January 24, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; NFC cornerback Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals (21) runs the ball during practice for the 2013 Pro Bowl at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 Player Countdown: #2 Patrick Peterson

Taking his place at number two in the Raising Zona staff writer vote for the Arizona Cardinals top 10 countdown is second year cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The performance of the former fifth overall pick has been, in a word, tremendous. He seemed to have a difficult time adjusting to the speed of the NFL game and receivers early in his career, but he has since progressed into something of a shutdown corner. If everything was based off of his first few games as a pro corner, he would be a write-off. His real impact in 2011 was returning punts.

Six-hundred ninety-nine yards and four touchdowns came on punt returns. Those numbers including a 99-yard majesty that came in overtime against the St. Louis Rams. That’s a rookie record in yardage and a tie for the record for touchdowns.

Peterson is as dynamic a return man as what has been seen in the National Football League.

Now, after getting burned (a lot) during most of his rookie year, he really came into his own in 2012. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson checked in at a low rank of 108 after the 2011 season. In 2012, he was ranked at 18. Moving up 90 spots in one season is more than a bit impressive and a tough feat to accomplish, especially considering that Peterson now shadows the opposition’s primary receiver.

Also, he upped his interception total from two in 2011 to seven in 2012.

There was a small trade-off, however, with the improved cornerback play. The stats for his punt returns dropped off sharply. He wasn’t able to break a single return for a touchdown, though a few did come ever so close. The trade is worth it though, as Peterson spends most of his game breaking up passes and does an incredible job of taming the #1 receiver his entire time on the field.

Peterson will still be returning punts this season, according to Bruce Arians, but his former LSU teammate Tyrann Mathieu could also be thrown into the mix of the return game. That may help to lessen a bit of the pressure on Peterson. Also, the offense will be much more productive this season and that will let Patrick loosen up.

The fact that the Cards played from behind in most games in 2012 laid massive amounts of pressure on him to break a huge run for a score, since the offense was not a hair short of incompetent.

Shutting down players the caliber of Larry Fitzgerald is not an easy task, especially for hours on end, but Peterson has proven that he is up for the challenge. He will be up with the other legends in the Cardinals Ring of Honor one day long from now.

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