With the offseason hay in the barn, it’s time to find out which young players popped in the now-completed OTA sessions. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, was asked to provide a name of a player whom he thinks is poised to break out.
“I got two of them,” Peterson said. “I believe [receiver] J.J. Nelson’s going to have a great year. He had a great, great spring, showed some flashes. I can’t wait to see what he’s going do here if he can keep that momentum going into summer camp because I’ve seen it happen a number of times.”
What Peterson has seen is that, with the application of pressure and attention, players who were showing promise failed to fulfill it.
“Guys have great springs but once they get in front of a couple of fans and the crowd, the lights come on, you get a different player,” Peterson said. “So J.J. is definitely one of them that had a great spring.”
Nelson did well as a rookie, in limited duty. Appearing in 11 games, he had 11 catches for 299 yards (a 27.2-yard average per reception) and two touchdowns.
Peterson’s other player to watch in 2016 could be covering Nelson in practice, plenty.
“[Cornerback] Brandon Williams, the third-round draft pick, he’s looking pretty good,” Peterson said. “He’s another one that I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do under the lights because that’s when it really, really counts, you know? Coach [Arians] always talks about it throughout April and June, ‘This is soccer practice, this is just shorts and helmets. Everybody can look good in shorts and a T-shirt.’ You can get a guy off the street that looks good in shorts and T-shirts, it’s all about when the lights come on and the Star-Spangled Banner begins to be sang.”
For the Cardinals, the lights will be on and the national anthem will be blaring on the first Sunday night of the season, against the team that wears red, white, and blue. If Nelson and Williams can perform at a high level in that game and the 15 that follow, the Cardinals can get to the Super Bowl and maybe win it.