Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: Justin Bethel ‘answered the bell well’
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cornerback Justin Bethel spent all of this past week working with the first-team defense as Jerraud Powers has been sidelined with an oblique injury.
With Powers sitting out Saturday’s preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, Bethel was tabbed to start opposite Patrick Peterson. The fourth-year pro stepped up and played well, tallying three tackles — one of which was for a loss — along with one pass defensed in a game Arizona lost by a score of 34-19. In one early-game play, he also ran stride-for-stride with star Chiefs wideout Jeremy Maclin, getting his head turned around at the last second to help prevent a long completion without incurring a pass interference penalty.
“I thought he answered the bell well,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “There was a good throw, he was going to intercept the one, but it was a really high throw and he couldn’t get it. But I thought he had great coverage on a couple plays.”
True, it’s not as if Bethel blanketed receivers to the point where completions were not happening on his side of the field. But he was not really beaten on any play, and when a catch was made in front of him, he tackled well.
In a lot of ways, that’s all a cornerback can do.
“Definitely felt good to be out there and go out there and try to make some plays,” Bethel said. “I was there for a lot of balls; I feel like there’s a couple of them I probably could have played a little better and knocked out, but definitely was glad to be able to get that chance.”
For Bethel, it was important to show that he can be more than a special teams ace. Thus far into his career he has yet to prove capable of being a consistent cornerback, though this past week in practice has allowed him to go toe-to-toe with receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. Saturday he matched up with an elite receiver in Maclin, and did not at all appear to be out of his league.
You would think it would help his confidence, but Bethel said he’s always believed he could handle the role.
“For me, I kind of always felt like I had the physical abilities to go out there and play with everybody,” he said. “It’s been more, for me, working on technique and mentally knowing the game and knowing what I’m supposed to do. I’ve really been working on that and I’ve got a chance to go out there and kind of put it to the test today.
“So definitely glad that I got that chance and I’m just going to keep working.”
That means going back and watching the film, which now includes him facing off against some elite receiver talent.
“You build off of it, see what you’ve got to fix and just fine-tune little things and just keep working to get better,” he said.