Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Peterson

Dez Bryant tries to get it right on the field

November, 4, 2014
So Dez Bryant has settled on an agent, leaving Eugene Parker and hiring Roc Nation. The Dallas Cowboys' wide receiver who suspended contract talks with the team before the season started, now wants them to resume again with his new agent.

While Bryant has finalized his business off the field, his on-the-field actions need some work.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCowboys receiver Dez Bryant encounters opponents' best cornerbacks each week, but he still has to find a way to get open and bring down catches.
Against Arizona he finished with just two catches for 15 yards and one touchdown. Both catches came in the fourth quarter and out of his 55 offensive snaps, a majority of the time he was covered by cornerback Patrick Peterson one-on-one.

"Played great," Bryant said of Peterson. "I'm a physical guy and they came out and did an outstanding job. We were a little bit powerless."

Arizona played single-high coverage, designed to stop the run which meant Bryant had his chances to make plays one-on-one. He was targeted 10 times, the fifth time this season he was thrown to in double-digits, but he produced just two catches. He also had two plays where he could have made catches but could have been considered drops.

It was Bryant's fewest catches when targeted more than 10 times in his career.

Bryant is an excellent receiver but he might have been impacted by backup quarterback Brandon Weeden and Peterson's efforts.

"Without question I missed him (quarterback Tony Romo), but I believe in Weeden, too," Bryant said. "But things didn't go our way. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and try to fix what we need to fix."

There was frustration in Bryant on Sunday, which is understandable given the amount of pressure on him to produce in the Cowboys' passing attack. Bryant does need to win his one-on-one battles more and that means being more physical when defenders jam him at the line of scrimmage and run precise routes to become a better target.

Bryant has improved as a route runner during his career and his command of the offense isn't an issue like it was his rookie season. Getting him on the move, in the slot running slants or the back shoulder fade routes are positive plays for Bryant. Arizona didn't pressure Weeden like they did Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Yet, Weeden looked out of sorts when throwing to Bryant.

Maybe it was a chemistry deal, but Weeden is able to work with the first team in practice once a week as Romo rests his back. Romo could return for the Jacksonville game on Sunday in London. Romo playfully threw some passes to school-aged kids on Tuesday in London as part of a NFL Play 60 event. So maybe, Bryant gets his quarterback back.

"Across the board we're going to get it right," Bryant said. "I know we are."

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

April, 12, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we talk about the Cowboys' drafting injured players, Anthony Spencer's possible return, a position switch for Morris Claiborne and a Matt Johnson update.

If you want to see the Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:


Trade Mo Claiborne? No thanks

April, 1, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- The DeSean Jackson trade talks that never went anywhere got ESPN Insider Field Yates to think about some trades that should happen. Insider

Yates has one for the Dallas Cowboys, sending cornerback Morris Claiborne to the Arizona Cardinals for defensive tackle Dan Williams.

He writes:
Dallas Cowboys trade cornerback Morris Claiborne to the Arizona Cardinals for defensive tackle Dan Williams

Why it works for Arizona: Claiborne's NFL struggles are hard to figure after he starred at LSU, but his natural abilities are still enticing. The team added depth in the secondary with Antonio Cromartie this offseason, but Claiborne would bring higher upside playing alongside former LSU teammates Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Peterson also happens to be a free agent next offseason, and while the Cardinals are angling to keep him around long term, a rejuvenated Claiborne would give them insurance in case Peterson ends up elsewhere.

Why it works for Dallas: Claiborne is the Cowboys' third cornerback right now and has disappointed. The team has had better luck adding cornerbacks in free agency than through the draft and is desperate for big bodies along the defensive line. Williams has just one year left on his deal, but he presents an intriguing size and strength combination next to Henry Melton, a penetrating interior force. It may not be the most natural fit in what Dallas does defensively due to Williams' lack of quickness, but his ability to clog space would provide an upgrade against the run.

