Justin Bethel made his first Pro Bowl due to his excellence on special teams, but the 23-year-old is hoping to make an impact in other areas of the game.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2012 Draft out of Presbyterian as a cornerback, Bethel has spent little time playing his natural position during his first two NFL seasons.
But as he heads into the offseason, that is supposed to change. As a guest on the Big Red Rage Thursday, Bethel said head coach Bruce Arians issued a challenge when they met at the end of the season.
“He was really up front with me, saying he wants me to step up into that cornerback role and just come into next year being prepared to make something happen and be a bigger role on defense,” he said.
At 6-feet and 200 pounds, Bethel has good size for the position and is not lacking for athleticism, but even though he has the physical attributes, it is a big jump to go from special teams star to lock-down cornerback. He knows he still needs to improve in certain aspects of his game, including footwork, playing man-to-man coverage and locating the ball, but that’s what the offseason is for.
“I believe in my ability,” Bethel said. “When I’m in practice, I make a lot of plays. I do stuff that I know if I have to play in the game, I’ll be ready for it.
“So I’m looking forward to it and making something happen.”
As a senior in college a couple years ago, Bethel recorded 87 tackles, one sack and four interceptions while being named the Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He’s already made his mark at the professional level, but now it’s time for him to take another step forward. Both he and the team want it to happen.
“They’ve been wanting me to grow as a corner, and as the season’s gone on I feel like that’s really been happening,” he said. “So coming out next year, I’m looking forward to moving more toward the role of being a cornerback.”