TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals didn’t need any more challenges at the non-Patrick Peterson cornerback position. They got one anyway.
Coach Bruce Arians announced on Monday that veteran Mike Jenkins suffered an ACL injury in Sunday’s preseason loss in Houston and will go on injured reserve, robbing a group that already lacks depth of another key piece.
“It was a shame because he had a chance to be our starting corner,” Arians said. “He was battling through the (broken right) hand (injury) and it was another one of those non-contact injuries.”
Jenkins hurt his right knee trying to tackle Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first quarter. As he was being carted off, he slammed his fist hard on the cart, knowing the injury was serious.
It’s possible the Cardinals will find some help when other teams announce their initial cuts on Tuesday and their final cuts on Saturday when NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players. Seattle cut veteran Brandon Browner on Monday, but it’s unclear if the Cardinals would have much interest in a guy whose best days appear to be well behind him.
“We’re one down from where we were but the same guys are battling it out,” Arians said. “It’s not like there’s a bunch of them running around on the street so you take what you got and you coach ’em up and you go.”
While Arians praised the solid camp of Cariel Brooks, the starting job opposite Patrick Peterson appears to be a competition between Justin Bethel and rookie Brandon Williams, both of whom have had their struggles in the preseason. Bethel saw his first game action on Sunday and got beat twice by Texans receiver Will Fuller, once for a TD.
“I obviously gave up a couple plays, but it’s going to happen, especially when you haven’t played in about four months and you only got three practices to get back into it,” Bethel said. “It shows me where I’m at; definitely not 100 percent but getting there. The first deep ball was just bad feet at the line. That second one, I’ve just got to work on better positioning.”
Arians had more advice for his highest paid full-time corner behind Peterson.
“Bethel obviously was very rusty,” Arians said, “trying to stop back-shoulder throws instead of upfield-shoulder throws — throws for touchdowns. The others are just first downs.”
Williams had a better day. He was beaten once on a ball that was dropped, but he held his own against Hopkins on several snaps, and he came out of the game feeling good about his play.
“It was my best preseason game, technique-wise,” he said. “The first two games, my technique wasn’t where it was supposed to be. In this game, I feel like my technique got way better.”
As the Cardinals search for depth beyond those two, Arians was asked about the possibility of shifting Tyrann Mathieu to cornerback for more snaps than the versatile defensive back normally takes away from the safety position. Arians appeared to contradict himself.
“If he were healthy and full speed, yes but probably not for a while,” he said.
When asked later what sort of role he anticipated for Mathieu in the season opener against New England on Sept. 11, Arians said: “I expect to him to be out there full speed, ready to roll.”
The Cardinals are likely still trying to sort out the aftermath of Jenkins’ injury and the impact it will have on the position, but Bethel tried to calm everyone’s nerves by relaying what he has seen in practice.
“We have a lot of young guys,” Bethel said. “I’ve been in the league but when it comes to the corner position I haven’t played a lot of reps at it, but from what I’ve seen, Brandon’s been playing great. He’s been getting better every week.
“When I get healthy, it just adds to it. If everybody can stay healthy through the season, we’re just going to get better as the time goes on; the more we play.”