Maybe this could happen but it definitely won’t happen, and we’re not talking about any salary-cap issues that could hinder a deal. The Cowboys are not about to give up on Claiborne, whom they moved up to the sixth pick in the 2012 draft to select. And Williams does not bring enough value in return. He’s in the last year of his contract. The Cowboys control Claiborne’s rights for another two years.

This is a huge year for Claiborne, who has yet to flash the potential most people thought he had coming into the draft. Maybe it has been health. Maybe it has been scheme. Maybe it has been a lack of confidence. Maybe it’s all of the above.

But for the Cowboys to get the benefit of the trade up to get him, Claiborne has to come through in a big way in 2014. For them, not for the Cardinals -- or anybody else.

Fumble ruins otherwise big day for Dez

August, 17, 2013

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dez Bryant didn’t want to talk about any of the good plays he made Saturday.

The final moment of his four-yard, 74-yard performance, when cornerback Jerraud Powers ripped the ball out of Bryant’s hands at the end of a 27-yard gain across the middle, was all that was on the Cowboys’ big-play receiver’s mind.

“Pissed about the fumble,” Bryant hoarsely grumbled after the 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. “It’s just not me, you know what I’m saying? I don’t fumble. I’m not going to hold it over my head, because I know what type of player I am. It’s something I have to correct.”

Bryant has lost fumbles on only three of his 200 career receptions, but that doesn’t excuse what he called a “big, huge mistake” against the Cardinals. He pled guilty to trying to do too much on the play, attempting to switch hands with the ball while stiff-arming the defender.

“That outweighs what you’re doing in the ballgame, regardless of any circumstances,” Bryant said.

That’s especially true when it was one of six turnovers the Cowboys committed, five of which came during a scoreless first half for Dallas in the sloppy loss.

But Bryant’s breathtaking training camp -- and second half of the 2012 season, for that matter -- has carried over into the preseason. He’s caught seven passes for 129 yards in about a half’s worth of work.

Bryant’s phenomenal physical tools and the trust quarterback Tony Romo has in him was especially evident on Bryant’s first catch Saturday, a 25-yard gain on which he snatched the ball on a back-shoulder fade despite tight coverage by Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“He knows the turnover matters more than anything else,” Romo said. “But he’s playing great.

“Today’s going to be a great teaching moment for him. Sometimes, some of the best lessons you learn are when you make a mistake. It depends on whether you take the approach or not to do that. He will.”

It’s an even safer bet that Bryant will keep making big plays.
IRVING, Texas -- Kneejerk reaction after one rookie camp practice: Don’t expect to see first-round pick Morris Claiborne returning punts for the Cowboys.

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones is wishy-washy on whether it’s worth risking Dez Bryant on punt returns, and Bryant was one of the nation’s premier return specialists at Oklahoma State. Claiborne never returned a punt for LSU, which had Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu filling highlight reels in those roles.

Claiborne got some work as a punt returner Wednesday during his first practice with the Cowboys, splitting the reps with undrafted receiver Cole Beasley. To put it kindly, it was quite an adventure for Claiborne, who whiffed on a couple of punts after misjudging the ball and bobbled others.

“Anytime you come back from as many months off as I have, you’re going to have a little rust,” Claiborne said. “I have to read the ball. That ball will tell you different stories. You have to focus and can’t worry about the sun; you just have to read the ball. It’s tricky sometimes.”

It shouldn’t be a tricky decision for the coaching staff to find someone other than Claiborne to return punts.

If he contributes in the return game, it’s much more likely to be on kickoffs. He averaged 26.3 yards on 19 kickoff returns, including one touchdown, for LSU.

But if Claiborne starts at cornerback, as expected, it’s unlikely that he’ll be used at all in the return game.

Deion on Claiborne: 'I really like this kid'

April, 27, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys’ pick of Morris Claiborne gets the Prime Time seal of approval.

“I like this kid. I really like this kid,” Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders said during a Friday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Ben and Skin Show, adding that he had to cancel recent plans to work out with Claiborne. “I watched countless amount of film on him. I like him. I really do.

