NFL Network’s Casserly: Cardinals concerns are at RT and cornerback

Jun 3, 2016, 5:00 PM
Arizona Cardinals' Justin Bethel swings ropes during a team practice, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Tem...
Arizona Cardinals' Justin Bethel swings ropes during a team practice, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

For all the Arizona Cardinals did this offseason to shore up a team that reached the NFC Championship Game in 2015, they still by no means have a flawless roster.

Granted, there really isn’t any single team who could say they are without holes, but for a team like the Cardinals, who have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, potential issues could be severely damaging to championship hopes.

But what are the Cardinals’ issues?

According to NFL Network’s Charley Casserly in a segment going over playoff teams with issues heading into 2016, they are at right tackle and cornerback.

“Right tackle, Bobby Massie has gone and left in free agency,” Casserly noted. “First-round pick from a year ago, D.J. Humphries, is slated to get first shot at the position.

“Now, he had a disappointing rookie year; strength wasn’t good, focus/intensity wasn’t good, and the techniques weren’t good. Got to watch and see if he’s matured — he has the talent to do it. Key position, right tackle.”

No doubt Humphries had a disappointing rookie season, given that he was not active for a single snap and made absolutely zero impact on the field. However, toward the end of last season Cardinals coaches expressed confidence in the former No. 24 overall pick, saying he had turned a corner and become a player they felt they could count on if needed.

That tone has not changed at all so far this season, and as of now it appears the second-year pro is ready to assume the starting role and be a factor along the offensive line.

As for the right cornerback, that’s where Justin Bethel — who is currently recovering from foot surgery — is slated to play.

“He played last year for them, but this guy was a target,” Casserly said, adding anyone who plays opposite Patrick Peterson will be targeted by opposing quarterbacks. “But he did not play well last year. He struggled in coverage. He’s best in press, but in off-coverage his techniques weren’t good, his discipline wasn’t good, and he needs better instincts.”

Bethel certainly had his rough moments over the final weeks of last season after he moved into the starting lineup following Tyrann Mathieu’s injury, but he said he was dealing with the foot injury for a while and is confident he can be a good NFL cornerback.

Fellow NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger was asked to share his thoughts on Casserly’s concerns, and he did not seem to be as worried as his colleague, especially when it comes to the offensive line.

“Well you know they drafted Evan Boehm from Missouri in the fourth round, I think he’s going to be their starting center — I think he’s going to upgrade that position, he started every game at Missouri — and you’ve got to see,” he said. “D.J. Humphries was drafted to eventually replace Bobby Massie. They brought in Evan Mathis to play right guard.

“We knew coming in that D.J. Humphries was going to struggle. He was only 20 years old, he was undersized at Florida. So, you’ve got to give him that year to kind of grow this year and see if he can grow into that position. But I thought Evan Boehm and Evan Mathis were two good signings to solidify the middle of that line.”

The idea that Humphries and Bethel are entering this season as question marks is not new, and no doubt eyes will be on them during training camp to see if they are in fact ready to handle their larger roles. Both have flashed top-level talent, though, and if they can step up and solidify their respective positions, the Cardinals will be one of the most complete teams in the NFL.



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