Veteran safety Adrian Wilson (backward hat) goes to celebrate with cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) after Peterson's interception return for a touchdown in the preseason.
Ken Whisenhunt was blunt when asked why Patrick Peterson was elevated to starting cornerback.
"Greg got hurt," the Cardinals coach said. "That's my thought on it."
Greg is Greg Toler, who tore his ACL in the third preseason game (Toler said Wednesday he would be having surgery Thursday). The reality is that Peterson wouldn't be starting across from A.J. Jefferson – himself inexperienced, with just two NFL games to his credit – without Toler going down.
Even Peterson acknowledged Wednesday his current spot was unexpected.
"Coach told me from the beginning he wanted to spoon feed me because it is different than college," Peterson said. "But you have to grow up fast now."
Veteran Richard Marshall, by coincidence an ex-Panther with Carolina visiting in the opener, is the nickel back. Michael Adams, the fourth cornerback, was limited Wednesday as he returns from knee surgery.
"Our expectations are when they are ready to play, we are going to put them in there," Whisenhunt said. "We've had an injury there and that has hastened (Patrick's) elevation, but it wasn't a question of if, it was more a question of when."
Whisenhunt said the Cards, who saw flashes from Jefferson last season, are happy with Jefferson's newfound consistency. He has to do it in the regular season, Whisenhunt added, but said Jefferson "seems unfazed" by the job in front of him.
Peterson hasn't had as much time in the NFL but defensive coordinator Ray Horton didn't sound concerned as the Cards prepare to play Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
"Just like they are throwing their number one guy out there we are throwing our number one guy out there, so let them play," Horton said.
It's possible the Panthers – or any other team coming on the schedule – could choose to pick on the new cornerbacks. Peterson has no problem with that.
"We hope so," Peterson said. "We want them to take advantage, so we can go ahead and pick them off."
"We will try to cater the defense to him and make sure he is not asked to do something he hasn't yet in practice or the game," Horton said. "One thing that kid does is come downhill very hard so you expect him to come downhill very hard."
Wilson's safety mate Kerry Rhodes said Wilson's absence from the preseason shouldn't hurt the chemistry, not after the duo played together all last season.
"The big thing is we want to move around, disguise together, make sure we're on the same page," Rhodes said. "Once he got out there, we just looked at each other and we're cool."
"It's pretty unique but at the same time, that was a while back," Newton said. "I can't keep lingering on collegiate benefits. I have to worry what is taking place in the future."