Patrick Peterson’s snaps with the first-team defense will soon be scaled back.
The Cardinals’ Pro Bowl cornerback is suspended for the first six weeks of the regular season, and coach Kliff Kingsbury wants to build the chemistry of the defensive backs who will be on the field.
Peterson and Robert Alford have been the first-team outside cornerbacks during training camp, with Tramaine Brock playing the slot in nickel formations. Rookie Byron Murphy will elevate to a starting role when the change is made, which Peterson said will come next week.
“As we build toward Week 1, we wanted to make sure that those guys are getting enough reps to feel comfortable, because we’re going to need them to be playing at a high level when Week 1 comes,” Kingsbury said. “We know what Pat is and what he can do. He’s been great in camp so far, the way he has worked and helped those young guys. So now it’s their time to step up and take over while he’s out.”
Peterson said he had a conversation with Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph about the upcoming switch and is fine with the change.
"It's getting to that point where we need to start getting whoever is going to be the guy (prepared)," Peterson said.
Peterson had a day off on Sunday, and in his absence, Brock moved to outside cornerback and Murphy played in the slot. Kingsbury said those roles are not yet finalized, with Murphy “still in the mix” to be the No. 2 cornerback.
Peterson is projected to play on Thursday against the Raiders, but said he will likely sit the final two games of the preseason. He will continue to get snaps in practice, just in a less prominent role.
Even though Peterson can’t play for a month-and-a-half, Kingsbury said his training camp presence has been a boon to rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals pass-catchers.
“(Murray) likes going at him, for whatever reason,” Kingsbury said. “I’ve tried to talk him out of it. It’s his competitive nature. But, no, for all the receivers, if you’re going against the best corner in the league – or one of the best – that’s great work.”
Alford will take over as the No. 1 cornerback during Peterson's absence. While some players might be intimidated by the promotion, Kingsbury said the veteran has the right mentality for the job.
“He’s the type who loves competition,” Kingsbury said. “He wants to be the guy. I think he sees this as a real opportunity to step up and lead that group of corners.”
PUGH COULD BE BACK FOR THIRD PRESEASON GAME
Guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) is not expected to play against Oakland but could be back for the third preseason game against the Vikings, Kingsbury said. Mason Cole is currently filling in as the starting left guard in his absence.
Tight end Charles Clay (knee) was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Sunday. He practiced for the first time on Monday but is unsure if he will play Thursday. Clay said he would like to get some exhibition action to get used to the game speed before the regular season begins.
Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed his third straight practice on Monday.
KINGSBURY GOES UNDER CENTER BUT STILL PREFERS SHOTGUN
The Cardinals went under center during practice on Sunday – a rarity in training camp – and Kingsbury said there may be times during the season when he feels like that is the optimal formation.
However, it is clear he hasn’t strayed from his preference for the shotgun when asked about the advantages of playing under center.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t know. Someone would have to explain that to me. I can’t tell you. There are certain plays where we may feel the mesh point for the running back, or it’s a more downhill path, things of that nature, if we need it to hit quicker. Other than that, certain people have different opinions. I don’t think anything’s ever been proven to be right or wrong when it comes to that.”
Images from Sunday afternoon's practice at State Farm Stadium