Deion Sanders shares his thoughts on Morris Claiborne and tells us if he think the Cowboys paid too much.

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“The only thing I would say is he plays a little bit high at times, but that can be fixed. It’s just not been taught well. I like the kid. He’s been consistent over his career. He’s been dominant. He played with some good players. He played in a tough conference. I really like him.”

Any cornerback the Cowboys draft in the first round will automatically be compared to Sanders, who played in four Pro Bowls and won one Super Bowl ring during his five-year stint in Dallas. Jerry Jones took that comparison a step further when the owner/general manager said that the Cowboys’ scouts hadn’t graded a cornerback in the draft as high as Claiborne since Sanders in 1989.

“I don’t know about that, because a guy named Patrick Peterson, he had to be off the charts not only because of what he did on the field as a corner, but his return ability as well,” Sanders said, referring to Claiborne’s former LSU teammate who was drafted fifth overall by the Arizona Cardinals last year. “I mean, he was the total package, so it would be hard for me to suggest that [Claiborne] was rated higher than Patrick Peterson. I mean, that’s tough. Physicality, instincts, everything -- Patrick Peterson has to be off the charts.”

A quick point of clarification: Jones was referring to grades purely as a corner, so Peterson’s record-breaking return ability doesn’t factor into the discussion.

As impressed as Sanders is with Claiborne, he doesn’t expect him to dominate as a rookie.

“He ain’t going to be no shutdown corner coming right out of college,” Sanders said. “I don’t even know what a shutdown corner is right now outside of Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis. That does not exist.

“But this guy here, he should be able to start if he can pick up the scheme. It’s not about the physical ability, because you’re going to take your bumps and bruises and you’re going to get beat. That’s how you learn. That’s how you process things in the NFL.”

Claiborne highest-rated since Prime Time

April, 26, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- There has been only one defensive back ranked higher on the Dallas Cowboys draft boards than Morris Claiborne: Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

Sanders was the Atlanta Falcons' fifth overall pick from Florida State in the 1989 draft.

Thursday night, when the Cowboys discussed making a trade for Claiborne with the St. Louis Rams, team scouts told owner/general manager Jerry Jones only one man had higher grades.


"Deion was special with his burst," Jones said. "But certainly he is the best they have graded for us since Deion. That would have included Deion after he came in here. Deion had the highest touchdown-per-touch of any player in NFL history."

Claiborne's high-grade was also higher than Terence Newman, who was the Cowboys' first-round pick, fifth overall in 2003.

Last year, LSU's Patrick Peterson was the highest graded corner coming out of the draft, but Jones said Claiborne's grade was better than his.

Claiborne said he compares himself, not to Sanders or Peterson but to the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis.

"He’s on that level where not too many of the guys are doing the things that he’s doing and I believe I can be that type of player also," Claiborne said.

Jason Garrett: Mat McBriar battled

January, 24, 2012
MOBILE, Ala. -- In a seven-minute news briefing at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked about his standout punter, Mat McBriar.

Last season, McBriar was placed on injured reserve prior to the last regular-season game at the New York Giants because of a nerve problem in his left (non-kicking) foot.

McBriar finished the season with a net punting average of 36.1 and landed 21 punts inside the 20. He also had seven touchbacks. McBriar's best game was holding Arizona Cardinals standout returner Patrick Peterson to just one return yard Dec. 4.

The Cowboys have a decision to make with McBriar regarding his health. He's an unrestricted free agent, and while valued by the organization, there is uncertainty about when his foot will get better.

"We haven't gotten into specific discussions about any of our individual players, but health is certainly an issue for him," Garrett said. "He did an outstanding job dealing with that injury throughout the year. He was tough. He battled through it and had some big games for us and ultimately at the end of the year he couldn't function the way we needed him to."

Rookie Chris Jones took over for McBriar for the last regular season game.

Dez Bryant delivered in clutch again

December, 6, 2011
A pretty important development was basically ignored because of the reaction to Jason Garrett’s clock-management crisis.

