When it comes to NFL head coaches giving an honest and truthful answer to media questions, the jury is out on the veracity of their responses, especially with the opposing media via conference call.
Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians set the stage for this week’s key matchup when asked a question about how Arizona was he going to address Stefon Diggs, the most prolific receiver in the history of the NFL over the last two weeks.
“Put Patrick on him and hope that works.”
Patrick is Patrick Peterson, and that statement get plenty of traction after he said it because, if he was being honest, it will be one of the most interesting matchups of any game in the 2016 season – potentially rivaling the violent confrontations between Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr.
It’s been a long time since the Vikings had a receiver at or near the top of the receiving charts for receptions and yards. Despite missing one game and being limited in his return, Diggs has 61 catches for 710 yards.
Since the Vikings traded Randy Moss, the team has only had two 1,000-yard receivers – Sidney Rice in 2009 and Nate Burleson in 2004. That’s a pretty long drought and neither of them was viewed as a dominant receiver.
Diggs is starting to earn that reputation.
When Larry Fitzgerald was interviewed to discuss his role as an elite receiver, he said much of the success great receivers have is based on a strong work ethic and a desire to continually work on their craft. He included Diggs in with players like Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and A.J. Green.
That is pretty high praise, but one that is deserved. In the two games since Pat Shurmur took over the play-calling duties, Diggs has set an NFL record for posting back-to-back weeks with 13 receptions. If there has been a change in philosophy of the Vikings offense, it has been to get the ball more often to Diggs.
That hasn’t been lost on Arians and the Cardinals and their counter to that has been something Mike Zimmer has employed with Xavier Rhodes – if you have a star individual receiver, he’s going to be looking at Rhodes all day long.
In Peterson, the Cardinals have one of their greatest home-grown players ever. Taken with the fifth pick of the 2011 draft, Peterson has earned every dollar he has been paid.
In five seasons, he has been named to the Pro Bowl every year and has been named All-Pro in three of them. He is as dominating a shutdown corner as there is in the league, but doesn’t often go up against a player who moves in the way the Vikings have been using Diggs.
He’s taken bubble screens. He’s taken jet sweeps. He’s often lined up in the slot, a position he doesn’t often line up at.
The Vikings have clearly counted heavily on Diggs during the transition from Norv Turner to Shurmur. In those two games, Diggs has been targeted 29 times. More impressive, he has caught 26 of them for 244 yards.
Peterson has built a reputation for shutting down opposing top receivers. Diggs a building a reputation as budding star receiver. Someone is going to have to come away with the upper hand in their 60-minute battle and the one who does will likely leave the field heading to the winning locker room – making Diggs vs. Peterson this week’s matchup to watch.