Cardinals throwing caution to wind with young CBs

Posted Sept. 09, 2011 @ 3:41 a.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Despite head coach Ken Whisenhunt's natural reluctance to start rookies, few daily team observers were surprised when 2011 first-round draft pick Patrick Peterson was penciled into the Week One starting lineup at right cornerback ahead of free-agent addition Richard Marshall.

It's a different story altogether, though, at left cornerback, where most sources on the scene assumed it was only a matter of time before Peterson would take the starting job away from second-year pro A.J. Jefferson.

But Jefferson, who has steadily been moving up in the eyes of Cardinals coaches since being signed as an undrafted rookie in late April 2010, was entrenched as the starting left corner the entire offseason.

"They have always been high on him talent-wise," Cardinals DB coach Louie Cioffi told PFW regarding Jefferson. "The kid is a hard worker with the kind of speed and size you want at the corner position. When I was coaching with Cincy, I know a lot of the coaches liked him, too.

"He's a big kid, and the one thing you can't really teach is size. Either you have it or you don't. He also has really long arms and is really good in press coverage. He's a very smooth runner, too. When teams try to go deep on him, he runs so effortlessly. That's another thing you can't teach."

On the opposite side, Cioffi genuinely believes the sky's the limit for Peterson, who had not done anything to raise eyebrows in a Cardinals uniform until he came out of nowhere to intercept a Philip Rivers pass in a preseason game against San Diego and return it 34 yards for a score.

"He should be a valuable contributor at both corner positions," Cioffi said. "In Cincy, I was fortunate to work with Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, who were both excellent players. I'd have to say Patrick is as good or better than both those guys on natural ability alone.

"He has all the tools and makeup to be a dominant player in this league for a long time. And he also provides a real spark with his return ability."

Cioffi cautioned PFW to avoid overlooking Marshall, who adds a veteran presence after starting every game for the Panthers the past two seasons.

"We are very high on Marshall and we expect him to get plenty of playing time," Cioffi said.