Dez Bryant made another clutch catch.

That’s twice in three weeks that Tony Romo went to Bryant on a third-and-long with the game on the line. Bryant delivered on both occasions, making a savvy route adjustment to get wide open to set up the game-winning field goal against the Redskins and coming up with a tough catch on a low pass with Arizona’s Patrick Peterson to give the Cowboys a chance to beat the Cardinals in regulation.

So much for the theory that Tony Romo doesn’t trust Bryant, a line of thinking that gained some steam after Bryant was shut out in the second half of several games earlier this season.

Romo has consistently insisted that he has faith in Bryant. He’s proven it by giving Bryant a chance to make clutch plays in two of the last three games. And Bryant has definitely held up his end of the bargain in those situations, providing proof that he is progressing in his second season.

“It makes me feel great,” said Bryant, who had eight catches for 86 yards and a touchdown in a fascinating individual battle with Peterson that pitted two phenomenal young talents against each other. “It makes me feel that he has a lot of confidence in me to make a play. As long as I keep doing that, he’ll have more confidence in me.”

That’s the only reason for the Cowboys to feel good about the final minute of regulation.

Punter Mat McBriar was near perfect

December, 5, 2011
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Mat McBriar couldn’t have had a much more impressive punting performance.

McBriar made Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals’ record-setting rookie return man, a nonfactor and consistently pinned Arizona deep in its own territory.

Peterson, who is the only player in NFL history with four 80-plus-yard punt returns in one season, had a grand total of one return yard against the Cowboys. Arizona’s drives after McBriar’s punts started at the Cardinals 20, 11, 10, 5 and 3.

McBriar only averaged 38.2 yards per punt, but he performed about as well as possible. His highlight was a 50-yard punt that went out of bounds at the 3-yard line.

McBriar has struggled some recently while dealing with a case of drop foot in his left, plant foot. This performance was proof that he’s back to being a significant weapon for the Cowboys.

“I feel pretty good,” McBriar said. “I don’t have any real concerns. I feel like I’m punting better and better in practice and getting back to it. The pain that I was experiencing initially, that’s gone.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Let’s be perfectly clear, Arizona stinks on offense.

The Cardinals rank 23rd in total offense (315.7) and points scored (19.7) and 31st in third-down conversions (30.5%).

Arizona’s quarterbacks have been sacked 36 times. Only two teams have allowed more.

The only way the Cardinals can generate offense is with help from Patrick Peterson, one of league’s two best punt returners.

He’s returned four punts of more than 80 yards for touchdowns. He has two other returns of more than 20 yards.

He breathes life into the Cardinals emotionally, and he’s more than capable of giving the offense great field position.

Jason Garrett can not let Peterson affect the game.


This is not a game for egos.

Hang time is more important than punt length. Garrett must either have Mat McBriar angle the ball out of bounds or hang it so high that it must be fair caught.

And whatever McBriar does, he can’t punt the ball in the middle of the field, where Peterson has options.

Garrett’s primary task today is to make sure Peterson doesn’t impact the game because that’s the only way Arizona can win.

Grudge Match: Cardinals-Cowboys keys

December, 3, 2011
Cowboys CBs Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: This week Rob Ryan and his secondary are going to have to deal with one of the top five playmakers in the National Football League.

Fitzgerald is so dangerous because of his ability to not only run routes and gain separation but also catch the ball no matter how poorly it is thrown. Other than Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald has never been blessed with an outstanding quarterback that can consistently get him the ball on the move, where he is the most productive.

Official scout of ESPND Dallas Bryan Broaddus previews the Cowboys' matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.

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When you study Fitzgerald, you see a receiver that never changes speed when he runs routes. Miles Austin has this same trait as well. When you have this ability, you can put a great deal of pressure on the cornerbacks because most receivers have to settle down to cut or break in the route. From that standpoint, it’s much easier to break on the route once you see the receiver adjust. Fitzgerald doesn’t give cornerbacks that opportunity to read him and drive on the ball.

