BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. — When safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Patrick Peterson are both on the field for the Arizona Cardinals, offensive coordinators have to be shaking in their boots, for the simple fact that Mathieu and Peterson are threats to pick off every single pass that comes their way; they’re that good.
Unfortunately, Mathieu’s 2015 season was cut prematurely due to an ACL injury he suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles in late December. Before that freak injury, Mathieu was having a monstrous season – a Defensive Player of the Year type season if you will.
What Peterson’s done over the first five years of his NFL career speaks for itself. He’s quickly turned himself into the premier shutdown cornerback in the NFL, as evidenced by the lack of explosive performances by No. 1 wide receivers who line up in front of Peterson on a weekly basis.
Bleacher Report recently came out with a list of the top-101 cornerbacks in the NFL for this past season, and to no one’s surprise in the #BirdGang, Mathieu and Peterson came in No.1 and No. 2, respectively, on that list.
Each of the 101 players were graded in four categories: Coverage, run defense, tackling and position value. The max score a player could get is a 99. Mathieu got a 95, and Peterson got a 93.
Mathieu’s coverage (71/75):
“Before tearing his ACL late in the year, Tyrann Mathieu was forcing his way into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. It doesn’t matter how you tag him or where he lines up on the field, Mathieu will excel. He has quick feet to mirror slot receivers while possessing the physicality and ball skills to fight tight ends and bigger receivers for the ball when it’s in the air. Mathieu’s size (5’9″) can be a problem, but he can do a lot of things in space that bigger defensive backs are incapable of doing.”
Mathieu’s run defense (10/10):
“Ferocious. That’s the best word to describe Mathieu’s run defense. He doesn’t see any blocker as an obstacle but rather a minor inconvenience. Mathieu has strong, precise and active hands he uses in concert with his low center of gravity to get under blockers and work around them. His awareness and anticipation breaking down running plays allows him to break into the backfield before blockers can reach their spots on time.”
Mathieu’s tackling (5/5):
“Mathieu missed 12 tackles on 906 snaps last season. That is a byproduct of playing in space while attempting to be physical at the point of contact. Mathieu doesn’t just look to wrap up ball-carriers—he tries to accelerate through them and pressure their ball security with his physicality.”
Mathieu’s position value (9/9)
Peterson’s coverage (75/75):
“Patrick Peterson enjoyed the best season of his career in 2015. He has never been a bad cornerback, so any criticism of his coverage should always have been viewed in that context. The biggest difference for him in 2015 as opposed to previous years was his ability to hold up while playing more aggressive coverage. Peterson wasn’t easily bumped away by bigger receivers, instead showing off his impressive hand usage and quick feet to disrupt the timing of his assignment’s routes.”
Peterson’s run defense (5/10):
“Peterson is a reliable run defender. He will advance quickly to close on the line of scrimmage and set the edge even though he can’t hold up against bigger tight ends or linemen at the point of contact. Peterson is better suited to penetrate in space against outside runs and wide receiver screens.”
Peterson’s tackling (4/5):
“Even though he was more physical in his man coverage in 2015, Peterson still wasn’t punishing ball-carriers at the catch point. He is a consistent tackler who relies on his length and technique to drag opponents to the ground.”
Peterson’s position value (9/9)