Cardinals facing familiar Adrian Peterson in opener vs. Redskins

Sep 7, 2018, 5:38 PM | Updated: Sep 9, 2018, 10:19 am
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson runs a drill during an NFL football team practice,...

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson runs a drill during an NFL football team practice, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Adrian Peterson has already had a great career. He enters Sunday’s season opener at No. 12 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, just 37 yards away from jumping into the top ten over Marshall Faulk and Jim Brown. And, depending on how well he performs over the course of the 2018 campaign, he could feasibly climb as high as No. 8. Maybe even No. 7 or No. 6, if he has a career renaissance in Washington.

In other words, it’s safe to say the six teams that passed on him in the 2007 NFL Draft regret their decision.

Of course, the Arizona Cardinals were one of those teams, taking tackle Levi Brown two picks ahead of Peterson. And he has proceeded to torch them over the course of his career, averaging nearly 112 yards from scrimmage per game against them over six meetings, while getting into the end zone seven times.

The Cards got a glimpse of what it’s like to have Peterson on their side in 2017, though, bringing him in after David Johnson went down with a wrist injury in Week 1. And a strong case could be made that he provided one of their most memorable moments from a relatively average season, electrifying the Arizona crowd to the tune of 134 yards and two scores in a victory over the Buccaneers.

That was his first game as a Cardinal. And his first drive made a lot of people in the stadium that day start to believe he could help salvage their season.

As it turned out, that was his best game with Arizona, and the team started to spiral against the Rams in London just one week later. He put up 159 yards against the 49ers on an absurd 37 carries in Week 9, but that was essentially it.

He’s back now, though. On the opposing sideline.

In fact, Peterson will be the Redskins’ lead runner when they come to town for the opener on Sunday. He was named the starter earlier this week, after being picked up last month when rookie Derrius Guice went down with a torn ACL in camp. And while his career is clearly winding down, his former teammates know he’s still dangerous in any given game.

“Still has a lot left in the tank,” Patrick Peterson pointed out. “We’re going to get a good dose of AP. We know what type of runner he is, we know what type of player he is. We just have to make sure that we slow him down early. You know, try to get the ball. Hopefully, the offense can get some points on the board early so we can get the ball out of his hands and kind of force Alex [Smith] to try to beat us.”

As it turns out, this probably isn’t the best week to face Adrian Peterson. He’s still a powerful, if not explosive, back. He just tends to wear down as the season goes on and the tackles pile up. Being 33 years old is fine if you’re a quarterback, but it’s borderline ancient by running back standards. Especially for a physical runner like Peterson.

That said, he proved last season that he’s still pretty effective when he’s rested. Not only was the game against Tampa his first as a Cardinal, that 159-yard outburst against San Francisco came after the bye week.

“We know they’re going to hand the ball off to AP,” Antoine Bethea acknowledged. “He’s a downhill runner, so we’ve just got to do a good job of tackling and swarming the ball.”

With Washington working a new quarterback into the mix, it makes sense that they’d want to keep things simple and feed Peterson. And since a lot of what the Cardinals want to do is predicated on a strong defensive performance, containing Peterson just might end up being the key to the game.

“Well, we’ve got to tackle,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Al Holcomb noted. “We’ve got to tackle. He’s a big back, he’s physical, he’s aggressive, he runs hard. We know that. We’ve got to come and we’ve got to play behind our pads and get ready to play, really, with him.”

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