By now, you know Marcus Peters is a physical corner. Every single draft report on Peters talked about his physicality in press coverage. Every talking head that mentioned him discussed his physicality in press coverage. This writer spent several thousand words talking about his physicality in press coverage.
So, yeah, Peters likes to get his hands on people and dominate them. Of that we can be certain.
Of course, being bigger and stronger doesn't always result in a clean win when you're playing corner in the NFL (or in the arena against a guy with poisoned spears). The biggest concern for many with Peters is whether or not he has enough lateral quickness and agility to hang with smaller, faster receivers. Let's face it, you're not always going to be able to get your hands on a guy and, you know.
This is a concern that plagued me a little as well. But of course, because this offseason has been the gift that keeps on giving (other than not snagging Tyler Lockett, but whatever. I'm not still binge-eating my feelings over that or anything), an answer floated from the sky like a gift from the Almighty. Or in this case, a Dirkness.
Marcus Peters against Brandin Cooks and Oregon St. from 2013. Hoooooo boy. http://t.co/5SJS32fNIY— His Dirkness (@HisDirknesS) May 6, 2015
As always, Dirk came through in the clutch and uncovered tape on Peters in the EXACT scenario we're wondering about. You'd be hard pressed to find a more dangerous combination of quick twitch cutting and deep speed as Brandin Cooks. He's so fast that it's difficult for defenders to get their hands on him, and is capable of running away from corners in the blink of an eye.
In other words, this matchup is the worst case scenario for Peters; a guy whose speed and quickness negates Peters's strength and forces him out of his comfort zone.
And so we have The Mountain And The Viper.
I'm quite certain you'll watch the video on your own (Peters is No. 21 on Washington, in case you don't remember. Cooks is, you know, the guy they circle or box every play), but there are definitely some takeaways it's important we focus on from it.
First of all, it absolutely is like watching Ser Gregor pit himself against Prince Oberyn (non GoT fans, I'm sure I lost you awhile ago. I'm sorry. We'll do The Walking Dead next time). The only difference is that this time, Ser Gregor is able to get his hands on the Viper sooner than the very end of the fight. Oh, and The Viper is smart enough to wear a helmet.
Cooks absolutely gave Peters trouble on some snaps. He's quick in a way almost no wide receiver (at the college or NFL level) can match. When Cooks was able to evade the grasp of Peters (or make the contact temporary), he made a few catches against Peters. One in particular stands out.
Here, Cooks is able to bounce off Peters without a chance for Peters to really lock onto him. He uses a nice shove and his ability to cut quickly to gain immediate separation from Peters, which results in a first down and then some (Cooks gained another 10-15 yards after the clip cuts short).
It would be inaccurate to say that Cooks NEVER had success against Peters in that game. He had his moments, but it was nothing like what he did when other corners were covering him.
It's difficult to truly track coverage without All-22, but there were 12 snaps in which I was able to be absolutely certain Peters was in man coverage on Cooks and was able to track his success or failure.
As you can see, Cooks was targeted a TON. This was the case whether Peters was the man in coverage or not. Basically, Cooks was the only offensive threat against a swarming Washington defense (their defense as a whole is was very physical and aggressive). His quarterback constantly tried to force the ball his way.
This makes coverage more difficult in a sense, because even when you've got a player "blanketed" (a term I'm using to describe a situation where the corner is all over the WR and any throw to him would be forced) you've still got to worry about a throw. In fact, one of the completions to Cooks came on a throw Peters was stuck to Cooks like glue and the QB just managed to fit it in there. Not much you can do about that, and it's a frustrating situation for corners.
On the flip side, a quarterback who will try to force the ball is also prone to allowing interceptions. Peters cashed in on a pick where the quarterback just tried a desperation escape throw to Cooks despite Peters being in tight coverage. It's also telling that Peters had two passes broken up besides the interception. It demonstrates how hard the quarterback was trying to get the ball to Cooks.
Now, you might be saying, "MN, I count five catches, and one of them a touchdown!"
If that's the case, it means you're counting this play, a clear pick play in which Peters was blocked well before the ball got to Cooks and had no chance. Coverage is supposed to pass in that situation, and Peters appears to be let down by a fellow defender. Observe below.
There's nothing Peters can do here. The defender with the arrow should have seen the pick coming and stayed about three yards to the right rather than following "his" receiver. He stays in place, and Cooks is hit as soon as he catches the ball and the play goes for nothing. So no, that's not a play where Peters ended up in man coverage on Cooks. It was a well executed pick play that was specifically designed to get Peters AWAY from Cooks.
Kind of like they needed to scheme a way to get the ball into Cooks' hands with Peters on the field, no?
Again, Peters didn't absolutely shut Cooks down. But of the catches he allowed, none were the kind of explosive plays Cooks was known for in college. In fact, three of the four catches were for 10 yards or less, with only one (the gif'd play above) going for more than that. Over the course of nine targets Peters gave one of the most devastating playmakers in college football less than 50 yards.
That's just flat-out impressive. Especially against a receiver who is supposed to be a kind able to take advantage of your weakness.
In fact, a lot of the game called to mind how Peters fared against Jaelen Strong in 2014 (another top prospect who wasn't really able to exert himself against Peters). Strong and Cooks are wildly different players, but neither could do their thing against Peters as effectively as they did against others due to his physicality.
While Peters doesn't win on every snap, there's something inevitable about the way he plays corner. Just that feeling that, no matter how the quicker Cooks spins and jukes, the result is predestined the moment Peters gets his hands on him.
Can't you just imagine it?
"Jaelen Strong. I pressed him."
"I harassed him."
"Then I smashed through him to take the ball away. Like this."
The Mountain was always going to win. You can only dance for so long.