Peterson solidifies the secondary in Arizona

Patrick Peterson (Getty)

The Cardinals struggled against the pass in 2010 but the addition of rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson solidifies the team's secondary.

In the week before the draft, the Cardinals made some noise about possibly trading down in the first round of the draft, but in the end that's all it was: noise.

The club was content with any of four players with the fifth overall pick: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Georgia receiver A.J. Green and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

It's unknown what order the team had those players in, but Peterson was the only one left on the board when the Cardinals' turn came.

They aren't complaining.

"I like the way he plays tough and physical," said coach Ken Whisenhunt. "That's an attitude that we need to get better with defensively, and that certainly helps."

Whisenhunt typically doesn't hand starting jobs to rookies, but there's little doubt Peterson will be in the starting lineup when the season opens. He's a playmaker and he's tough.

Cornerback is not the team's greatest need, but Peterson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie give the Cardinals an impressive young duo.

"They know I'm bringing a fierce, competitive, confident young man," Peterson said. "I believe I'm all the way NFL-ready."

Peterson brings the added benefit of being a gifted returner. He was not only the SEC's defensive player of the year, but also the special teams player of the year.

He returned two punts for touchdowns and averaged 29.1 yards on kick returns.

The Cardinals already have a talented kick returner in LaRod Stephens-Howling, but Whisenhunt would like to use him more on offense in 2011. To give him rest, Peterson could take over.

Peterson also could eventually have a role as a punt returner.

"I think he could line up today and be a kick returner in the NFL," Whisenhunt said, "and be one of the best ones. As a punt returner, he certainly has the skill-set to do it, but we obviously want to see him do it."

At 219 pounds, Peterson is big for a cornerback, and some draft analysts think he might one day move to safety. But Peterson runs the 40-yard dash in under 4.4 seconds and impressed the Cardinals with his ability to play the ball.

"He's fast, he's talented," defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. "One of the great things is when you watch him on film, he doesn't panic. You see some guys panic at the ball, bat it down. When the ball is in there, you see a subtle shift from 'I'm a DB to I'm a receiver' and go get it. Some guys can't do that."

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