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Justin Bethel: 'It's definitely a year for me to try to make something of myself as a defensive back'

The special teams star still expects to play on the transition team, though.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It has been said a lot this offseason -- this is Justin Bethel's year to potentially become a star. The two-time Pro Bowl special teams player is being counted on to be part of the rotation at cornerback after the departure of Antonio Cromartie.

Bethel knows this is the year for him as well. As a guest on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, Bethel said, "I feel like it's definitely a year for me to try and make something of myself as a defensive back.

"Obviously I've excelled on special teams and I've been able to help the team in that way, but this year I feel like I have the opportunity to go out there and show the team I can be an every down corner, or if not that, just go out there and play corner when they need me to -- in the nickel, dime, anything like that.

"It's definitely a big year for me."

Getting a role -- significant or rotational -- on defense shouldn't affect his special teams play, though. He is used to it. All through high school and college he was both a starter on defense and played significant snaps on special teams, playing 100 snaps a game total.

"Even now, guys like Rashad Johnson, even though he's our starting safety, he is still on kickoff, he is still on punt and things like that, so I definitely plan on still doing whatever I need to be doing on special teams," he said, joking he would have to work on his conditioning to play as much as he hopes to.

He knew special teams would be his way to make an impact in the NFL right away.

"I saw I was going to be real good at it, so knowing that I probably wasn't going to get to play as much defensive back because of the great backs we had, I was like, 'I'm just going to go out there and do my part and do everything I can to help the team win,'" he explained.

And he tries to do it well because "if I'm going to be doing it, I might as well be the best at it."

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, he knows what playing well this year means. And he feels the team is "being very fair" about giving him the opportunity to show he is more than just a special teams player.

"I feel like they've appreciated all I've done for the team and I think they're going to give me a fair shot at cornerback just to see if I can do it," he said.

He said his role this year will be a "win-win" for both him and the team when it comes to a contract. Bringing him back would mean at minimum they get a special teams stud and perhaps even a very good cornerback.

Bethel feels he only really needs experience on the field to excel.

He has a chance. He is competing to start with Jerraud Powers, although based on what head coach Bruce Arians says, it will take a lot to unseat him.

There are a few ways Bethel could work into the rotation. Last year, he was the guy the team brought in when they went with seven defensive backs.

This year, he could potentially be a starter. If not, he could be the team's third cornerback, coming in to play when the team goes with its nickel package. He could play outside in those scenarios and have Powers slide to the slot where he excelled in 2014. Bethel himself could play the slot, which is where they have him lining up in OTAs. He could be the seventh defensive back as well, which would mean less playing time.

Factor in Tyrann Mathieu, who could play only safety or a mix of safety and slot corner and you have lots of ways to go, and that doesn't even factor in the injury effect that inevitably come into play at some position.

Needles to say, as Bethel said it himself, "it's definitely a big year" for him and the team.