Cardinals’ Justin Bethel relishing opportunity as starting cornerback

Aug 28, 2017, 6:03 PM | Updated: Aug 29, 2017, 11:30 am
Arizona Cardinals defensive back Justin Bethel (28) breaks up a pass intended for receiver John Bro...

Arizona Cardinals defensive back Justin Bethel (28) breaks up a pass intended for receiver John Brown, left, during an NFL football training camp Monday, July 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The NFL is fluid theater. Injuries and single plays alter seasons, wild standings swings are commonplace from year to year, and starting positions are placeholders for all but the elite few.

Justin Bethel understands the latter reality, so when Cardinals coach Bruce Arians proclaimed him the starting cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson last week, Bethel tempered that news with the appropriate qualifiers.

Given the hill Bethel has climbed, however, it was still nice to hear the words.

“I’ve been putting a lot of work in for it and I felt like I had a really good camp,” Bethel said Monday. “Just to confirm that everything I’ve been working on in the offseason has paid off, it feels good. Now I’m ready to go into the season and make some plays in the season and have a good year; get us to the Super Bowl.”

When camp began, Arians named his No. 2 cornerback spot one of the biggest questions marks, but Bethel followed a strong spring with a strong camp and a strong preseason, punctuated by an excellent, albeit short performance against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday.

Bethel had a pair of good plays in coverage against Atlanta, getting his head around to help break up a sideline pattern where he was running stride for stride with the receiver. He had already won the job by then.

The game was just an extension of what Arians has been seeing when he made his decision.

“He just outplayed everybody,” Arians said. “Once we were able to play bump and run, which is his forte, he just got better and better and his confidence grew.”

Simply being healthy this season is Bethel’s biggest storyline. The chance to get more practice reps has had a butterfly effect on the other parts of his game.

“Being healthy and being able to train this offseason and really getting down and working with the technique and stuff is big,” he said. “Then it’s just about being six years in. You start learning the game. You see things. The game has slowed down for me a lot. I can go out there and play full speed and not worry about ‘is this the play?’ I know how things are going to go through the course of the game. I’m in the right positions.

“My press technique is a lot better. I’m feeling comfortable being able to look for the ball and I’m recognizing things sooner and being able to break sooner. I’m trusting my eyes.”

While Bethel has secured the starting spot, Arians is outwardly happy about the depth behind his starters, too, with Brandon Williams and veteran Tramon Williams showing progress.

“I’m as pleased with the corner position as just about any position on the team right now,” Arians said.

Playing opposite Peterson will always afford Bethel opportunities, but Peterson believes he is ready for the task.

“He’s always been a guy that’s relished those moments and I’m excited to see what he does,” Peterson said. “We all know that he has athletic ability to be an elite cornerback. Now it’s all about getting the game experience under his belt, making those plays to grow that confidence in himself.

“He’s going to have a lot of opportunities so we’ll see what he does with it.”

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter

Life Changer Loans

Arizona Cardinals

Running back James Conner #6 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes the football against Leonard Floyd #54...
Sam Graveline

Cardinals RB James Conner comes in at No. 80 in NFL Top 100

After scoring 18 touchdowns in his first season with the Cardinals, running back James Conner got some recognition from his peers in the NFL.
21 hours ago
Kendric Pryor #19 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a catch past Breon Borders #21 of the Arizona Car...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Cardinals release DL Kingsley Keke, CB Breon Borders among 5 cuts

The Cardinals cut DL Kingsley Keke, OL Haggai Ndubuisi, OL Greg Long, RB Ronnie Rivers and CB Breon Borders, the team announced. 
21 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt walks the sideline during the team's NFL football preseas...
Haboob Blog

Cardinals’ J.J. Watt encounters ‘baby rattlesnake’ in bathroom

Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt found himself in a situation many who call Arizona home never wish to be in. Or at least he thought so.
2 days ago
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) greets San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Sha...
Tom Kuebel

Kliff Kingsbury lends support for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan in hat ‘beef’

Kliff Kingsbury tendered support for San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in his ongoing hat drama with the NFL.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Ward (29) celebrates his touchdown against the Cincinnati B...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals Corner: Arizona standouts aplenty in win over Bengals

Arizona Sports' Cardinals reporter Tyler Drake and 98.7 FM's Erik Ruby give their top standouts in the team's 36-23 win over the Bengals.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, left, talks with quarterback Kyler Murray during the ...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury ‘impressed’ with Kyler Murray’s play-calling

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury handed over play-calling duties to QB Kyler Murray in the team's 36-23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
3 days ago
Cardinals’ Justin Bethel relishing opportunity as starting cornerback