Patrick Peterson reiterates belief as Cardinals defense searches for fixes
TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson wishes he could “press the restart button” but remains hopeful Arizona can turn its defense around.
Whether that’s in the final four games of 2019 or beyond, he is buying in. It’s just a frustrating time for the eight-time Pro Bowler.
“I believe I won 14 games in three seasons. Is that anything to be happy about?” he said Thursday when asked why he hasn’t been his upbeat self. “That can be frustrating, but at the same time I know with this team what we have here.
“We had opportunities to win games, versus last year where we were completely — I wouldn’t say outmatched — we just wasn’t there. The last three games besides this last one, we literally lost on the last drive. We’re right there as a team, as a unit.”
Peterson hasn’t been himself since returning from a six-game PED suspension. A blitz strip-sack and an interception in his first two games back indicated he was back to being a difference-maker, but since then Peterson has fallen off.
His Pro Football Focus coverage rating of 47.9 over six games this year looks like an eyesore after he put up a career-best 83.7 last season.
The 29-year-old’s 128.9 passer rating allowed this season likewise contrasts with the 82.5 rating allowed to quarterbacks in 2018.
A lot of those analytics have to do with team breakdowns, to be fair, but there’s no doubt Peterson is trying to get out of the worst stretch of his career.
“I wish I could press the restart button but I can’t,” he said. “So I have to find a way to move forward, find a way to continue to grind.”
Getting blocked down the field by Rams quarterback Jared Goff last week or pulling up in coverage of a free-running Dante Pettis on Halloween didn’t help Peterson’s case that he can return to form.
The narrative has built that Peterson’s unhappiness expressed in a trade request last season is related to his ineffective play today.
“I’m not going to get into individual players’ performances,” general manager Steve Keim said of Peterson when he joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “The video speaks for itself. You guys can all see that.”
Take it from Peterson that he’s still invested in Arizona and the future.
Echoing middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, Peterson said communication problems have bit Arizona, especially when it comes to a young secondary.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury even suggested at the beginning of Week 14 preparations for the Pittsburgh Steelers that the Cardinals needed to take verbal communication duties off Hicks, who had too much on his plate attempting to talk teammates through things at the line of scrimmage.
On Thursday, Peterson said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has reduced the number of checks required, calling it more “camp rules defense.”
That, the cornerback said, should allow the Cardinals to play faster with fewer chances that communication issues could spoil a play-call.
“It wasn’t complex at all,” he said. “It was just a lot of checks, a lot of moving parts, a lot of communication that was keyed upon and if you don’t get certain communication, things can break down. It’s just minimizing the checks, then guys just line up and play football versus of worrying about, if the y (receiver) does this or the x does that and checking into x, y, z.”
At the start of training camp, Joseph said he would overload his players before the regular season and dial them back when it came time to play. But he wanted to implement more and more into the scheme as the year went on, and that was already set back by unexpected losses: Peterson’s suspension, fellow cornerback Robert Alford’s leg injury and the release of defensive end Darius Philon.
Kingsbury spoke Monday about the importance of having years of consistency for players to learn an offense or a defense.
“I think it can be big as you go season after season with terminology the same, technique, fundamentals are the same,” the head coach said. “I think you can definitely grow, and that can be a key part to having success down the road.”
Peterson reiterated that point twice on Thursday. Time learning a system is a valuable tool, and it’s something that the cornerback experienced early on in his career.
“When he was here, same things with (DC Todd) Bowles. His first couple of years, we gave up a ton of yards to running backs screens, tight ends, but as the years start going on, people start to get more comfortable,” Peterson said. “Keeping guys around: that’s the key part.
“It’s going to take some time on both sides of the ball for guys to get comfortable in the scheme, but I really, really do think the sky’s the limit for us. Vance has a great gameplan each and every week. It just falls down on the players, us, as a unit, to go out there and make sure we execute the gameplan at the full potential.”