It is not getting any easier to be a cornerback in the NFL.
With rule changes to make it harder to cover receivers beyond five yards of line-of-scrimmage, cornerbacks have even less room to work with in 2014 than in previous seasons.
The job gets even harder for star cornerbacks, who are matched up against opposing teams’ star receivers, and are still expected to prevent receptions while forcing turnovers.
This may be the biggest issue for Arizona Cardinals star Patrick Peterson, who set expectations sky-high after a great 2013, leading to a contract that made him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. In 2014 though, Peterson is making far less of an impact, already allowing four touchdowns through five games.
ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth was a guest with Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday, and doesn’t think that the blame for Peterson’s down year should fall on the cornerback.
“That guy may get the toughest assignment of any corner in the league on a week-to-week basis, based on the fact that [defensive coordinator] Todd Bowles is bringing the house all the time,” said Schlereth.
An increased completion percentage when throwing at Peterson has been an issue for the cornerback this season, with quarterbacks completing 63 percent of their passes for a 132.4 QB rating, compared to 54.4 percent and a 91.3 rating in 2013.
Still, Schlereth sees this as more of an issue with the fourth-year player’s lack of help from safeties.
“You get the toughest assignment every week and you are going to be in man with no help over the top, good luck. We’re all counting on you,” said Schlereth.
According to Schlereth, the Cardinals are blitzing on 49 percent of defensive snaps, and this is creating extra matchup difficulties for Peterson. “You can’t hang corners out against great receivers all the time and expect them not to get beat or expect some big plays not to happen,” said Schlereth.
Numbers are not only worse on completed balls thrown at Peterson, but on his own ability to force turnovers and defend passes.
Through the first five games of Peterson’s previous three seasons, the cornerback averaged two interceptions and 4.7 passes defended. The 24-year-old currently has one pass defended and zero interceptions through five games this season.
Rather than worry about the lack of big plays, Schlereth said that patience is important when expecting big plays from Peterson. “Turnovers are like bananas, they come in bunches. They’ll come, he’ll make plays.”