The Arizona Cardinals’ first six games of 2018 have been mostly forgettable, but one of their most consistent stars is putting up numbers that even he has yet to accomplish in his illustrious seven-year career. That star would be cornerback Patrick Peterson, who’s stellar start to the season has been overshadowed by the team’s slow start.
From being targeted 113 times in his rookie season in 2011 to being targeted just 60 times last year, Peterson has earned his due respect from opposing quarterbacks. When quarterbacks have targeted him this season, Peterson is allowing just 8.7 yards per reception, which would be a new career-low by a staggering 3.7 yards fewer than his previous career-best in 2012.
The lack of targets, lack of yards allowed and subsequent overall success for Peterson aren’t for a shortage of snaps, either. Peterson has played the most snaps without allowing a touchdown among cornerbacks this year. His 57.3 passer rating allowed when targeted is currently seventh-best among cornerbacks. However, the star corner has surprisingly been top-10 in passer rating allowed only twice in his first seven years.
Peterson doesn’t need a breakout year — which the first six games of this season would certainly qualify for — to establish himself as a top cornerback in the NFL. He’s generally hovered around an 80.0 grade each year aside from a few rough years. But so far, this season has reaffirmed that Peterson is still playing at an extremely high-level despite the Cardinals being on pace for one of their worst years since Peterson was drafted.
His 80.2 overall grade is fifth among qualifying cornerbacks, and if he were to finish the year in that position, it would be the first time in his career grading in the top-five. But, Peterson’s impressive season can be observed through an even smaller scope than overall grade. When looking at how each of his targets has been graded over his career, Peterson has had an incredible start to the year.
NFL players lined up at cornerback this year have been graded negatively when targeted on 43.9% of plays. Peterson’s mark doesn’t even come close to that — he’s had a negative grade on just 28% of his targets — good for seventh among qualifying cornerbacks. Not only is that miles away from the league average, but it would also be a career-best mark by almost 9%.
It’s fair to say that Peterson wasn’t at his best last season. He did have a career-best 46.7% catch rate allowed, but his 83.6 passer rating when targeted and his 14.1 yards per catch allowed led to a rough 69.2 grade (57th among cornerbacks) and may have caused some to believe that the 28-year-old was falling from stardom.
But Peterson has quickly silenced any doubts, proving through six weeks that he’s still the shutdown corner he’s always been regarded as throughout his football career. The Cardinals may be 1-5 with a sputtering offense, but Patrick Peterson’s efforts in coverage shouldn’t go unnoticed — and they certainly won’t if he continues this high-level of play to the season’s end.