The name we all know, as well as the rest of the NFL, is Patrick Peterson, who in two seasons has been to two Pro Bowls and is considered the 33rd best player in the NFL this year. There are a lot of new additions after him. The group includes Peterson, four offseason acquisitions, two returning players drafted a year ago and two undrafted rookies.
Justin Bethel, drafted in the sixth round by Arizona in 2012
Antoine Cason, signed to a one-year free agent contract this offseason
Jamell Fleming, drafted in the third round by Arizona in 2012
Josh Hill, undrafted free agent
Bryan McCann, signed to a one-year free agent contract this offseason
Patrick Peterson, drafted in the first round by the Cards in 2011
Jerraud Powers, signed to a three-year free agent contract this offseason
Ronnie Yell, undrafted rookie
The sure starter
The one guy whose role we know for sure is Peterson is the number one corner. The team leans on him a lot simply to line up and defend the opponents' top receiver. After some struggles as a rookie, he made big strides in 2012, snagging seven interceptions. He was not quite the perfect "shutdown" corner, but he made strides towards that. He expects to be even better this year.
The battle for number two and number three
As of right now, three offseason acquisitions are in the mix for being the number two corner and nickel corner. Powers, who played for head coach Bruce Arians and is the one player signed long-term, is currently slotted as a starter. He does not have great stats and has a history of getting hurt. Behind him is currently Cason, who many consider starter material, but whose play has fallen off a bit. Behind him is Arenas, for whom the Cardinals traded their popular fullback, Anthony Sherman. Arenas has experience at nickelback and is also a valuable special teams player.
Veteran Bryan McCann has little experience on defense, but has done both punt returns and kick returns in his three previous seasons.
Possibly a wild card in the mix will be rookie Tyrann Mathieu, who is being groomed as a safety, but could easily become the nickel corner because that is the position he played in college. The ability to play both safety and corner, combined with his renowned playmaking skills could find him time in the slot.
The 2012 draftees
If there is something to be read by the acquisition of so many veterans at the position. Either the new coaching staff did not like what they saw on film from Fleming or Bethel in 2012, or they believe that they still need some developing. Fleming is the interesting story. He was moving up the depth chart and getting praises from previous defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but then apparently got complacent as Horton later criticized him for his maturity and complacency. In early offseason workouts, he was passed up on the depth chart by even Bethel, who was being developed at corner and a safety last season.
Bethel is now being used only at corner, but has made strides. He was a big time contributor on special teams last season, as he blocked several kicks in the preseason, was one of the gunners on the punt coverage team that set a record for punts down inside the 20 and he scored a touchdown after Adrian Wilson blocked a field goal.
Based solely on offseason workouts, it appears, at least for the moment, that Bethel is trending up and Fleming is trending down.
The undrafted rookies
Hill and Yell will be hard pressed to make the team, considering the veteran presence ahead of them and the fact that both Fleming and Bethel are 2012 draftees (although with a new coaching staff, their value may not be as high).
Stories/Battles to watch
The battle for CB2 will be one of the key positional battles. Will it be Powers or Cason, or will Fleming be able to battle his way back into the picture?
CB3 will also be one to watch.
Fleming will be an important player to watch. Where does he end up practicing? How much does he impress during actual preseason games? Is he a wasted potential? Is he being overlooked?
I see six corners making the roster. Peterson, Powers, Cason, Arenas, Fleming and Bethel are all in. McCann and the undrafted guys are left on the outside. McCann's shot is as kick returner. Arenas, Fleming and Bethel all already have shown their worth on special teams. Perhaps either Hill or Yell gets the call back for the practice squad.
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- Arizona Cardinals training camp preview: Special teams
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