Justin Bethel’s cornerback play hurting Arizona Cardinals

The most accomplished Arizona Cardinals special teamer since Ron Wolfley has been a liability at cornerback

There’s an old phrase, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch”, that appropriately describes the Arizona Cardinals’ secondary. The bad apple in this case is fifth-year cornerback/special teamer Justin Bethel.

Bethel’s problem is not special teams. He’s so good at that craft that he’s been voted to three straight Pro Bowls. His play at cornerback is a different story.

He got his first significant action at corner last year, and the results were not great. He was especially bad against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. His struggles led to an offseason search for an upgrade.

Brandon Williams was drafted in the third round of this past April’s draft and has been a flop. The front office was able to acquire current starter Marcus Cooper in a trade, and he has performed well. Another solid corner, Tharold Simon, was plucked off the waiver wire a couple of weeks after the Cooper deal.

Cooper and Simon relegated Bethel back to a backup role. But recent injuries to Simon and slot cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu have pressed Bethel back into duty. Once again, he has played poorly.

Whenever opposing offenses need to make a play through the air, they target whichever receiver Bethel is assigned to cover. Its a frighteningly easy way to attack the Arizona defense. Tight coverage provided by Patrick Peterson and Cooper is wasted when Bethel allows chain-moving completions.

The Cards face a must-win this Sunday against an Atlanta Falcons squad that has a fierce passing attack. The defense desperately needs Mathieu and Simon to be on the field so Bethel doesn’t have to play. As of this writing, Mathieu (shoulder) and Simon (ankle) have both been limited at practice.

It’s not that Bethel doesn’t have a place on the team. He’s without a doubt one of the best special teamers in Cardinals’ history. Just don’t play him at cornerback.

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