Should Cardinals Look To Defense To Spark Offense?

By Shaun Church
November 02, 2011 5:58 pm
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During the lockout-shortened offseason, the Arizona Cardinals had the opportunity to add a wide receiver through free agency who would give them a “true No. 2” threat alongside Larry Fitzgerald. They signed Chansi Stuckey, but he has been largely unused since losing a fumble at Washington in Week 2 that cost them a chance to drive down the field for a late-game comeback.
 
They signed tight end Todd Heap to try and help Fitzgerald get open by drawing coverage his way underneath. But he has been hampered by injuries and has been largely ineffective. Jeff King — the tight end Arizona brought in to be a blocker — has been more of a threat than Heap has been.
 
Fourth-year receiver Early Doucet has been developing nicely (finally) into a No.2-ish threat, but he’s not a burner. They don’t have anyone on offense other than Fitzgerald who has the capability to take one the distance at any time.
 
Andre Roberts certainly hasn’t shown he can be reliable; that is, he can’t catch a cold, let alone a football.
 
There are some great receivers playing in college at the moment just waiting for next year’s draft. But that doesn’t help them now.
 
What, then, do the Cardinals do in the meantime to stretch the field? The trade deadline has passed, and there are no “deep threats” available in free agency now.
 
They may have an option on the defensive side of the ball they can use in a pinch.
 
Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson has electrified the crowd twice already, taking back punt returns of 82 and 89 yards for touchdown in his first seven games as a professional. You might think that punt returns are far different than running routes, catching passes and making your way through a defense; and you’d be right.
 
However, Peterson has been compared to Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, who was used from time to time as a slot receiver for the Cowboys during their heyday.
 
Peterson is strong enough to break tackles — he broke five alone on his latest highlight reel return — and big enough to fight for the tough yards.
 
And should offensive coordinator Mike Miller use him, it would be in a similar role to that of Sanders. The vast majority of Sanders’ routes on offense were of him just streaking down the field trying to get open. He had three touchdown catches, and one on a reverse in which he weaved through the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense and cut all the way from the left side to the right and scored from 21 yards out while with Dallas.
 
That is exactly how he should be used if they insert him into the offensive game plan. Give him the ball on a reverse. Throw him a bubble screen. Send him deep on the go-route.
 
It would not, however, be a Devin Hester situation where they remove him from the defense completely. As you may recall, Hester was drafted out of Miami as a cornerback/return man, just like Peterson. Hester, though, failed to grasp the defense in Chicago and was converted full-time to receiver.
 
Rather than that, Peterson would be there to galvanize the offense. His presence on the field alone would draw enough attention from defenses that he would be a decoy for the other receivers long enough to have them forget about him.
 
You run a fake reverse with him. Then you fake a screen pass to him. Ever hear of the boy who cried wolf? Everyone stopped paying attention to him. That’s when he will hurt a defense, after they put their focus on other parts of the offensive unit.
 
And like Sanders, this would be on a part-time basis. A few possessions per game is all, perhaps when the team needs a spark.
 
Peterson loves helping his offense any way he can. When asked about returning kicks he said, “That’s what I love to do. That’s my number one love — playing punt return, having the opportunity to give the offense a good field position.
 
I told my guys at the beginning of the week (before the Baltimore game), “All I ask for is give me five yards, and meet me in the end zone.”
 
“It’s definitely something we need right now,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
 
Something they need, indeed. At this point any extra output on offense would be a delight to players, coaches, and fans alike. It couldn’t hurt anything.
 
Kevin Kolb needs all the help he can get right now. Fitzgerald has gotten almost no help on the outside, being double-covered nearly every play. Doucet, Heap, King, and even running back Beanie Wells have done all they can to take the pressure off Kolb and Fitzgerald. But they can’t do it all on their own.
 
Peterson in the slot is going to be a mismatch nearly every play. If they catch the defense not paying attention and a linebacker is forced to cover the slot, you’ve got an opportunity to score.
 
Using him in the two-minute and no-huddle offense would be a great place to start. It would likely not happen this week against St. Louis, and it may not happen at all (this is, after all, just an opinion piece). But if this somehow gets to the necessary people in the organization (hint, hint), I speak now on behalf of every Arizona Cardinals fan that cares: get this done. If anything, it would help continue the 58-game sellout streak at University of Phoenix Stadium.
 
See you in the cheap seats, people.

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By Shaun Church
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2 years ago
In a one-and-six season, I'll take it. What's the worst that can happen - going one-and-seven? Someone's going to have to mix it up. But if play calling is truly where the issues stem, I won't expect it. I think we may see Skelton this week, and that alone should change things up.

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