Another problem that Fitzgerald presents is his ability to take his routes all over the field and at all different depths. He is a fearless route runner as well and is not afraid to catch the ball between safeties in the middle of the field and turn it into a nice gain like he did against Baltimore.

The Cowboys can’t afford to allow Fitzgerald to make plays in this game like Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Marshall did the last two weeks. This will be a huge test for Newman, who hasn’t been his best the last two games, mainly in off coverage. Jenkins can be up to the challenge, but how solid is that hamstring? I am sure that Larry Fitzgerald will find out.

Cowboys LG Montrae Holland vs. Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett: This has the potential to be a bad matchup for the Cowboys because of the way that Holland has struggled against players that have explosive quickness up the field.

Dockett is the type of guy that will be a handful for Holland because he attacks you right now. Dockett doesn’t give the blocker much time to react.

Holland will struggle the most trying to get out of his stance quickly and adjust on the move. Dockett can be disruptive. If Dockett is allowed to penetrate, it will throw off the blocking assignments by someone like Kyle Kosier from the backside or John Phillips from fullback when the Cowboys try to get the run to the edge.

Dockett will also create push in the middle as a pass rusher. The Cardinals will also use him to angle to one side then bring a linebacker in the opposite direction. This inside twist with the linebackers was the best way that the Cardinals were able to get pressure.

When teams have been able to get pressure inside on the Cowboys, it has been attacking the middle of the pocket. Phil Costa played one of his better games overall last week when it came to adjusting to stunts and games. With that being said, I fully expect the Cardinals to try to attack from the inside, mainly with Dockett over Holland

That is the one matchup along the offensive line that the Cardinals have the best opportunity to win and cause the Cowboys the most problems offensively.

Cowboys punt coverage unit vs. Cardinals PR Patrick Peterson: If Fitzgerald is the most dynamic player on this Cardinals’ offense, then cornerback Patrick Peterson is the most dynamic player on defense but especially as a punt return man.

Peterson has a rare talent and presents a great challenge for this Cowboys punt coverage team. Peterson is so dangerous because he, like Fitzgerald, is fearless with the ball in his hands. He is not afraid to catch the ball anywhere on the field and start a return. His vision is outstanding, but he is also a physical runner. Peterson is not a small man like a DeSean Jackson, but he has the same type of quickness, burst and speed.

When you watch Peterson, you see a big man who does a nice job of breaking tackles. Jason Garrett spoke of having to get bodies to Peterson to get him on the ground.

The Cowboys are ranked 21st in the league in punt coverage; the Cardinals are second in returns. With a healthy Mat McBriar you could directional punt Peterson in a corner and try to cover. I still think the Cowboys will try this, but how successful they can be will be up in the air.

The bottom line is the Cowboys cannot allow Peterson to change the game with punt returns.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Cardinals preview

December, 2, 2011

It’s never easy when the Cowboys travel to the desert to face the Cardinals, and this season will be no different.

Scout's Eye
The Cardinals have skill at several positions, but they have weaknesses that Jason Garrett’s club can take advantage of. It’s this mix of good and bad that could either lead to an upset or to the Cowboys winning their fifth straight game on their march to the NFC East title.

Offensively, the Cardinals present two reasons for concern: Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells.

Cardinals' Fitzgerald could exploit Cowboys' weakness

You do not have to be a professional scout to know that Fitzgerald is one of the best wide receivers in the game. The Cowboys have struggled with receivers making plays down the field the past two games. I was concerned about what Brandon Marshall was going to do against this secondary, but I am even more concerned of the challenge that lies ahead with Fitzgerald.

When you study his game, you see a tremendous route runner -- not in the sense of an explosive player, but much like Miles Austin in that he runs his routes at the same speed throughout the route. Fitzgerald doesn’t give the corner any type of hint when he is going to break in his route. Most receivers in the NFL have to chop their steps or slow down to make cuts, but not Fitzgerald.

