Two years ago when the Carolina Panthers removed the franchise tag from their All-Pro CB Josh Norman, Patrick Peterson tweeted him to say: ”Know your worth…”
This created a firestorm of back and forth texts between the two rival cornerbacks.
Months later in the summer of 2016, after Norman had been signed by the Redksins to a $75M contract and had just been rated the #1 CB on Madden Football, three spots ahead of Peterson who was ranked at #4, Peterson tweeted his disdain for the ranking to Norman and perpetuated the same argument he had with Richard Sherman, that “I don’t get beat 1 on 1 because I am a man corner, not a zone corner.”
Norman then accused Peterson of “trolling me on Twitter.”
Well, sometimes things come full circle, don’t they?
Because---now---Peterson will be playing the LCB role that Norman mastered while under Steve Wilks at Carolina. The prospect of this new role actually thrills Peterson.
“[I’m] very excited, ’cause I’m gonna be doing a lot of new things that I haven’t done in my career — in my NFL career,” Peterson said, via AZCentral.com. “I’m just looking forward to getting back to my playmaking ways because I believe over the last two and half, three years, I’ve been kind of handcuffed in doing that, because obviously teams try to stay away from me. But now, Coach Holcomb and Coach Wilks are going do a great job of finding ways to install me into the game.”
During Peterson’s interview with Rich Eisen earlier this week, the Cardinals’ star CB added:
“The defensive side of the ball is going to be much simpler than what it was the last couple of years. It’s gonna allow guys to line up and play football. If offenses know we are playing Cover 3, we’re not trying to outsmart anyone---we want to make teams adjust to us---and that’s gonna make us that much more lethal as a defense---it’s gonna allow us to play much more faster and taking down the mental errors.”
The 2018 season could be a pivotal, transformative one for Peterson. He finished the 2017 season with a bitter taste in his mouth, as his rankings amongst the league’s top CBs have slid some over the past two years. Peterson argues that because QBs seldom throw his way, he is not getting the kind of highlight plays he got in the past…and thus is not getting the same kind of national recognition.
Peterson went into January 28th’s Pro Bowl game on a mission to re-prove to the world that he is the top CB in the game. He recorded two interceptions and celebrated them as if he had just won the Super Bowl.
For some of us who have watched every minute of Peterson’s games, his genius as a press CB stands out, but so does his aversion to contact. At times, he does everything in his power to avoid it. When he does try tackle, he rarely breaks down and thus he tends to come at the ball carriers way too high and is customarily brushed aside.
Last year, James Bettcher called more zone coverages than usual. While Peterson is now talking like he’s never played zone---he has. The truth is, he struggled in zones last year. His 79.6 PFF rating (#46 CB) is, in part, a reflection of his struggles in zones and overall with his tackling. If Peterson had strictly played man-to-man every play, his rating would have been higher.
Peterson’s steady decline as a punt returner has also, to some degree, tainted the national perception of him.
These are some of the reasons why Peterson comes into the 2018 season with a giant chip on his shoulder. His defensive role has been expanded and has become much more diversified. In Steve Wilks, Al Holcomb and David Merritt, Patrick Peterson has the ideal set of coaches to help him take his game to the highest level.
Ironically, when Josh Norman heard the news of the Cardinals’ hiring of Steve Wilks, he swiftly tweeted this to PP 21:
@P2 dude you think your game on a High level now? Your abt to go #Supersonic!SegaGenesis!— *Joshua R. Norman (@J_No24) January 22, 2018
Early indications are that Peterson is enamored with his new head coach. Peterson said to Rich Eisen:
“Coach Wilks has been great for us thus far. Just the way he handles himself each and every day---you can’t even tell that this is his 1st gig as a head coach because he is so methodical on how he plans out his day, the way he has us move throughout the day, as far as meetings, as far as walk-throughs, as far as in the weight room. Everything is run just so differently---and it’s been great for us so far because he does a great job of communicating with his players and we are definitely going to go to war for him when it is time to.”
As Peterson has said, the defensive assignments have been made crystal clear, which included every defender’s “one gap” tackling responsibilities, which includes the CBs---a staple of Wilks’ physical defensive philosophy.
Peterson can also look to his good friend and golfing partner WR Larry Fitzgerald for inspiration. Fitzgerald was once a little contact shy himself, until his offensive coordinator Todd Haley helped him realize how important it is, whenever possible, to initiate contact, rather than be the one on the receiving end of it.
If Steve Wilks takes Patrick Peterson’s game to the next level the way Todd Haley did for Larry Fitzgerald, this could set the tone for making the Cardinals’ defense truly elite and breathtakingly “supersonic.”
Interestingly, game one of the Steve Wilks era is at home versus the Washington Redskins. Josh Norman on one side and Patrick Peterson on the other. This time Peterson has Steve Wilks on his side. Peterson will be trotting out there with a giant Dorito on his shoulder---and with a vow to go to war for his new head coach.