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The former No. 5 draft pick had an electric rookie year returning the ball, averaging 15.9 yards and scoring four touchdowns in 2011. Those numbers dipped last season, however, as he only managed 8.4 yards per return and could not find the endzone.
Arians doesn't seem to be concerned about Peterson's low production: ""He can't get his hands on the ball enough for me. As long as the other team is punting, he's going to be back there...until he waves me off and says, ‘Coach, can I take a blow?' "
If Peterson has another slow year on returns, it's worth considering if the extra injury risk is worth the potential field position. There's a precedent for guys who started their careers as returners before eventually focusing on a full-time position. Panthers receiver Steve Smith spent his first four years working both kickoff and punt returns. While he thrived in the job, he was phased out of the return game in 2005 and responded with a career year (103 catches, 1,563 yards, 12 touchdowns).
Likewise, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was a part-time return man for his first two years even though it wasn't a particularly good fit for his skillset. When Dallas finally relieved him of special teams in the middle of the 2012 season, he caught on fire, racking up 50 catches, 879 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last eight games.
Peterson is already a talented defensive back, and he made a huge leap in his game last season, with seven interceptions and 17 passes defensed. Punt returning is about the only question in his game from 2012, and while he has the coach's support for now, he could end up following the career arcs of Smith and Bryant if he struggles again next season.