Marcus Peters’ recent inclusion on the NFL Network’s top 100 list — he checked in at No. 65 on the latest episode, which appeared Wednesday — was yet another indication of how strong his rookie season was.
In 2015, only five rookies — Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack, Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley and Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald — made the list, which is voted on by the league’s players.
But when told of Peters’ latest honor, and when asked what his corresponding message to Peters — the 2015 NFL defensive rookie of the year — would be, Chiefs coach Andy Reid didn’t need much time to think about his response.
“The one thing he hasn’t experienced is the league having a year to study him,” Reid said. “Now you have to step up. This is where you find out (what you are), the first three years. If you sustain through that, then you have a pretty good thing going. But you have to push through those first three years.”
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Peters, for his part, understands that to be the case, be remains superbly confident in his abilities.
“Just come at me,” Peters said, when asked how he’ll adjust to offensive coordinators attacking him, “and we’ll see.”
Reid likes that attitude — “yeah, you better be confident at that position,” he said — but it remains to be seen how much Peters actually will be attacked.
Teams may indeed be better prepared to test Peters, like Reid expects, but on the other hand, why would they take a chance throwing at the man who tied for the league lead in interceptions (eight) and actually led the league in pass breakups (26) when there are other, less decorated corners they can attack?
With the offseason defection of Sean Smith, who flanked Peters last season and served as a steady, consistent presence, the other cornerback spot is up for grabs.
Third-year pro Phillip Gaines has shown flashes, but he’s coming back from a torn ACL and has been limited in the Chiefs’ first three voluntary practices this week. Second-year pro Steven Nelson has shown noticeable improvement this week — he looks quicker and more confident than last year, has been making plays on the ball and was praised by Reid this week — but is still unproven.
Behind those two, three drafted rookies — third-rounder KeiVarae Russell, fourth-rounder Eric Murray and sixth-rounder D.J. White — will be jockeying for playing time, with Murray looking like a candidate to compete for a backup spot at safety, as well.
“We think they’re good players, we have to see how they progress,” Reid said. “That’s one of the positions around the league, you’ll see guys be able to step in and play.”
And when any of those rookies step on the field, teams would probably be wise test them instead of the super-competitive Peters, who surely wouldn’t enjoy being targeted less, even as a sign of respect.
“I’m going to be (ticked) off, of course,” Peters said with a laugh. “But no, it gives the other guys on the other side (a chance) to make their name heard in this league. It gives another guy (a chance) to go out there and hopefully be the defensive rookie of the year.”
That’s a lot to ask, however, and Peters knows that. When asked if he sees any of himself in the rookies, he passed on making any comparisons.
“See, I don’t do that to anybody,” Peters said. “We’re all individuals in this game … they all have individual aspects that they’re going to bring different to this team. That’s the beauty of it. We’re all individuals.”
And to that end, Peters offered the best bit of advice to the rookie corners he could.
“I tell them, my rookie season is going to be a whole lot different than yours — I came in with trouble behind my name,” said Peters, who was kicked off his college team at Washington for repeated disagreements with a new coaching staff. “We’ve got some guys in our group that have got some clean names, so they’ve just got to go out there and play ball.”
Peters, to his credit, is looking forward to showing them the way, just like star safety Eric Berry and Smith did with him last season.
“For me, I lead by example,” Peters said. “I do the right things. I make sure I stay out of trouble off the field, I make sure I handle my business on the field. If they have any questions, I’m here to help them and continue to move on. Because that’s everything E.B. and Sean gave to me so I can just give it back to them.”