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Adrian Peterson Off To the Arizona Cardinals

The 32-year-old running back didn't last long in New Orleans, as the Saints ship Peterson to the Cardinals, who lost their top running back David Johnson to injury back in Week 1. How might Bruce Arians and the Arizona offense utilize him?

In New Orleans, Adrian Peterson’s mere presence on the field often told defenses that a run play was on the way, because Peterson fit the Saints’ ground game, but not the rest of their offense. Now, Peterson is on his way to a Cardinals offense that lost superstar David Johnson in Week 1 and has suffered serious offensive line woes. Injuries to left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee; he’s expected back soon) and left guard Mike Iupati (arm; he’s on I.R.) haven’t helped, but it was a bad front five even with everyone healthy.

At 32 years old, Peterson still has the raw strength and short-area burst to create yards behind iffy run-blocking. David Johnson did, too, while backups Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson do not—and that’s why Peterson is here. The Cardinals feature the same north/south inside zone blocking that Peterson operated behind as a Viking. No doubt, his arrival boosts this rushing attack.

But what hindered Peterson in New Orleans, and sometimes in his later years as a Viking, is the passing game. Peterson is hardly a threat on dumpoffs out of the backfield. He certainly will not be feared when he splits out as a slot or wide receiver in head coach Bruce Arians’s beloved empty formations.

Don’t bet on Arians tweaking the offense to accommodate Peterson. Arians believes strongly in having all five eligible receivers running routes. If he hasn’t amended this approach to decrease the burden that it places on the NFL’s worst O-line, he won’t amend it for his new running back. Ellington is a dynamic receiver—he’ll still be The Guy in Arizona’s 2:00 offense and in many of the three-and four-receiver packages. That will leave Peterson’s snap counts somewhere in the low-to-mid-30s. That’s more than Peterson got in New Orleans but less than he’ll likely want.

This trade improves what had been bad situations for Peterson and the Cardinals. It doesn’t, however, significantly improve either party’s bottom line.