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Patrick and His Jacket

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The cornerback has been vocal about wanting to expand his role on the team, but is he ready for what Steve Wilks asks of his corners?

SiriusXM At Super Bowl LII Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

At last week’s Pro Bowl, when Patrick Peterson intercepted an Alex Smith pass at the back of the end zone, he turned to the crowd and and extended his arms for a lengthy period of time, as if he was crucified.

Poor Patrick. After having been snubbed by the All Pro voters for the second straight year, this was Patrick Peterson’s chance to give the world a curtain call---to say hey look at me---the forsaken elite, All-World CB.

While Peterson went on to intercept another pass later in the game, Peterson was indignant that he wasn’t named the game’s defensive MVP. He felt he deserved it over the BroncosVon Miller who delivered the game winning sack.

And now Peterson is taking every opportunity to make his “No Respect” campaign heard by the NFL universe.

During a recent radio interview with his number one fan, Dan Bickley, Peterson said he is urging newly appointed head coach Steve Wilks to diversify his role---to move him around so that he can be more visible in the offense.

Wilks, when asked about Peterson’s request, first said, “Who?” It was a tongue in cheek response, one that was meant to be amusing. But, Wilks followed it up by saying that while he believes it is important to listen to the players to learn and understand what they are feeling, at the end of the day, “we will do what’s best for the team.”

One thing is for sure---something is going to give between Wilks and Peterson. In Carolina, Wilks helped to build their secondary. Josh Norman credits Wilks for helping him evolve as a 5th round draft pick in 2012 to an All-Pro in 2015. When Norman was signed to a top dollar contract in 2016 by the Redskins, Wilks and the Panthers elected to draft two 6-1, 200 CBs in James Bradberry and Daryl Worley in accord with Wilks’ staunch philosophy that his CBs play with a certain “physicality” in all aspects of their role, which, of course, includes forcing the run.

One has to wonder what Wilks will think when he reviews the Cardinals’ game tapes over the past couple of years and sees the embarrassing effort and pitiful technique Peterson puts into his tackling and screen busting.

Half-hearted effort and awful tackling techniques will not be tolerated by Wilks.

Peterson lamented to Bickley how much he has missed Todd Bowles the last few years and how Bowles “taught me so much” about the nuances of CB play.

Well, this year Peterson has a new mentor in Steve Wilks. Will Peterson be willing to lay it on the line for Wilks and play the CB position the way Wilks insists it should be played?Recently appointed DC Al Holcomb, when asked about Peterson during his introductory press conference, acknowledged that it was good to have a special type of CB who can blanket the other team’s best WR, but Holcomb was quick to offer a caveat: “But---you have 10 other guys on the field and everybody has to do their part and come together.” Shortly after that, Holcomb iterated Wilks’ and his defensive “DNA”---”playing violently and with great effort.”

What’s curious about Peterson’s vocal urgings to be moved around more and be given a diversified role---is that this past season---Peterson WAS moved around much more than in the past---because James Bettcher played a steady diet of zones. This is why we saw Peterson staying in the flat or deep third more often.

However, Peterson did not perform well in the zone coverages, as he got caught repeatedly in no man’s land---at numerous times after the play he could been seen expressing his confusion to FS Antoine Bethea. Peterson did not tackle well, even in the flat on pass plays right in from of him where he consistently tried to tackle the WR up around the shoulder pads and got routinely swatted away. Despite given many more chances to make tackles and plays on the ball, Peterson only managed a paltry 34 tackles on the season, 8 pass breakups and 1 interception. These are two of the factors as to why Peterson’s PFF rating was a disappointing 79.6, ranked #50 for eligible CBs. For the season Peterson gave up 26/394/4 TD/83.6 QBR.

Conversely, Tramon Willams thrived in man and zone coverage and run support, which garnered him a PFF rating of 88.8 (#9 CB). In 9 starts, Williams notched 41 tackles, 12 pass breakups and 2 interceptions.

This week, Dan Bickley sounded as indignant as Peterson, agreeing emphatically with PP that he should have been named 1st team All-Pro.

It certainly didn’t help Peterson that his former DC James Bettcher did not hold him to higher standards and coach him up the way Todd Bowles did, nor does it help Peterson and that the Arizona media is so “star struck” that they continue to enable and stoke Peterson’s self sense of elitism.

Back in 2015, Peterson was asked by Bickley what was more important to him---making it to the Hall of Fame or winning a Super Bowl?

While Peterson said he’d love to do both, he said that if he had to decide between the two he would rather be awarded the gold jacket. Peterson said, ”There are a couple hundred busts in the Hall of Fame out of God knows how many players. That’s not a very big number, so I’d rather be in that group than the Super Bowl group.”

Ironically, Peterson’s one shoe-in teammate for the Hall of Fame, Larry Fitzgerald, during the 2017 training camp said this to ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss: “I think about it (winning a Super Bowl) a great deal. I do, especially in this state of my professional career. I know how difficult it is to even have a chance to get the opportunity to play. It’s extremely difficult. It’s something I constantly think about.”

BA was all about winning a Super Bowl---therefore, one could make the argument that Larry Fitzgerald, even though BA gave him a role that he was not thrilled with---one that consistently put Fitz’s 34 year old body at greater risk (blocking in the box as a TE is asked to do), gave BA everything he had.

Everything. PP? Not so much. BA couldn’t even get one huge punt return out of him for 5 years---or merely respectable tackling efforts. When PP shuts something down, he slams it shut.

While Peterson relishes in playing in the Pro Bowl, Fitzgerald doesn’t even go to them anymore, because as Billy Joel would say, “there’s some place that he’d rather be.”