After being named a captain
on the Patriots ahead of the 2011 season, Slater was seen as a leader and a
potential impact player on special teams. His selection to the Pro Bowl as the
AFC’s lone special teamer at the end of last season only went on to prove that
As the Arizona Cardinals
enter Foxboro this weekend, though, they bring with them a special teams weapon
of their own. Patrick Peterson was drafted fifth overall in 2011 for a variety
of reasons, not least of which was his impact on the return game.
During his rookie season,
Peterson led the NFL with 699 punt return yards and four touchdown returns.
Those numbers would be a feat for any return man, but for Peterson it was
especially impressive given his inexperience, not to mention how badly he beat
the rest of his competition.
Peterson returned just 44
punts on the season and averaged 15.9 yards per return, which marked the best
among any player with 30 returns or more. His 699 yards were also 155 yards
more than the next closest guy, Brandon Tate, and his four TDs also marked two
more than any other returner. In fact, Devin Hester was the only other player to
record multiple scores.
Those stats are eye-popping,
but it’s Peterson’s skill set that presents a serious challenge for any special
teams unit, even one with a player as gifted as Slater.
Slater admitted to paying
extra attention to Peterson heading into this weekend’s game, expressing a
sense of appreciation for the 22-year-old’s ability.
“He’s one of those guys
that every time he gets a chance to return a kick, he can take it the
distance,” Slater said. “This is going to be a long week of
A long week indeed, one that
Slater even admitted could cause him some serious sleep deprivation.
“Like I was saying, we
might lose a little sleep over this guy because he’s that talented,”
Slater added of Peterson. “So it’s going to have to be all 11 of us doing
our job to try and contain this guy. A guy like this, you can’t really expect
to shut him down so you just try to contain him.”
With the combination of
Peterson’s 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame and his blazing speed — he ran a 4.34
40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL scouting combine — it might be the biggest challenge the
Patriots special teams with face this season.
But not to worry, Slater
will be ready.
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