In my view, the most impressive trait he possesses is his hands. Other than Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald has played with some bad quarterbacks throughout his career in Arizona. Never have I seen a receiver that adjusts to more bad balls than this guy, but he is always coming up with the play.

The Cowboys have to be careful with Fitzgerald when he runs the inside routes, getting the ball on the move and exploding through the middle of the secondary. Remember what he did to the Steelers in the Super Bowl several years ago? He has done that this year as well.

The one personnel switch for the Cowboys will be that Mike Jenkins will be in the lineup. That takes Alan Ball off the field in the nickel, and it also allows Orlando Scandrick to go back to his role as the nickel corner.

RB Wells has very similar style to Cowboys' Murray

The Cowboys’ run defense has had stretches where it has been outstanding, then two games where the Eagles and Seahawks were able to gash the defense for some nice gains. Beanie Wells is more of a physical runner than a home-run back. His offensive line doesn’t give him much room, so he has to create opportunities on his own, but he doesn’t have the quickness of LeSean McCoy or Marshawn Lynch.

Wells can hurt you with the ability to use his vision to see a crease then make a cut, much like what we have seen with DeMarco Murray. Wells is not afraid to take the ball to the hole then allow the defenders to commit and bend it backside. The Cowboys’ run defense can be aggressive flowing to the ball, so what happens on the backside with these defensive ends and linebackers will be key if they are going to keep Wells in check.

The Cardinals will attempt to run Wells to keep the rush off Kevin Kolb, who is making his return to the starting lineup after dealing with a toe issue.

Matchup to exploit: Cardinals' offensive line

The biggest weakness of this Cardinals offense is their line. There is nothing pretty about the way they play or the effectiveness in which they operate.

Usually when I study an opponent each week, there are one or two players that I will like on their offensive line. There is no one on the Cardnals’ offensive line I would want if I were building a team.

Tackles Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges struggle with speed off the edge, and it would be no surprise to me if Rob Ryan starts there to attack this offense. At the guard spot, things aren’t much better with former Packer Daryn Colledge and ex-Brown Rex Hadnot, who really struggle with movement of the defensive line and don’t do a good enough job of handling the twist stunts or games in the middle of the line. Colledge really struggled because he would become engaged with his block, then a linebacker would run through on the blitz and he was unable to adjust off that to secure the blitzer.

The biggest fear for the Cardinals is if they are stuffed on the run with Wells and it turns into a game where the Cowboys can tee off on Kolb. The fear for the Cowboys is that they allow this poor Cardinals line to block them like the Redskins did two weeks ago.

There are questions about Kolb’s health and mobility. The Cowboys need to take advantage of the situation when given the opportunity.

DT Dockett will be handful for Cowboys' line

Defensively for the Cardinals, tackle Darnell Dockett will be a handful for Kyle Kosier and Montrae Holland. I worry more about Holland because he tends to struggle with those players that can get on his outside shoulder and quickly get up the field. That is what we see in Docket’s game.

Dockett is an explosive player that loves to attack on the outside. Holland hates this type of player because he doesn’t always adjust quickly enough out of his stance.

The Cowboys have to be careful when they go to their outside game that Dockett isn’t allowed to get up the field and into the backfield to throw off pullers or John Phillips trying to get to the edge to secure the corner. Any type of penetration throws off timing and the execution of the blockers.

The Cowboys will have an advantage when the Cardinals have to rush the passer. Other than Dockett, this front really struggles with pressure. It is only when they are able to bring linebacker help that they are able to generate a pass rush.

The Cowboys have struggled some this season when teams have brought pressure from the linebackers in the middle of the defense. Center Phil Costa was better last week, but continue to watch how he and Holland handle these games.

Cards' young linebackers making some noise

The Cardinals have two young linebackers that I really like. Former TCU star Daryl Washington and Texas-ex Sam Acho really show up on tape. Both of these players are always around the football. Impressed with the way that they are able to fight blocks and finish plays.

