TEMPE, Arizona — The Arizona Cardinals made Patrick Peterson the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. Now his coach and general manager are criticizing his recent play.
Peterson acknowledged on Thursday that there is room for improvement.
"I do believe I'm not playing to the best of my ability right now," he said, "but that's definitely going to change."
The spate of criticism came after DeSean Jackson beat Peterson on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins in Arizona's 30-20 victory over Washington last Sunday.
Coach Bruce Arians said the game "was not good for him."
"Got beat on an inside route when he was supposed to have inside technique — can't happen," Arians said. "When you're playing inside man-to-man, you have to force your guy outside. It was not his best game."
General manager Steve Keim talked in a radio interview about Peterson's "tendency not to focus and lack of intensity for 60 minutes."
It was not the first touchdown Peterson has allowed this season after he signed a five-year, $70 million contract — $47 million guaranteed.
A Pro Bowl player in each of his three seasons, Peterson has proclaimed himself the best cornerback in the NFL, and the Cardinals paid him as if he was.
He knows he is ripe for criticism anytime he makes a mistake, and when a cornerback makes a mistake, it's there for all to see.
"It comes with the territory by being the highest-paid cornerback and being recognized as one of the top cornerbacks in the league," he said. "Is that something that I might shy away from? Not at all. Is it something I'm scared of? Am I worried about the concerns or criticisms I'm getting thus far in the season? Not at all, because we have 11 games to go. I have a lot of games to improve."
Peterson disagreed with Keim's assessment, sort of.
"As far as lack of concentration or lack of focus, that's not an issue at all," he said, but later added, "It's not a lack of focus, just being more aware that any given time the ball can come your way."
Peterson and cornerback Antonio Cromartie are often in one-on-one matchups as defensive coordinator Todd Bowles designs an array of blitz schemes to pressure the passer.
"Patrick's one of the reasons we do a lot of the things we do inside," Bowles said. "So for him to give up a pass or two here and there doesn't mean he struggles. It just means that we left him out of there too long. We have to do a little more things to help him."
Good friend Tyrann Mathieu knows Peterson is a big target for criticism, because of who he is.
"You hear things and obviously you see things," Mathieu said. "I think he's handling everything well. Can he get better? Absolutely. I think we all can. But he's on that level where he can't have a bad game. People can't go for a 60-yard touchdown on him.
"I mean, he holds himself accountable. Obviously our coaches hold him accountable. I hold him accountable as a little brother to him, and he doesn't want it to happen again."
The last three years, Peterson shifted from one side of the defense to the other to take on the opponent's best receiver. This year he's responsible for only one side with Cromartie on the other.
It changed the way he has to study for a game, but it's still a one-on-one challenge, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm a man-to-man guy," he said. "I want to be in your face. I want the best receiver. That's how I was brought up and that's how I'm going to continue playing."
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