Arizona Cardinals: Is Shutdown CB Patrick Peterson Peerless?

By Jason Bailey
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Skeptics and critics can have a seat and shouldn’t bother getting back up. Patrick Peterson‘s record-shattering new contract punctuates his superiority encompassing the NFL as the premier shutdown cover corner. It’s a reality that is indisputable. There are a cast of other DB’s in the NFL that could vie for distant runner-ups and they would have justifiable cause for doing so.

You’re not likely to get much of an argument from The Grand Canyon State. Arizona Cardinals fans have pulled an Oprah and are in touch with reality. But on a more ceremonial grade of play, Peterson’s peers have held court and listed him as No.33 on The Top 100 Players Of 2013. That’s light years ahead of other cover corners around the league who definitely have potential, but remain secondary to Peterson’s caliber of pass prevention defense.

What about Antonio Cromartie? Valid argument. The man has game and there’s no question he has earned his stripes as a nonpareil defensive back. The eighth year DB is a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro who has prowled the league’s outfield, preyed on premier wideouts and led the NFL in interceptions in 2007.

He is a bonafide headache for the league’s foremost signal callers and his 28 career picks, with two forced fumbles play a presiding, factor in how often gunslingers target his assignments. Very infrequent. The man is a ranking pass prevention enforcer whose very presence in the outfield forces the league’s chief signal callers to balk before chancing a pass across his area code. But he is secondary to Peterson.

And what of a certain ball-hawking legend perched in the Pacific Northwest that suffocates the league’s premier aerial assault games? The All-Pro Stanford graduate who anchors the most frightening secondary in the NFL since 2012 — known as the Legion of Boom — named Richard Sherman.

I thought you might play that card. Sherman’s reputation definitely precedes him. He has 20 interceptions, one quarterback sack, four forced fumbles and 57 passes defended entering his third season in the league. The two-time First-Team All-Pro also has an NFC Championship, a Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl Championship under his belt. And he led the NFL in interceptions in 2013. Peterson can’t one-up those figures. Game over, right?

Not so much. You can’t disregard Sherman’s championships or First-Team All-Pro honors. They are incredible achievements of gridiron consecration that legions dream about from the Pop Warner level of play, but most never actually experience. Yet, if you examine the fine print of Sherman’s scouting report, it suggests that he isn’t manned up against ranking wideouts all the time.

In fact, many of his assignments charge him to shadow sub par receivers, which accounts for a considerable percentage of his jaw-dropping defensive figures. Sherman also has the luxury of a foreboding supporting cast in the Seattle Seahawks outfield that provide him with a crutch when he is locked against some of the more principal wideouts in the NFL. It’s very unlikely that Sherman could alight in a different secondary and produce the same mind-blowing defensive numbers.

Peterson’s paramount assignment, on the other hand, entails squaring off against the NFL’s most explosive wideouts. He lacks the pass prevention support that Sherman has in Seattle, but more than holds his own against the likes of Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald. A defensive back that run a 4.3 40 and has a 40-inch vertical, you have to know where he is on the field at all times.

Peterson’s shrewd instincts, imposing athleticism and outfield IQ are off the charts. He excels in press coverage, prowls the secondary with superior shadow-and-run coverage and harbors an extraordinary mastery for reading and diagnosing routes. His haunting ascendancy for locking his sites on his target, dropping covertly through the secondary like a Peregrine falcon and attacking the ball in the air makes him the scariest defender in the league.

The jury is in. They were never out. If the league’s chief signal callers would like to make an audible, they must hang up and dial the operator for directory support before they chance calling the shutdown corner’s number. Peterson’s game is lights out. And he is peerless.

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