Bethel stepped in a larger role in the Cardinals' secondary after Tyrann Mathieu (ACL tear) was lost for the season in Week 15, picking up a combined 15 tackles and one interception over the season's final two games. With Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers manning cornerback and nickel corner, respectively, expect Bethel to sustain his recent usage, or 79 percent of the defensive snaps, but tackle chances should still abound.
Head coach Bruce Arians said Monday that he expects Justin Bethel to earn more snaps at cornerback following Tyrann Mathieu's season-ending knee injury, Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official site reports.
Arians preceded that statement by pointing out that Jerraud Powers will take over Mathieu's gig at nickel corner, which makes Bethel the logical candidate to take over the starting cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson. When Powers sat out Weeks 13 and 14 as a result of a calf strain, Bethel performed admirably in the high-profile role, totaling 11 tackles (10 solo) and two passes defended. Such production will likely become the norm if Bethel is tabbed for the job.
Bethel entered the starting lineup for an ailing Jerraud Powers, who was sidelined with a strained calf. With Patrick Peterson on the other side, opportunities often arise for the Cardinals' other starting cornerback, and Bethel was targeted 10 times by Nick Foles, allowing just two receptions, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. While Bethel was unable to produce the second interception of his career, he could be afforded another nod Thursday versus the Vikings with Powers logging an absence in Monday's practice.
The $15 million is pretty good for a guy with one career start at cornerback. Most of Bethel's value comes from his contribution on special teams, which the Cardinals clearly prize. It remains to be seen if he's able to get more work on defense during this contract's span.
Justin Bethel (foot) is listed as active Sunday at Cleveland, Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official site reports.
The opportunity existed for Bethel to start at cornerback this week, but Jerraud Powers brushed off his Grade 2 hamstring strain in order to cover his typical starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson. While Bethel could assume a greater role on defense, especially if Powers requires the occasional breather, special teams will likely account for the bulk of his snaps yet again.
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