Does Peterson Fit Minnesota’s Secondary?

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Let me begin by saying that I won’t be losing any sleep worrying about how Patrick Peterson will fit in the Minnesota Vikings secondary. Peterson is a ten-year vet and is playing for Mike Zimmer, who is widely regarded as The Corner Whisperer. Peterson should be a rock-solid addition to a secondary in transition. The combination of Tomlinson at 3T and Peterson patrolling the defensive backfield should make fans optimistic.

A Brief History

The 30-year-old corner has spent the majority of his career playing along the left side, but he has experience along the right as well (per Pro Football Reference). It’s unlikely Zim and Spielman are bringing him in to play in the slot since they already have Jeff Gladney and Mike Hughes (who is the final player from our initial five cut candidates list). The result, then, is likely going to be Peterson alongside Cameron Dantzler in base and then Gladney coming onto the field in nickel.

Peterson was drafted 5th overall in 2011 out of LSU. He had 4.3 speed at the time. His explosiveness has taken a hit over the years, but he is still a solid option. His veteran experience and versatility should really help our secondary. During the 2020 season, he played 940 snaps along the outside and 107 from the slot (per PFF). He also had 45 snaps in the box, 2 along the defensive line, and 1 at safety.

Overall, Peterson’s performance last season was subpar. PFF gives him a 55.2 score, which ranked 83rd out of 121 qualifying corners. Two years ago, though, Peterson was an elite corner, finishing 5th overall in the NFL. A year ago, Peterson was ranked 41st in the NFL. The onus falls on both Peterson and the Vikings’ coaching staff to reverse the downward trend. Coming to Minnesota may be exactly what the vet needs. It’s worth noting that Peterson’s 2014 score was nearly identical to his 2020 score. In 2015 and 2016, Peterson returned to his usual dominant self. Let’s collectively hope that Minnesota can get Peterson to replicate this same pattern.

Peterson’s Fit

The basic numbers suggest that Peterson will be an outside corner. The benefit goes beyond merely having a solid player since Peterson’s presence should allow Gladney to focus on the slot. A Dantzler-Peterson-Gladney trio has some serious potential.

Mike Zimmer’s best defense had a seasoned vet in the secondary: Terrence Newman. Indeed, the 2017 Vikings defense was historically great on third down, and Newman was a key part of that equation. He had the intelligence to play multiple spots at a relatively high level. He was often referred to as having a coach on the field.

Peterson should be taking on a similar role. True, Minnesota already has Harrison Smith (extend the guy!) as a flexible vet who guides the young secondary, but adding someone as accomplished as Peterson to play alongside and work with the young corners will really help. It’s also worth mentioning that some elite corners have successfully transitioned to safety at the end of their career; don’t be surprised if Peterson ends up playing a little safety in Minnesota. The Peterson signing will make it difficult to bring Anthony Harris back.

Peterson also offers some ability as a returner. Pro Football Reference suggests that it’s been a couple years since he was relied on as a returner, but his career numbers are impressive (especially compared to what the Vikings put on the field last season). It’s safe to say that the main reasons why we faltered last season were because of defense and special teams. Peterson has a history of contributing in both phases, doing so at a high level.

Conclusion

Overall, Minnesota Vikings fans ought to be excited about the addition of Patrick Peterson. He is going to provide some great leadership and will solidify a position of need. If nothing else, the Peterson signing should (emphasis on the word “should”) keep Zim from really pushing for a round 1 corner. Instead, expect our Vikings to prioritize offense in the draft.

In the meantime, enjoy the hope that comes from free agency. One other thing to keep in mind: Larry Fitgerald is a free agent. Does signing Peterson make a Fitz homecoming any more likely? Something to consider.

Skol.

This article originally appeared on one of our partner sites: VikingsGazette.com. Check out The Vikings Gazette and follow them on Twitter and on Facebook for more exclusive Minnesota Vikings content and analysis!

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