With first-team reps, Arizona Cardinals’ Justin Bethel works on being a cornerback

Aug 13, 2015, 1:36 PM
Justin Bethel battled Larry Fitzgerald down the field during Arizona Cardinals training camp. (Phot...
Justin Bethel battled Larry Fitzgerald down the field during Arizona Cardinals training camp. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s fair to say this is a big season for Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel.

Not in a “he better play well or he’ll be out of a job” kind of way, but rather in a “it’s high time he proves he can handle playing cornerback” kind of way.

A two-time Pro Bowler because of his outstanding play on special teams, the 25-year-old has made no secret of his desire to make more of an impact on the defensive side of the ball, where he has just seven total tackles and one fumble recovery in his career.

Bethel entered camp battling Jerraud Powers for the starting cornerback job opposite Patrick Peterson, and given the former’s track record, he figured to be at a disadvantage. But Powers suffered an oblique injury last Saturday, and while he has been sidelined, Bethel has received first-team reps, matching up against receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown.

“At this point, that was the big thing for me, just hoping I can get a lot of reps,” Bethel said. “His injury has given me a chance to go out there, get more reps, work on my technique. Especially with great guys going against Fitz and guys like that.

“It’s definitely a blessing, but I still hope he gets back and gets healthy because we definitely need him.”

Until Powers gets back, Bethel will continue to make his case as a cornerback.

Asked Wednesday how Bethel has fared, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “I think he did really, really well. He was a victim of some perfect throws, but he had really good coverage.”

There’s just no stopping a perfectly-placed pass.

“That’s life of a cornerback,” Bethel said. “You’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some. You just try to win more than you lose.”

In his fourth season since being selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Presbyterian product has already proven his value to the team. Last season, Bethel led the Cardinals with 18 special teams tackles, blocked a field goal and forced a fumble on a punt return. That will continue to be a big part of Bethel’s game, but in this camp he’s focused on improving as a cornerback.

“My man press technique is getting a lot better,” he said. “Now, for me, it’s just playing off and staying low when I get tired, and just keep working on my technique when that fatigue starts to set in.”

One of the receivers Bethel has matched up against a good amount over the last few days, John Brown, said he’s seen a better Bethel, a player who can step in at corner if the team needs him to.

“The thing that I’ve noticed about Justin is he’s more patient,” Brown said. “He’s always been a physical guy, and he has speed — he can really run with me. So that’s a good thing for him.”

Unfortunately for Bethel, Powers got back on the practice field late in the week and figures to re-assume his role as the team’s No. 2 cornerback going forward. However, his stint as a starter may have turned a few heads, and as Bethel knows, his biggest opportunity may still be on the horizon.

“They’ve been looking for a third corner, so I’m trying to be that guy,” he said. “And if something happens, I’ll be able to step in and play at a high level if somebody goes down.”

Life Changer Loans
Safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) returns an interception while linebacker Kevin Minter (51) blocks during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver John Brown (12) celebrates Darren Fells' TD catch during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Tight end Darren Fells makes a touchdown catch in front of safety Deone Bucannon during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Rookie tackle D.J. Humphries tries to keep LB LaMarr Woodley away from QB Drew Stanton during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The offense and defense prepare for the snap during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein talks with Bobby Massie during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Cornerback Patrick Peterson claps after a play during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Members of the secondary wait for the snap during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The offense lines up during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Linebacker Kevin Minter applies pressure to QB Carson Palmer during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Members of the defense line up during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The offensive line blocks during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver John Brown is tackled by cornerback Patrick Peterson after making a catch during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver John Brown leaps to make a catch during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Cornerback Patrick Peterson works to cover receiver John Brown during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The Cardinals' first-team offensive line walks to the line of scrimmage during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin talks with receiver Larry Fitzgerald during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Head coach Bruce Arians watches during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Safety Tony Jefferson talks to cornerback Justin Bethel during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver Larry Fitzgerald talks to former teammate Adrian Wilson during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Linebacker Markus Golden grabs TE Gerald Chrstian's jersey during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Cornerback Justin Bethel watches during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug. 12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) QB Carson Palmer drops back to pass while RB Andre Ellington is there to block during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field following the NFL game at ...
Alex Weiner

Hard Knocks recap: Kyler Murray returns to forefront, Cardinals give back on Thanksgiving

Kyler Murray returned, the Cardinals lost another heartbreaker and several teammates gave back on Thanksgiving in the latest episode.
13 hours ago
Paris Johnson Jr. #77 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Northwestern Wildcats during...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals nab OL Paris Johnson in Brugler’s 1st mock draft for 2023

The Athletic's Dane Brugler graced us with his first mock of the year on Wednesday and has the Cardinals taking OSU's Paris Johnson at No. 7.
2 days ago
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 20: Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals is congratul...
Arizona Sports

Kyler Murray calls out Patrick Peterson for condemning comments made on podcast

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray let his frustration with former teammate Patrick Peterson calling him out on a podcast known.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andre Baccellia (82) pulls in a pass for a touchdown in front of Ci...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals re-sign WR Andre Baccellia to practice squad

The Arizona Cardinals re-signed wide receiver Andre Baccellia to the team's practice squad on Wednesday morning.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals S Jalen Thompson points during practice on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyl...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals’ Jalen Thompson left off ESPN’s under-25 ranking

Safety Jalen Thompson has been a constant within the Arizona Cardinals defense over the past couple seasons.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray looks on during practice on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyl...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals enter Week 13 with minute chance at making 2022 NFL playoffs

Mathematically, the Arizona Cardinals somehow still have a sliver of postseason hope remaining in the 2022 season.
3 days ago
With first-team reps, Arizona Cardinals’ Justin Bethel works on being a cornerback