This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Keep up to date on our Baker's Dozen series here.
When the Buffalo Bills transitioned to a 3-4 defense in 2010, the team retained defensive backs coach George Catavolos, and his system as well. Catavolos coached under Dick Jauron in both Detroit and Buffalo, running coverages for those teams' Tampa 2 defenses. While George Edwards changed the front to a more traditional Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4, the back end played so well the previous season that the system, and Catavolos, were retained.
Buffalo's secondary continues to play Cover 2 as its base scheme, covering their cornerbacks over the top with a safety.
Cover 2 Man
This defense allows the cornerbacks to take chances in man, knowing that they have help over the top with each safety covering half of the deep field.
Cover 2 Zone
The corners play the same as in a traditional Tampa 2 in this defense: short zone, breaking on shorter throws, and keeping the play in front of them. Buffalo also mixed in Cover 1, with one safety playing centerfield, and Cover 3. The corners mixed between man and zone.
Cover 1 Man
This defense leaves the cornerbacks more exposed, as the free safety can either play a true center field, or shade to one receiver. One or both corners are left on the "island" in this defense.
Cover 3 Zone
In this defense, the corners are in zone, splitting the deep field into thirds. The strong safety plays a shorter zone, or can play man. This defense is fairly safe for the corner, since he's playing as deep as the deepest route, and usually lines up at least six yards off the ball in Cover 3.
Patrick Peterson in Cover Two Man
It's somewhat unfair to say Peterson has a coverage that suits him "best." His talent is so remarkable that he'll fit any scheme. This scheme does allow Peterson the most leeway to play aggressively. Peterson can play closer to the line of scrimmage and bump receivers at the line, knowing that he has safety help over the top if he gets beat. Peterson can also jump the short routes with abandon due to that same Cover 2 help. In college, he showed tremendous ability to drive on shorter passes, and this defense would allow him that freedom with some sense of comfort knowing the safety is over the top to minimize mistakes.
Peterson in Cover Two Zone
Peterson can play this defense at a high level now, as well. He's experienced playing the shorter zones from the slot, and some outside as well. This defense allows him to play physically and jump routes, but also gives him some freedom to freelance and play to his instincts by moving around away from his initial zone responsibility, and flow to the action.
Peterson in Cover 1 Man
Peterson is the only corner in the draft that a team can feel comfortable playing in Cover 1 man from the first game. His tremendous closing speed and size will allow him to recover from mistakes, and not force the defense to shade the safety to his side.
Peterson in Cover 3
This is the least preferred defense for Peterson to play in, simply because it limits his ability to make plays while remaining aware of his zone responsibilities. Beyond that, he has no limitations in this scheme.
Peterson is a fit in any defense for any team. Peterson can play physically at the line of scrimmage, play man off, and play zone. He doesn't limit the scheme; he does just the opposite - he opens the scheme up. Peterson can not only fit the schemes, but allow adjustments for the rest of the defense. Against a run-heavy offense with a great receiver, for example, Peterson can blanket that top receiver and allow a safety to play close to the line. Or he can erase the No. 2 receiver, and allow another corner an safety to bracket the top receiver. His elite size also allows him to blitz. The possibilities are endless.
If Peterson develops to his immense potential, he's a cross between Rod Woodson's size and athleticism, and Charles Woodson's versatility. Any defense would welcome that type of player.