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Justin Bethel could 'be a top corner in this league,' says Bruce Arians

The special teams ace now is making strides at corner.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl special teamer Justin Bethel was singled out this offseason by head coach Bruce Arians as a player that could take big strides forward as a cornerback. Arians reiterated that after the team's first mini-camp practice on Tuesday.

Arians said that Bethel "could be our best" player at cornerback.

"He's got all the skill level to be as good as there is, including Patrick (Peterson) and all those other guys that are mentioned," explained Arians to reporters. "This kid has an unbelievable skillset and he's starting to get hands on more balls than anybody else out there."

Arians explained that Bethel is getting more experience, he has growing confidence and he is also understanding more defensive concepts. Arians "(doesn't) think there's any doubt" that his trip to the Pro Bowl, spending time with the best in the league, "gave him a ton of confidence."

"Coming from a small school, so many times it's just about being an athlete," said Arians. "And now he's understanding route concepts and route combinations and seeing an underneath coverage and getting an idea of when the outside guy is going to jump it and get an interception."

Arians that Bethel has "fantastic hands" and "the sky's the limit" of how good he could become.

So far, he is the team's fourth corner, behind Peterson, Antonio Cromartie and Jerraud Powers. But Cromartie will be a free agent after this season. Bethel will have one year left on his rookie contract after that.

The team is getting to the point where they want to "(count) on him to be 'the guy'." Will that mean that they will project him as the starter opposite Peterson next season?

That might be getting ahead of ourselves, but maybe it won't be nearly as crucial to draft a corner replacement because they already have their number two

What can we expect to see from Bethel as a cornerback this year? It will be tough to see him on the field on defense, based on where he would be at on the depth chart. Can he perhaps unseat Powers, a guy that Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles both trust? Or will he need to play another year behind Peterson, and now Cromartie, to turn into a quality starting cornerback?