It was just a few days ago we learned of how great a season cornerback Patrick Peterson has had through the first four games of the 2015 season. He has been a true shutdown corner, even though he hasn't had super tough competition.
Now he is going to face some premiere receivers over the next few weeks. It starts with Calvin Johnson this weekend and is followed up by Antonio Brown and A.J. Green in the weeks to come.
But there has been something better about his play. While we have noted it in our podcast here on the site, it has not gone unnoticed by teammates and coaches. It has to do with his focus and preparation.
Quarterback Carson Palmer noted on Wednesday, saying how "he is just more energetic" in everything he does. "playing like every play is his last play, practicing like it is his last practice," Palmer continued. "Very focused, he seems very determined. I think last year some of the things that were said about him left a chip on his shoulders and it shows."
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said on Thursday "the first thing that flashes on the tape is how hard he plays."
Peterson was asked much of the same things after practice on Thursday. His focus is better. His preparation is better. He also feels better physically.
Peterson echoed what he has said since the spring. "It's the best I have felt in a long time," he said.
Bettcher didn't really know about the whole medical part of things, but did explain "when you feel good, you play good." That has been the case with Peterson.
He is slimmer than in years past. He weighs less than he ever has since coming to the NFL.
"It helps me a ton," he said. "I was a little too heavy. As a cornerback, you have to be as light as you can be. That makes you have fluid hips and great change of direction. When I put on that weight last year, I wasn't able to do some of the things that I wanted to do in years prior."
But back to the focus.
No longer does he get bored with a lack of action on the field. "I learned my lesson a couple of years ago, so I have to make sure I stay focused for 60 minutes," he said.
"Now that I am in year 5, I feel I really turned a corner this year," he said. "I had an eye-opening year last year, relying on athletic ability seven out of the 10 times I was on the field. Now it's all mental. I definitely take my preparation more seriously than I did over the first four years."
He has been largely left alone for the last couple of weeks. His primary assignment has not had a catch in each of the last two games and he has only been targeted a couple of times.
That won't likely be the case in the weeks to come, and he relishes the opportunity. Noting how he is trying to have a Hall of Fame career, he knows it isn't all about interceptions anymore, but rather what he gives up to the players he guards. He calls it "a pleasure to face those guys because I know nine times out of 10 I'm going to get the majority of the work, so when the ball comes my way, I have to make the most of the opportunity."
Bettcher said another thing that makes Peterson great is his desire and ability to continue to find small things in his game.
Peterson does more film work and, as he told reporters, "I always work on my technique because that's what I have to do to be on top of my game for a long time." He also understands he can't take plays off because team catch all that on film.
We all figure it would take a little time for Peterson to come into his own. General manager Steve Keim believes Peterson can "redefine the position." It sounds like after getting his big contract and facing some adversity, he knows what it takes and is ready to take things to the next level.