Patriots keeping their eyes on Cardinals' Peterson

Patriots keeping their eyes on Cardinals' Peterson
September 13, 2012, 10:42 pm
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FOXBORO -- Patriots special teams units face a unique problem this week in Patrick Peterson.

Last season, the Cardinals rookie first-rounder returned four kicks for touchdowns, tying an NFL record. Despite his short NFL resume, he has already established himself as the kind of player around whom coaches must game plan.

Nate Ebner was still in college when Peterson was tearing up the NFL last year. But this week of film study has served as a tutorial for the Patriots special teamer as to just how dangerous Peterson can be.

How do the Patriots contain him?

"Be aware of him. Everywhere he is. In every aspect of the kicking game," Ebner said. "Do what we practice. Special teams coach Scott O'Brien put together a good scheme. We need to do it to the best of our ability to stop anything from happening. That's what we're there for."

Peterson possesses good speed -- he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at last year's NFL Combine -- but it's his combination of skills that sets him apart, according to Ebner's scouting report.

"Big guy with a lot of speed, very explosive," Ebner said. "He's got good vision and he's strong. You gotta wrap him up."

Ebner did a good job of that against the Titans in Week 1. He finished the game with two tackles on special teams to lead the Patriots.

When he was drafted, considering his background as an elite rugby player, Ebner was expected to be a special teams ball hawk. It appears as though he's on his way.

"If a play comes to me I try to do my best to make it happen," he said. "I play the best I can every week and try and get better as the games come. Make plays as they come."

Peterson seems to live by the same philosophy. Unfortunately for the Patriots this week, plays seem to come to him more regularly than most.

On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Peterson's work on defense as well as his ability to return kicks.

"Hes very dangerous on punt returns, that goes without saying," Belichick said during a conference call. "Hes a big guy, has good length, good speed so hes a hard guy to throw over in the secondary. Excellent ball skills. If he gets his hands on the ball, youre looking at a lot of trouble, not just interceptions but probably a run back for touchdowns, too. It would be like a punt return."