The Arizona Cardinals defense has been a terrific unit in each of the past two seasons, and they could field one of the best secondaries in the league next season. While it is a bit of a boom-or-bust unit due to Antonio Cromartie’s struggles last year and the fact that one of their starting safeties will be a rookie, there’s plenty of talent back there. Patrick Peterson is one of the game’s best corners, Tyrann Mathieu was a rookie revelation and won’t miss too much time as he recovers from an injury, Cromartie may be inconsistent but he can play at a high level, Bucannon has plenty of natural talent, and the Cardinals could get strong help from an emerging corner who starred on special teams last year.
According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians stated that cornerback Justin Bethel might have been the team’s best player this past spring. Arians added, “Over Patrick (Peterson) and Cro (Cromartie). They gave up more big plays in the spring than he did, and got his hands on more balls than anybody did. That’s a nice problem to have.”
Bethel isn’t going to start anytime soon, barring an injury or some surprisingly pathetic play out of Cromartie, but he has a good chance of knocking off Jerraud Powers for nickel duties. It’s good to hear that Bethel is impressing this offseason, and hopefully he can continue to play at a high level during training camp. At the very least, Bethel will continue to be one of the league’s best core special teamers, as he earned Pro Bowl honors last season for the dirty work. In fact, he probably usurped New England Patriots captain Matthew Slater as the best special teams player in the NFL right now. On the defensive side of the ball, Bethel qualifies as a breakout candidate as he heads into his third season.