he’s better than last year, Peterson shrugged off the fact that he has been penalized less, but then pointed to that as a positive.
“Attacking the deep ball better,” he noted. “Not letting those guys get those passers over 10, 15, 20 yards. Don’t want to give up the home run ball.”
Peterson, who has 19 career interceptions, has two this season, one of which was an incredible one-handed grab of a Tyrod Taylor throw in Week 3.
It was the type of play Peterson is capable of making, and it in part allows him to still impress people this late into his career.
Bettcher said there’s usually about one play per week in practice where Peterson does something that makes him go ‘wow,’ though he added what impresses him most about the cornerback is his work ethic.
“Almost halfway through the season, and he’s played a bunch of years, had a bunch of practices, but he’s still working on the things he knows it takes to be a great player,” he added.
Friendly rivalry, high praise
Peterson was asked about what fellow cornerback Richard Sherman wrote about him in a piece for the Player’s Tribune, one in which the Seahawks star said he has to respect the “tremendous athletic ability” Peterson brings to the table.
“Some of the freaky things he can do, other elite corners will look at and say, ‘There’s no way my body could do that,'” he wrote.
Peterson said he was unaware of that, but doesn’t think Sherman is trying to butter him up.
“We’re good friends; in the same draft class,” he said. “Richard, he’s a great competitor. He’s been doing a lot of great things, his six years in the NFL — winning a Super Bowl — I believe he’s still first in the league in interceptions since we all joined the NFL, and he’s continued doing some things to help his team win ballgames.
“We’re buddies, but fierce competitors as well.”
Peterson, whose rivalry with Sherman has been well-documented on social media, said in a way it does feel better, in a sense, to be praised by a fellow player.
“But with me, with myself having the confidence that I have, I already know some of those things,” he said of Sherman’s analysis. “But I definitely thank him for thinking of me as that player, giving me the praise that he did give me.
“I just want to continue to put myself in the best position to hopefully be the NFL interception leader and keep No. 1 receivers out of the end zone.”