‘Complementary’ Cardinals defense can help Patrick Peterson now, later
TEMPE, Ariz. — Patrick Peterson admitted Thursday that his fit in first-year Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks’ defense isn’t all that different from the patrol he put on under former coach Bruce Arians.
As a whole, the defense is expected to move its star cornerback around more. He might get a few hits on opposing quarterbacks.
Up front, it’s supposed to make responsibilities easier on the 4-3 defensive line, allowing pass-rushers to pin their ears back while thinking less.
While it’ll be hard to blitz more than Arizona did during the Arians era, Peterson said there are more responsibilities equally spread around. For him, it’s a nice change-up that could help him get in on more big plays — and add longevity to his career.
“Offenses have this saying of, ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Where’s the guy missing, the missing link of the puzzle or the chain?” Peterson said. “That’s when we was in the man-to-man system. Now we have a more zone-oriented defense to where now everybody is looking at the quarterback, everybody is going to have the opportunity to break on the ball.
“We’re a complementary defense now versus back when (defensive coordinators James Bettcher and Todd Bowles) was here, we was a man-oriented defense.”
“Waldo” was often whichever cornerback lined up opposite Peterson. And while Arizona feels adding likely starter Jamar Taylor was an upgrade, the new scheme should put take some pressures off the secondary as a whole. That should benefit safety Budda Baker, who like the departed Tyrann Mathieu, will be used as a pass-rusher.
But the corners will potentially get more involved.
Unafraid to show too much, Wilks, a defensive backs coach by trade, and defensive coordinator Al Holcomb flashed corner blitzes with Peterson in the Cardinals’ first preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“The thing that I love about Pat is he’s smart,” Holcomb said. “We can move Pat around and do different things with him. I think it’s been beneficial.”
The nuances still have to play out heading into the Cardinals’ third preseason game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, but for one of the Cardinals’ defensive stars, the slight differences might do the body good.
“The only thing you see that will be a glaring change is me playing off the receiver a little more, giving me a better opportunity to see the ball thrown and breaking on it and being able to make a play on the football,” Peterson said. “I think that’s only going to add years onto my career.”
Don’t get Peterson wrong: he has not lost a step. But entering his eighth season and at 28 years old, these things start to creep up on a football player.
He said less jamming players at the line will help conserve energy. It’ll allow him and his teammates to see the play develop in front of them longer. Playing more zone, Peterson added, will put less pressure on the defensive backs to lock down in one-on-one coverage.
Linebackers will likewise play a bigger role in roaming the intermediate level of the field, hoping to tip passes and make interceptions themselves.
“Now we don’t have two guys with their eyes on the quarterback,” Peterson said, “we have seven, eight guys with their eyes on the quarterback.”