What's PFF's Beef With Patrick Peterson?

Photo Credit: Billy Hardiman (USA TODAY Sports)

On Monday morning, the Minnesota Vikings returned to TCO Performance Center for the first day of the 2022 offseason program. Kirk Cousins, Harrison Smith, Brian O’Neill, and Chandon Sullivan addressed the media, but it was Patrick Peterson‘s soundbite that forced us down the Pro Football Focus rabbit hole.

For context, PFF had Peterson rated as the 47th-best coverage grade among cornerbacks at 61.0. And without diving into the numbers, it’d be easy to understand — at least on the surface. After all, the Vikings ranked 28th in defending the pass last season. And with cornerback reportedly being one of Minnesota’s most pressing needs in the upcoming draft, that had to have meant that Peterson had his fair share of struggles in his debut season in Minneapolis, right?

Not so fast, Skoldiers.

When it came to limiting opposing passing games, Peterson most certainly exceeded expectations in 2021.

* numbers provided by Pro Football Reference

In 13 games last season, Peterson held opponents to the following:

  • 56.6 completion percentage
  • 477 passing yards
  • 6.3 yards per target
  • 78.7 passer rating when targeted

It’s important to note that Peterson was coming off consecutive years with allowing a passer rating of 98.2 and 99.2. Let’s see where the former LSU Tiger stacked up against PFF’s top-five coverage-grade cornerbacks from last year.

  • No. 1 Jalen Ramsey — Los Angeles Rams (16 games)
    • 59.2 completion percentage
    • 624 passing yards allowed
    • 6.4 yards per target
    • 71.1 passer rating when targeted
  • No. 2 A.J. Terrell — Atlanta Falcons (16 games)
    • 50.0 completion percentage
    • 417 passing yards allowed
    • 4.8 yards per target (second-best among NFL corners)
    • 61.0 passer rating when targeted
  • No. 3 Darius Slay — Philadelphia Eagles (16 games)
    • 58.8 completion percentage
    • 535 passing yards allowed
    • 6.3 yards per target
    • 74.4 passer rating when targeted
  • No. 4 Adoree’ Jackson — New York Giants (13 games)
    • 52.1 completion percentage
    • 353 passing yards allowed
    • 4.8 yards per target (second-best among NFL corners)
    • 69.0 passer rating when targeted (cheers, Gronk)
  • No. 5 J.C. Jackson — New England Patriots (17 games)
    • 49.1 completion percentage
    • 658 passing yards allowed
    • 6.2 yards per target
    • 46.8 passer rating when targeted

So if Peterson is in the same — or even better — ballpark than PFF’s top cornerback darlings, how are these critical metrics not more appealing for Peterson’s PFF fate?

An arguably better question might be: If Peterson was this serviceable, this meant that other Vikings corners were exposed, right?

Let’s take a look at how Cameron Dantzler fared across 14 games in Year 2:

  • 54.1 completion percentage
  • 349 passing yards allowed
  • 4.7 yards per target (best among NFL cornerbacks)
  • 74.7 passer rating when targeted

While they weren’t nearly as kind to Peterson, PFF provided Dantzler with the 26th-best coverage grade among cornerbacks last season.

My goodness. With the Vikings returning their top two corners that held opponents to under an 80 passer rating when targeted, are we sure that cornerback is as big of a need as we’re making it out to be?

Would a rookie corner really replace either Peterson or Dantzler in 2022?

Do the Vikings need to heavily invest through the draft in the hopes of securing a true shutdown cornerback when they might already have one on the roster with the soon-to-be 24-year-old Dantzler?

Circling back on Peterson’s press conference from Monday: When comparing his individual production against opposing passing games to the previously mentioned handful of Pro Bowlers, his gripe with PFF is most certainly warranted. Unfortunately for Peterson, he fell victim to guilt by association in the eyes of PFF after being part of one of the league’s statistically worst pass defenses last season.

And I don’t think I need to remind Vikings fans just how bad Bashaud Breeland was. But in case you forgot, here’s how the former Super Bowl champion with the Kansas City Chiefs performed with the Vikings:

  • 63.6 completion percentage
  • 778 passing yards allowed
  • 8.8 yards per target
  • 109.0 passer rating when targeted

With the addition of Sullivan at nickelback, the Vikings already have a secondary that should noticeably benefit by no longer having such a glaring weak spot for opposing quarterbacks to pick on.

And if Peterson replicates his play from last season, PFF will have no choice but to give the potential Hall of Famer his flowers — just as long as the Vikings patched the Breeland leak once and for all.

Let’s not forget about Dantzler either. For a guy who has continued to be doubted throughout much of his time in Minnesota, he finds himself going through yet another offseason where the football world is essentially telling Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and the Vikings that he isn’t good enough to be this team’s future No. 1 corner.

As long as Minnesota’s new brass feels comfortable with Dantzler’s ability to take another step forward alongside Peterson in Year 3, are we sure that the Vikings are still going corner with the 12th-overall pick in two weeks?

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