Down and Distance with Bruce Arians: Justin Bethel’s role on defense “should expand”

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals were still reeling on Friday in the aftermath of wide receiver Michael Floyd’s left hand injury, which required surgery on three fingers.

“It’s kind of a unique injury,” Arians said. “There really is no timetable, because it is such a different type of injury. I’ve never seen that in 40 years.”

It’s difficult for the Cardinals to move past what happened on Wednesday with Floyd, but they have no choice but to. Arians says Floyd being out has given their younger receivers a huge opportunity to showcase their skills.

“All those guys are doing very, very well, so it’s gonna be a good battle now to see how those 3, 4 and 5 shape out that were 4, 5 and 6,” Arians said.

Arians says it’s most likely that the team would’ve kept six receivers on the roster even if Floyd hadn’t gotten injured. Now, every receiver gets bumped up, and they’ll get assigned to certain packages. Arians says J.J. Nelson is “at the bottom of the barrel,” but he’s “coming on,” and he’ll be featured in certain packages, along with Jaron Brown, John Brown and Brittan Golden.

Quarterback Carson Palmer has seen a much different John Brown than the one he played with last season. The extra muscle Brown has put on hasn’t slowed him down one bit, in fact it’s probably made him that much more dangerous according to Arians.

“John Brown, I think, is playing faster than he ever played last year, because he knows what he’s doing, (there’s) no hesitation, he sees coverage, he sees blitzes and all those things. He’s playing extremely well right now,” Arians said.

There’s opportunities and roster spots to be had at the running back position as well, with Andre Ellington, David Johnson and Marion Grice all out with hamstring injuries. Arians likes what Kerwynn Williams, Robert Hughes and Stepfan Taylor are doing in training camp, but Williams is the one “leading the pack.”

There’s some good battles going on at the cornerback position too. Although Arians puts Jerraud Powers ahead of Justin Bethel in the race for the other cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson, he’s seeing some huge movement out of Bethel.

“He’s (Bethel) doing a nice job, he’s playing with a lot more confidence, (he’s) gotten his hands on some balls. He’s been a victim on some flat, perfect throws a couple times, but he’s had them covered like a blanket, (but) Drew (Stanton) and Carson’s (Palmer) putting it on the outside hand,” Arians said. “I really like where he’s at. He turned into a heck of a blitzer last year; we’re not using him quite in that role yet, but his role on defense should expand.”

Arians is very pleased with the left side of the offensive line. He likes what he’s seeing from tackle Jared Veldheer and guard Mike Iupati. Arians is seeing progression from the center, right guard and right tackle positions. The battle for center just got a little more interesting with Friday’s addition of former Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein, who Arians says is coming in for depth and to compete for the starting job.

“We always look for the best available guys to add to the group,” Arians said.

“A few bad snaps” are keeping Ted Larsen behind A.Q. Shipley, according to Arians, but his trust in them hasn’t yet wavered.

It’ll be a fun atmosphere at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday, as the team will be holding its annual Red & White practice. Arians says the team will have a normal practice, followed by their short yardage and goal line scrimmages, which are always exciting to watch.

“I’m still seeing who’s available, (and) whether or not the young guys will actually scrimmage each other,” Arians said.

Arians says they won’t scrimmage their top players, and the only tackling that will be done will be on the short yardage and goal line scrimmages.


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