Dec. 23, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) celebrates a play against the Chicago Bears at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Bears defeated the Cardinals 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: Is Patrick Peterson a Top 5 Cornerback?

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Is Patrick Peterson a top five cornerback?

Unless I am being flagrantly fooled by that famous so called “Eye Test” you not only have to put Peterson in the top five, but you might have to consider him for the #1 spot. Yes, spit that Hot Pocket out and grab a seat. You have a few things to consider when you ask this type of question, like stats, confidence, defensive scheme, and skill set. It becomes even more relevant when you know the Arizona Cardinals are trying to get him signed to a new contract sooner rather than later.

In 2011, when Peterson was drafted, he came into a league that had become more passing oriented. Multiple receiver sets, less running and more teams were creating mismatches in coverage pulling more linebackers out and more nickel backs in. Some of the names at the time being thrown out there for best cornerback were Darrelle Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha, Charles Woodson, Asante Samuel and Champ Bailey. Things have changed since then, and Peterson is one of the reasons as well as Richard Sherman. Sherman also was drafted in 2011, while New York Giants cornerback Stevie Brown in 2010 and Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward in 2012. I have compiled my list of the top five, and the players are:

5. Nnamdi Asomugha
4. Asante Samuel
3. Darrelle Revis
2. Richard Sherman
1. Patrick Peterson

Before you click on the next article let me explain. As stated there was a method to the madness and I believe you would agree or at least disagree respectfully. Peterson enters 2013 as my top cornerback mainly because some of the names mentioned when he came into the league aren’t the same and some not around anymore, at least until Charles Woodson signs or not.

Asomugha cracked the list in part because the 49ers defense took a stab at the skills he has shown in years past. Their scheme should help him get the type of one on one matchups he used to excel in, unlike his last two years in Philadelphia. Asomugha was only targeted 98 times from 2008-2010, so he can be a shutdown corner. Samuel, who has 50 career interceptions, was still as effective in 2012 for Atlanta as he was in Philadelphia. Going to another team that uses his zone prowess well, he showed he hasn’t lost much of a step but not anything mentally.

Revis missed the 2012 season, and I have him third now. Call me crazy, but I am not denying his skills, which, prior to tearing his ACL last year, were extremely sharp. However, it remains to be seen whether he can bounce back, and the unique contract he has set up (no guaranteed dollars) with Tampa Bay after being traded by the Jets shows the respect he has earned (the contract is worth $96 million) but also extreme caution on the Bucs part. That leaves two very good and very different-styled corner backs left Sherman and Peterson.

Both cornerbacks are big, as Peterson is 6’2’’ and Sherman comes in at 6’3’’. When you’re a tall corner you get hit with the, “Can he play safety?” question. However, both of them are great cover corners, and their height gives them an advantage over other cornerbacks who typically range around the 5’11″ area. The two were separated by only one interception (Patrick Peterson intercepted seven passes and Sherman intercepted eight), and Sherman also forced more fumbles (four) with Peterson having none. Yet Peterson is something that Sherman isn’t; a game-changer.

His ability to return punts is a crucial element to Peterson’s skillset. His ability to watch the field and catch the ball at the last second allowed him to be the only rookie selected to the 2011 All-Pro First Team as a punt returner. Peterson also set a record by running back four punts over 80 yards for touchdowns. He is also the youngest on this list by almost three years. I believe that his being used in punt returns and offense took from his concentration on defense at times.

It is hard enough to keep up with the best wide receiver on each team every game, but to also have your focus on avoiding tacklers can be draining, especially for cornerbacks. Typically, they are used more often on offense than say a wide receiver is used for coverage situations on defense. This is why I believe Josh Cribbs was being considered, at one point.

As for the confidence they all have it, as seen by Peterson’s growth and mentoring of friend and fellow teammate Tyrann Mathieu. Sherman has the mouth to match his while Revis and Asomugha have chips on their shoulders and want to get back to where they once were. Samuel is on the Super Bowl hunt with Atlanta maybe last year.

As for number one this is all based on assumption and some stats because as league changes so will this position. Less contact, less man coverage’s and less run plays factor in, also more plays being ran due to complex offenses like New England’s and Chip Kelly’s in Philly will dictate this as well. There could possibly be a different top cornerback for the next few years, but for now, it’s Peterson.

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