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Peterson Ready For Prime Time Role In Arizona

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Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is being incorporated into the offense and quickly drawing comparisons to Deion Sanders. (Getty Images).
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is being incorporated into the offense and quickly drawing comparisons to Deion Sanders. (Getty Images).

As Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson nears the start of his third NFL season, the stakes are getting higher for him in more ways than one. For starters, there’s the general pressure of being a top-five draft pick. Then there’s the whole challenge of playing in a division that boasts two legitimate Super Bowl contenders and a few quarterbacks, namely Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, who seem primed to tantalize opposing secondaries for the next decade or more.

The cherry on top for Peterson might be the lofty (and, yeah, flatteringly intense) comparisons recently made by Cardinals GM Steve Keim. He compared the 23-year-old Peterson to arguably the greatest defensive back to play the position, Deion Sanders, as well as one of the overall greatest athletes to play any professional sport, Bo Jackson. Not only did these men play in both the NFL and Major League Baseball, they’re somewhat of social sports icons who really are too unique to draw comparisons. Now, Peterson is being incorporated as a wide receiver in coach Bruce Arians' pass-first offense.

This is what Keim had to say: "From an ability standpoint, I've never seen anything like him. He's the closest thing in the league to a Bo Jackson, a Deion Sanders. I've seen him stand on the field flat-footed and throw the ball 65-70 yards. He goes out to practice as a wideout, and runs a 10- and 15-yard out as well as anyone on our team. His value to our team is really unparalleled," Keim told NFL.com.


Seeing It From Both Sides


A two-way player in his own right, Peterson has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief career, even if he hasn’t yet become a household name. He’s started in all 32 games in his first two seasons, and followed up an impressive rookie season (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries) with seven picks and five recoveries last season, the latter of which led the league. In addition, he’s often asked to man the opposition’s No. 1 receiving target.

Peterson might be more remembered for the Cardinal records he set as a punt returner in 2011, including the longest punt return touchdown in team history (99 yards), most punt return touchdowns in a single season (4; tied an NFL record shared with Devin Hester, Jack Christiansen and Rick Upchurch) and most punt return yards in a single season (699). He’s already amassed more return touchdowns and interceptions as a pro than during his three collegiate seasons.

And his role is reportedly going to increase in 2013 as Arians has hinted that his offensive playbook could have as many as 15 plays drawn up to include Peterson, who has four receptions over the last two seasons. With new quarterback Carson Palmer behind center, the per-diem “receiver," could become that much more of a play-making threat.