Justin Bethel more comfortable playing outside corner than nickel

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel had his choice Sunday in St. Louis, he’d play primarily outside as Jerraud Powers' replacement.

Powers suffered a calf injury in Sunday’s win over the San Francisco and hasn’t practiced this week. Bethel is expected to make his second start of the season at cornerback. But on Monday, coach Bruce Arians mentioned the possibility of Bethel playing “some nickel” against the Rams.

If that’s where Bethel has to play, that’s where he’ll play, he said, but he’d prefer to stay outside. And that’s very likely where Bethel will stay, defensive coordinator James Bettcher said Thursday.

“Justin’s playing corner,” Bettcher said. “He’ll be playing corner this week.”

But with how diverse Arizona’s defensive scheme is, Bethel has been preparing in case he has to play the nickel back at some point Sunday.

“You never know with this defense,” Bethel said. “The way they do it, they do it so they switch guys up so we can give teams different looks. We have guys like Tyrann (Mathieu), guys like Rashad (Johnson) who know so much and knows every position.

“We can move people around. If I need to play slot, I know the nickel. I know what I’m supposed to do. If I need to play it, I’m going to do whatever I need to do to get us that ‘W.’”

He’s played 58.3 percent of his defensive snaps this season at outside corner, the position he prefers. He’s only played 15 snaps at slot corner this year. The times Bethel has played nickel, he jokingly tells his teammates how much he doesn’t like it and asks to be moved back outside.

Playing nickel corner is a unique role, Bethel said. It’s unlike playing either outside or inside corner.

“When you’re on the outside, when they go outside and release on you, you know there’s only a couple routes they can run on you,” Bethel said. “When they go inside, you try to stay on top and you know you got the help inside.

“In the slot, they got a lot of routes they can run inside, they got a lot of routes they can run outside. And there’s a lot more field. I feel you have to cover a lot more space. And I’ve been doing outside for so long, you get comfortable with it.”