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NFL.com’s Schein: Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson under pressure in 2020

Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson goes through a tip drill during the team’s practice Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

Patrick Peterson said it himself: He’s got everything to prove in 2020.

The Arizona Cardinals cornerback hasn’t shied away from the criticism he took for his 2019 season, one that began with a six-game suspension due to a positive PED test and upon his return included ugly displays where his play bordered upon misunderstanding the scheme to questionable efforts.

He finally found a little consistency late in the year, crediting both getting his legs back under him after the hiatus and learning defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s scheme after being forced away from team practices during the suspension.

Entering a contract year, Peterson must show at age 30 that he’s not on the decline. With that, NFL.com’s Adam Schein has Peterson ranked third on his list of NFL players under the most pressure this upcoming year.

Whenever I ask cornerbacks or receivers to name the truly elite cover men in the game, Peterson’s name routinely comes up. A Pro Bowler in each of his first eight NFL seasons, Pat Pete’s built up an immense level of respect among his peers. But last year was an absolute mess.

Now, I have Arizona as my Cinderella team in 2020. Part of my premise is that the Cardinals have three special talents on defense in Peterson, Chandler Jones and rookie Isaiah Simmons. Peterson needs to be special again — which means playing at his Hall of Fame level — for the Cardinals to live up to my billing.

Peterson returned from his suspension last year with a huge sack in the final minutes of a win over the New York Giants, but his play dipped from there.

The New Orleans Saints attacked Peterson with receiver Michael Thomas on quick-hit slants in the cornerback’s second outing, but the third was the low point of his 2019 season. On Halloween, Peterson got turned around multiple times in coverage against the San Francisco 49ers, and once didn’t make an effort to run down receiver Dante Pettis, who scored a touchdown.

Peterson took the blame, moved on and took the next few weeks to slowly find his form.

The final quarter of the season started with a shadowing assignment of Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. that saw Peterson make one interception and break up three passes. Beckham caught eight balls on 13 targets for just 66 yards.

Peterson and the Cardinals won their next game on the road against the Seattle Seahawks and closed the year with a seven-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams in which he again looked something resembling his Pro Bowl self.

As the talk of potential decline remains this offseason as Peterson seeks a new contract, there’s plenty of motivation for him to get right for 2020. Always confident, Peterson isn’t buying that his age was a factor in last year’s performance.

“This is a big year for me,” Peterson said at the end of May. “Never really been in a contract year but have had moments (where I’ve) had to do something to show my worth … I feel like I have something to prove.

“Towards the backend of the (2019) season, once I understood the defense, I understood what the coaches was looking for out of it. At the end of the day, I didn’t lose anything. My athletic ability, my skillset is still there.”


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