It’s not really an ideal situation for Rueben Randle and the rest of the New York Giants receivers.
Following a stagnant performance in the season opener, Randle and Co. are looking to jump-start a Giants offense that was particularly lacking in the playmaker department Monday night.
In a perfect world, Randle admitted he’d enjoy splitting out wide at MetLife Stadium against the Arizona Cardinals and looking across the line of scrimmage at a cornerback fresh out of college.
Instead? He’ll get either Antonio Cromartie or Patrick Peterson.
The duo has only combined for 40 interceptions, six Pro Bowl appearances and three All-Pro honors.
“It would be ideal (to face someone else),” Randle said with a smile, “but it’ll be great work for us. We’ll see where we stand as receivers with the two great cornerbacks we’ll be facing.”
In both Cromartie and Peterson, the Cardinals bring together two of the more athletically gifted cornerbacks in the NFL. Each were selected in the first round with Peterson going No. 5 overall in 2011, and Cromartie No. 19 in 2006.
Coming out of college, Peterson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds and had a vertical of 38 inches. Cromartie posted similar impressive numbers, running a 4.47 40 and the same vertical. Nearly as jaw-dropping as the duo’s timed results are their other measurables.
Both corners are over 6-feet tall. Cromartie is 6-2.
“He is longer, so our job is to get his hands off us,” Randle said. “We can’t let him jam us at the line of scrimmage and we have to get him running to open up his hips.”
While Cromartie is an NFL vet, Peterson is just 24 years old. Peterson is as physically gifted as any other cornerback in the NFL, but he’s struggled with consistency.
At times, Peterson has flashed the ability to be a ‘shutdown cornerback,’ but has also had a knack for getting caught out of position. If Peterson starts hot, it’s a long day for the offense. If a receiver can get past Peterson early, it tends to be the reciprocal.
According to Pro Football Focus, when a quarterback threw at Peterson in 2012, their average quarterback rating was a 64.9. In 2013, that rating jumped to 91.3. To compare with other cornerbacks in the NFL, Joe Haden graded in at a 75.2 rating last year. Richard Sherman led all with quarterbacks averaging a 47.3 rating.
Randle acknowledged that Peterson is in the top-tier of today’s best defensive backs, but that doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable.
“Just by keeping him off balance,” Randle said. “You can’t let him get back there and be comfortable to where he can be the athlete he is and break up the ball and create interceptions.”
Last week versus Detroit, it was Randle who looked off balance. The third-year pro caught two passes for just one yard on three targets from quarterback Eli Manning. Randle said the key this week versus Arizona is getting off to a hot start.
After watching Monday’s film, Randle saw he wasn’t lacking receptions because he wasn’t open. He found the holes in the defense, but Manning, at times, rushed the ball to other receivers instead of waiting for others to get open.
Versus Arizona, Randle is hoping to give Manning the faith and confidence to go to him early and often.
“(If I can) capitalize on more opportunities it will definitely build confidence in Eli,” Randle said. “He can sit back there and allow us to get open. He won’t have to rush or anything to throw us the ball or force it.”