Cue The Adrian Peterson Era in Arizona

NFC Coordinator
Page Gerrick Denny

by Page Gerrick Denny // @PDenny29

The Arizona Cardinals made a stunning move this morning by trading a conditional 2018 sixth-round draft pick for New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson, and for the second time this year have released running back Chris Johnson.

This move to add a running back comes a month after their September roster addition of former Patriots running back D.J. Foster, who played college football just 30 minutes away, at Arizona State University.

It’s kind of a strange turn, Peterson coming to Arizona, since the Cardinals decided to draft offensive lineman Levi Brown with the fifth overall pick, instead of Peterson, in the 2007 draft. Peterson has an impressive record with 11,828 yards rushing and 97 TDs in his 10-plus pro seasons.

Arizona Cardinals players Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson reacted to the news with excitement on Twitter.

Peterson’s performance in Minnesota was excellent, which is the polar opposite of his performance in New Orleans, where he only gained 81 yards on 27 carries, with an average of three yards per attempt. That might have something to do with the Saints roster depth at running back, which already has Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, and Trey Edmunds on it. The trade certainly seems to make sense for the Saints.

There was an odd exchange between the running back and head coach Sean Payton on the sideline during Week 2, and has been the subject of some speculation about Peterson’s attitude and locker room impact.

In my recap of the Arizona Cardinals season thus far, I reviewed our offensive line woes in some depth. So, does the front office think that putting an aging running back behind a bad offensive line is really going to pull this team up by the bootstraps and make them a contender?

I suppose there will be a decent opportunity for Peterson in Arizona, with the current roster of active running backs being thin on performance. But even with David Johnson being out, the team’s  biggest problem isn’t in the roster of backs, it’s the offensive line. Peterson is a guy who has become known as a back with top-end, breakaway speed that wants the ball and runs really hard. He’s powerful, and there’s no doubt about that.

But he’s struggled with running the ball out of shotgun and pistol formations and instead thrives in a split-back or I-formations. When teams see Peterson on the field, they’ll undoubtedly stack the box as a way to shut down his run game. He isn’t terribly effective in the backfield as a receiver or a blocker in pass protection.

A substantial part of what has made David Johnson so effective is his versatility, which is something Peterson just doesn’t have, and he hasn’t shown any interest in adapting his skillset. The Cardinals offensive line woes are going to pose some serious issues for Peterson’s style unless playcalling can be adjusted significantly.

Just in case general manager Steve Keim reads this:

The biggest problem with this team is the offensive line. The. Offensive. Line.

So some of the questions I’m left with are:

  • Why, when this offensive line is probably the worst in the NFL, are they not trading to make improvements there?
  • Why are they trading the draft pick of a young and hopefully talented player, for a running back that is aging and underperforming?
  • Why are they bringing on more stop-the-bleeding players instead of working on building a team for the future?

I’m going to be brutally honest, okay? I hate this move a lot. I hate it more than I hate bananas, which I deeply hate. I hate it more than I hate losing, and I really hate losing. It seems dumb, and short-sighted.

It’s like the front office hasn’t looked at the average age of their roster (I have, it’s the oldest in the league). It’s as though all the creativity in the Great State of Arizona has decided to leave Phoenix and head to Tucson, where Khalil Tate is regretfully making the University of Arizona Wildcats look possibly good. It’s like they couldn’t think of a better person to spend money on this year.

I just don’t get it. Perhaps Keim is a genius, and at the end of the season, I’ll look back and realize how foolish I was to question this roster move. I really, truly do hope that ends up being the case. But with what I know about this team, and Adrian Peterson, this acquisition isn’t a real solution. It’s a hopefully low-risk move of desperation.

Chat Arizona Cardinals football with Page on Twitter // @PDenny29

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