Dealing Cards: Patrick Peterson’s next assignment could come with a move
TEMPE, Ariz. — It was pretty much a given that Patrick Peterson would primarily be matched up with Stefon Diggs Sunday in Minnesota.
Arizona’s All-Pro cornerback usually draws the assignment of the opponent’s best receiver, and Diggs is certainly that.
The second-year pro out of Maryland has caught 61 passes for 710 yards and two touchdowns this season, with 26 of the catches and 244 of the yards coming in the last two games.
Diggs, who was targeted 29 times by QB Sam Bradford in losses to the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, is someone Peterson is looking forward to facing.
“Stefon Diggs is really emerging into one of the top receivers in this league,” Peterson said, pointing to his statistics. “He’s been doing a lot of things for that offense — I don’t know what it’s equaling to, losing, but as far as the offensive numbers, they look pretty good.
“For the most part, for me, I have to make sure I go out there and do everything I can to slow him and that connection down because those guys look like they do have a very good rapport right now going into Week 11. I’m going to have my hands full, as always, because I have the opportunity to go up against teams’ No. 1 receivers. I had a great week of preparation this week, hopefully it carries over on the field on Sunday.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Peterson will not be on Diggs every play, but acknowledged his cornerback usually tracks the opponent’s top wideout and therefore will find himself matched up with him.
“We’ll still play some zone, but he’ll be on him some,” he said.
It’s likely “some” is an understatement.
Last season, against Peterson and the rest of Arizona’s secondary Diggs caught just two passes for 12 yards on seven targets in an Arizona win.
Diggs is a better receiver now than he was then, however, and besides his own improvement, what makes this a potentially difficult matchup for Peterson is that the receiver spends a lot of his time lining up in the slot.
A press corner, Peterson usually lines up on outside receivers. Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher said the adjustments they must make with Peterson inside are not foreign to them, as they had to be made last season when he faced Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and the year before against the Rams.
The ripple effect Peterson moving inside may have on the rest of the secondary might be minimal, but the change — for Peterson himself — is something to be mindful of.
“It is very difficult because now you have to worry about a couple more routes,” he said. “You have to worry about, now, going through traffic, you have to worry about pick-routes now, versus outside, when there’s no one on the outside of you, you don’t have to worry about any of that.
“So when you move inside, you have to make sure you’re leery of the things that can happen to you and you have to be, also, worried about just a couple more routes than you would have to worry about when you’re outside.”
Peterson noted how he faced Brown in the slot last season, and said the Jets’ Brandon Marshall moved inside in their game this season, which he had never seen him do.
“Pretty much everyone I go up against, they try to move them around because everyone knows I’m a press corner, so they want to try to find ways to get their receivers off the ball, or not let me press them, because that’s my strength,” he said. “So they want to try to take that away from me, for the most part.”
Diggs being in the slot Sunday has less to do with Peterson than it does his role in Minnesota’s offense, but his impact — if he plays well — will be great.
Arians said “it will be a great challenge for Pat,” before noting that the hope is to limit Diggs.
“You’re not going to shut him out,” the coach said. “But you can limit him.”
Few teams have, but if Peterson can, it’s a game-changer.
After Diggs, the Vikings’ next leading receiver is Adam Thielen, who has 32 catches for 453 yards and three scores. He is followed by tight end Kyle Rudolph (37 catches, 392 yards, 5 TDs) and Cordarrelle Patterson (30 catches, 256 yards, 2 TDs).
The point is, Diggs is option No. 1, and it’s not really all that close. Stop him, beat the Vikings?
“Just like every other week, if I do my job to the best of my ability and not let the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver get off, we have a pretty good opportunity of winning,” Peterson said. “But those guys have have a good receiver corps — we must not sleep on Patterson, 19 (Thielen), the tight end (Rudolph) — they have some great talent around Stefon and around Sam Bradford as well, so we can’t sleep on those other guys.
“But I believe if I do my job to the best of my ability, we will have a pretty good opportunity to win it.”
The official injury report can be found here, and the good news for the Cardinals is the only player who is listed as “doubtful” is defensive lineman Corey Peters, who is dealing with a foot injury. Arians said he will be a game-time decision, with everyone else traveling to Minnesota.
“We’ll make decisions on a couple of guys at the game,” he said. “Everybody else was practicing in one form or another.”
As for Tyrann Mathieu, who missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, Arians said he ran around good.
“His shoulder’s sore, and we’ll see how it goes,” he added.
On the lines
Most games, people will tell you, come down to who wins in the trenches. In this matchup, a pair of banged up offensive lines have to deal with impressive defensive fronts.
“This is a big, big game for both offensive lines — who wins the battles on their offensive line vs. our offensive line, and we talked about it in our room already, it’s like, who’s going to be the guy that steps up on our defensive line,” Arians said. “Which team can run the ball and keep their quarterback clean?”
On the idea that Arizona’s defensive line may have some success against Minnesota, linebacker Markus Golden said Thursday to be wary of the thought.
“You can say that, but I feel like we’ve just got to get after it no matter what,” he said. “Each week, for the last four weeks, whatever offensive line we went against, we said the same thing, ‘oh, we’ve got the favorable matchups.’
“So, I feel like it’s the same thing. Of course, they’re banged up, they’ve got injuries, but we’ve still got to go out there and do it, because at the same time, they can sit there and get the ball out quick every play and nobody gets anywhere near the quarterback.”
The Cardinals will be making their first trip to play in U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened this season. For everyone in the organization, it will mark their first experience in the shiny new digs.
“Having not done it in this stadium, just seeing the pictures and hearing about it from other teams, it’s a great, great venue, and really glad they got it done,” Arians said. “Looking forward to it. If it’s louder than Seattle, I’ve got to hear it.”
The experience of playing in a new building, Arians said, makes this a bit different.
“Rookies, it’s the first time every week,” he said. “But for guys who’ve not been in these stadiums, it’s always new.”
Now, why might Arians be glad they got the stadium finished this season? Well, while it was being built, the Vikings were playing in the home of the Minnesota Golden Golphers, whose stadium was open-air. The new building is a dome, and the high Sunday is supposed to be a toasty 34 degrees.
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