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Cardinals CB Kevin Peterson enters key week to make impression

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 06: Joe Mixon #28 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the ball as Kevin Peterson #27 and Budda Baker #32 of the Arizona Cardinals combine for the tackle at Paul Brown Stadium on October 6, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals haven’t been keen on plugging recent acquisitions into game situations through this early portion of the Kliff Kingsbury era.

Earning snaps over time has especially been needed in the defensive backfield, where with two starters gone to begin 2019, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has taken his time making sure he can trust newcomers. Kevin Peterson, acquired off waivers after being cut by the Los Angeles Rams before Week 1 preparation began, has earned that trust.

“Well, he was with Wade,” Joseph said of Peterson learning from Rams DC Wade Phillips over the last two seasons. “My background is obviously Wade’s system.

“He’s a gifted player. He’s quick-twitch, he’s long, he’s tough and he’s confident. He’s had two good weeks.”

Joseph coached under Phillips with the Houston Texans from 2011-13. The former was defensive backs coach, while the latter was the defensive coordinator and in 2013 became an interim head coach.

To Peterson, that connection has mattered.

“Some of the calls and things are the same — they had some of the same adjustments,” he said. “As well, Vance has adjusted some things. There’s still a lot to learn, but it’s still got that base foundation of things to know.”

Likely the third corner behind rookie Byron Murphy and veteran Tramaine Brock this week against the Atlanta Falcons, Peterson will likely be leaned on more than ever.

That’d be even moreso the case if Brock’s shoulder injury that is limiting him in practices this week is an issue.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is completing 70% of his passes. His targets include Pro Bowler Julio Jones, impressive rookie Calvin Ridley, solid veteran Mohamed Sanu and tight end Austin Hooper, the last of whom leads the team in receiving yards.

“We just got to lock up,” Peterson said.

Peterson, 25, played in six games as a second-year pro in 2017, recording 11 tackles, six passes defensed and two interceptions. A torn ACL put him on ice last season, and he returned to excel for the Rams this preseason.

He picked off two passes and allowed two catches on four targets, earning a mention on Pro Football Focus’ 2019 All-Preseason Team.

But a roster squeeze put him on the waiver wire. He was picked up by the Cardinals, who were suddenly searching for depth with Patrick Peterson’s suspension and Robert Alford’s placement on IR.

“You just feel like you played great. You feel like you’re adequate to play anywhere,” Kevin Peterson said of being cut. “Can’t look back. You’ve got to come full force to what’s next and that next day.”

Peterson didn’t play a defensive snap for Arizona until two weeks ago. He was on the field for 29 snaps against the Seahawks as he began earning time over the recently-cut Chris Jones, then the third cornerback. This past week against the Bengals, Peterson took 47 snaps.

The rangy, 5-foot-10 cornerback allowed two catches on five targets and has been in passing downs 54 times.

With Patrick Peterson’s return from his PED penalty upcoming on Monday, Sunday prior marks a prime chance for Kevin Peterson to perform as the team looks forward to welcoming back one of its best players.

Extra points

— Joseph on if he is worried about covering Hooper, the tight end, with such a limited group of defensive backs plus a banged up set of starting linebackers: “You hope this week they feature the tight end, not Julio. How about that?”

— Last week in the 26-23 win over the Bengals, the Cardinals defense played well after tweaking a few things once Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon ate up yards on his team’s first drive. But the Bengals scored twice from the 4:08 mark to the 2:00 warning in the fourth quarter, tying the game after what was a two-possession Arizona advantage.

“A win’s a win,” Joseph said. “Obviously we didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish. The last two drives just wasn’t what we wanted to look like finishing. Half of that was my fault, in my opinion. In the first drive, I was kind of bend, don’t break. And then as (quarterback Andy Dalton) got hot, I was bringing pressure but it was too late.

“I can keep us aggressive by making more aggressive calls in that situation. We’re up by two scores.”

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