TEMPE, Ariz. – When Bruce Arians looks at his Arizona Cardinals roster in its current state, he sees at least one or two cornerbacks who he feels comfortable lining up across from All-Pro Patrick Peterson.
But he wouldn’t mind adding one more.
Cornerback was one of three positions, along with inside linebacker and wide receiver, that Arians cited as potential targets in this year’s draft who could learn under veterans currently on the roster. If Arizona isn’t comfortable taking one in the first or second round, however, Arians won’t stress about finding a suitable option.
“I don’t know if we can get all those high picks, but we’ve been really, really lucky from round three to round six, I think, of getting some quality guys, and as college free agents, too,” he said.
As the Cardinals’ roster stands now, Peterson is Sharpied in at one cornerback spot while either Brandon Williams or Justin Bethel can be penciled in at the other. But, as Arians reaffirmed last month at the NFL’s annual meetings, whoever is lined up across from Peterson will be picked on. A lot. In some cases, however, as with former Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie in 2014 or Marcus Cooper last season, getting targeted more because quarterbacks shied away from Peterson could lead to a showcase season. Cromartie went to the Pro Bowl the one season he was in Arizona, and Cooper’s one season in Arizona led to a big-money, multiyear contract with the Chicago Bears this offseason.
Arizona may be in a place in 2017 where it doesn’t need to sign a veteran to a one-year, prove-it deal.
Williams is entering his second NFL season, and his third overall playing cornerback, and Bethel is expected to report for offseason workouts as healthy as he has been in two years.
“I think Brandon is going to be fine,” Arians said. “He got thrown into the fire, had a couple communication problems. That’s where that leadership back there is going to help early in the season.”
Arians, who called Bethel a “failure in progress” late last season, has softened on that stance.
“I think Justin Bethel is going to play a hell of a lot better if he can finally practice,” Arians said. “He hasn’t practiced for two years on that broken foot. He can now have a chance to really compete as a corner and get better rather than just throwing him out there when we had to have him. That’s not fair to him. But I think he’s going to really, really take off with it this spring so I feel fine with those guys.”
If the Cardinals feel the need to add depth – or even a potential starter – to their cornerbacks room, this might be the draft to do it.
Arians said this year’s draft, which is begins in less than two weeks, is “loaded with corners.” Should the Cardinals draft one or sign an undrafted free agent in the next few weeks, Arians doesn’t see many hurdles in the rookie picking up the Cardinals’ style of coverage.
“Corner is one of those positions where I don’t think you need two or three years to learn how to play bump-and-run man-to-man,” Arians said. “That’s your dude. It’s dude coverage. You got your dude, go get him. We’ll teach you how to bump, maybe a little bit better.
“Another one of my pet peeves, in OTAs we can’t play bump-and-run. We’re a bump-and-run team and we can’t teach the techniques that we want to play with until we get to training camp because of the CBA.”