NFL.com’s Brooks: Patrick Peterson is a star, not a system guy

Jun 28, 2016, 6:30 AM
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends against Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver...
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends against Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Patrick Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

In fact, after the season he just turned in, some folks over at NFL.com believe the Cardinals’ star is the best cornerback in the league.

There are plenty of reasons for why one would view Peterson in such a positive light. He has consistently posted good numbers since entering the league in 2011, and while his reputation has at times outpaced his production, he has always been one of the most talented players on the field.

Last season was one of his best as a pro, with Peterson essentially shutting down opponents’ top receivers game in and game out. Peterson was named First-Team All-Pro for the second time in his career and was also invited to play in his fifth Pro Bowl.

But when judging Peterson — as is the case with most football players — it is important to look at both the scheme he plays in as well as the talent that surrounds him.

With that in mind, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks set out to determine whether some of the game’s best players are actually stars, or if they are more products of their respective systems.

When it comes to Peterson, Brooks says the 25-year-old is a legitimate star.

The fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft was expected to dominate the cornerback position with his dazzling combination of size, athleticism and ball skills on the perimeter. He has not only lived up to the hype, but he has changed the way scouts and coaches view “lockdown” cornerbacks in today’s game. Peterson travels to match the opponent’s top receiver and does so in splendid fashion while employing a variety of techniques in the Cardinals’ blitz-heavy scheme. The 6-1, 219-pounder capably uses “mug” (two-hand jam) and “shadow” (mirror and run) to blanket WR1s, but he also displays the footwork, instincts and ball skills to play away from the line.

Speaking to an AFC West personnel executive recently about Peterson’s game and potential, the evaluator told me that “Peterson has always been viewed as one of the elite athletes at the position, but now his game has started to match his talent.” After watching Peterson flummox opponents throughout the 2015 season, there’s no doubt in my mind that he is one of the few corners in the NFL capable of making his mark on the island in any system.

Peterson’s ability to shut down receivers on his own allows the Cardinals to employ a blitz-happy defense. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher has talked about the advantage to having a player of Peterson’s caliber, noting how he can be more creative and aggressive with his calls with a confidence that he can leave the cornerback isolated without getting burned.

In theory, if Peterson can hold his own on an island as he so often does, it’s reasonable to think he would also succeed in a scheme that offers him more help.

As for another one of the game’s top cover men, the Washington Redskins’ Josh Norman was placed in the “System Guys” category. And while he’s not listed in either group, there are some who believe the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman also is more a product of his surroundings than his own ability.

 

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