Cardinals hope return of Patrick Peterson gives defensive boost
TEMPE, Ariz. — There has never been a worry that Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson wouldn’t be ready to play this Sunday.
After serving a six-week suspension for PED usage, the eight-time Pro Bowler was able to return to the team practice facility on Monday as the Cardinals prepare to face the New York Giants on the road.
“Boy, boy boy, it’s been a long time coming,” Peterson said in a team-produced video before his return. “I love this game dearly. I’m going to be fresh coming into Week 7 and I’m excited.
“It’s a new chapter that I’m starting to write, and I can’t wait to see what it’s going to entail.”
Peterson was not available to reporters Monday, but Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury expects that Peterson will be able to jump into the action immediately.
“We’ve talked through it with our athletic trainers and strength coaches and just want to make sure we have a good plan to work him back in to make sure he’s comfortable and full-go. We know he’s been working very hard and will be ready physically,” Kingsbury said.
“We’ve just got to get him caught up on some things. He’s a unique talent, so we’re going to put him back in and get him rolling as quickly as possible.”
It’s not like the Cardinals have much choice.
After Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 30-for-36 for 356 yards and four touchdowns at State Farm Stadium on Sunday, Arizona is ranked 30th in the NFL by allowing 281.2 passing yards per game.
Through those six weeks of play, the Cardinals have allowed the second-highest opponent quarterback rating (121.8), allowed the most passing touchdowns (16) and is the only team without an interception recorded.
“He’s a special player, he’s a lockdown corner,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said last Thursday. “If they decide to attack Patrick, shame on them. But you can obviously make them attack Patrick by helping other corners. When you have two young corners, it’s tough to help one and leave one by itself, so you have to play more balanced.
“Having Pat P makes it easier to call defenses.”
Peterson’s return does not solve everything.
But he will give a secondary utilizing three rookies a boost.
Kingsbury suggested Monday that second-round pick Byron Murphy has impressed enough to slide to the second corner spot. And he added that veteran Tramaine Brock will play more in a slot position — perhaps that is one way to put a bandage on the tight end coverage woes by Arizona.
“Byron continues to get better. We like his progress,” Kingsbury said.
“Being able to move Brock around and play him predominately in the slot more I think will be a positive for our defense.”
Arizona’s defensive backs coaches began the offseason excited to create schemes that forced opponents to find themselves throwing Peterson’s way. Joseph spoke excitedly about dictating offenses.
That was before starting defensive tackle Darius Philon was released after an arrest and fellow starting cornerback Robert Alford went down with a leg injury that placed him on injured reserve.
Now, Peterson’s return isn’t so much about putting a black hole on the field that opponents might get caught up in. It’s just about fencing off one side of the field, which after a 2-3-1 start the Cardinals are surely fine with.
What else happens with Peterson back?
Getting a fresh Peterson will provide a spark in the locker room, one that after two wins in a row has a game against a fragile Giants squad. A third win over a sputtering opponent would certainly be huge for the clout of Kingsbury, Joseph and the first-year coaching staff.
And in terms of convincing one of their best players and leaders that the franchise tides are changing in a positive way, that could be everything, especially when it comes to pulling his teammates along with him as the Cardinals attempt to regain relevancy.
“He knows how good he is,” Kingsbury said. “He carries himself that way. He practices that way. He practices very, very hard and takes care of his body. I loved watching him in training camp. He’d go one-on-ones all day every day if he could. He loves to compete, and that rubs off on his teammates.”