Washington showed the ability to work through the trash, keep his balance and make the tackle in the hole. I would not call Washington a thumper like a younger Bradie James, but at the point of attack, he has done a nice job.

Acho is a nice player off the edge. In the Rams contest, he showed the quickness to come around the corner, beat the tackle and get a sack of Sam Bradford to cause a fumble. He and Dockett are the two best pressure players the Cardinals have in the front seven.

Don't overlook Peterson as defender, either

Rookie Patrick Peterson has created quite a buzz with his ability to return punts for touchdowns. Peterson is a talented cornerback, but I have heard the whispers that early in the season he wasn’t playing as well and was struggling in coverage.

I studied four games -- Eagles, 49ers, Rams and Ravens -- and did not see the struggles that scouts were speaking of. There was one play against the 49ers where he slipped on a stutter-go to Michael Crabtree and it ended up as a nice gain, but overall, I only observed a corner that could read the route, drive on the ball and defend the play. Didn’t see a corner that played with wasted steps or was not quick enough to keep position in the route.

In the Ravens game, Peterson did a nice job in press coverage, turning and running with his man, then finding the ball. In my view, Peterson did not look like a player that was struggling to do his job. We’ll see if Jason Garrett’s game plan will be to try to attack Peterson, but there are other areas that he can go to for better results.

Cowboys run game: Watch safety Wilson

When the Cowboys run the ball, they must be aware of safety Adrian Wilson, who likes to work around the line of scrimmage. Wilson is a physical player who is not afraid to mix it up against the run or pass.

When the Cardinals need a big play in the secondary, it will usually come from Wilson. Wilson can hurt you as a blitzer. He has a nice feel for how to time his blitz and be that disruptive player.
Five-star question: Will Patrick Peterson, averaging 19.2 per punt return the past four games with three touchdowns, hit his average or return a punt for a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys?

His old buddy and LSU teammate, Danny McCray, who just happens to be easily the Cowboys' best special teams player, will make sure Peterson doesn't celebrate against the Cowboys.

Or hit his average.

McCray knows Peterson's strength and weaknesses, which are few. For McCray and the rest of the punt coverage team to have a chance, Mat McBriar must be terrific. This is a week for long hang times and directional kicks.

Peterson must be pinned to a side of the field because if he gets it in the middle of the field, it's going to be a long day. The initial reaction is to think the Cowboys' punt coverage team has been bad this season.

The reality is that it's been pretty good, but it had an awful day against Washington's Brandon Banks last month. That won't happen again.

It can't, if the Cowboys are going win.

The Cowboys have yield just three returns of 20 yards or more this season. The only way the Cardinals can beat Dallas is with Peterson having a big game.

McBriar and McCray won't let him.

Five-star: Ball, field control will pin Peterson

December, 1, 2011
Five-star question: Will Patrick Peterson, averaging 19.2 per punt return the past four games with three touchdowns, hit his average or return a punt for a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys?

Watching Patrick Peterson return punts reminds me of how Desmond Howard was able to do that during our Super Bowl run with the Green Bay Packers in 1996.

Peterson is playing with a great deal of confidence. As a blocker on that return unit, you don’t want to be the guy that doesn’t secure his block, thus resulting in a missed opportunity to score points.

Watching practice Wednesday, I noticed on scout team work that Dez Bryant was able to get one to the wall that had a chance for a huge return. For special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, he was lucky that it was just practice and he would be able to coach off that in the film session Thursday morning and correct any problems.

With all that being said, a healthy Mat McBriar would make me feel better about directional punting and being more consistent at it. I feel that the Cowboys will try this anyway and see if they can control where and how Peterson fields the ball.

The problem with great return men such as Howard, Brian Mitchell and Devin Hester is that they make you pay for mistakes. The best way to control Peterson is through offensive possessions, which the Cowboys have a chance to do against the Cardinals.

By holding the ball and a plan to pin Peterson on one side of the field, if necessary, the Cowboys will not allow him to gain his average or score a touchdown.