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Cornerbacks Aplenty

Posted May 15, 2013

Cards have collected extra cover guys, now they must sort through them

Cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) covers wide receiver Ryan Swope during an OTA this week.

Six, seven, eight.

It doesn’t matter how many cornerbacks are on the Cardinals’ roster during minicamps and organized team activities this summer, they all relish the competition.

To them, the more the merrier – even if there are nine corners competing for only a handful of jobs.

“Whenever you bring in guys and know what those guys can do, of course it’s going to bring out competition,” first-year Cardinal CB Jerraud Powers said. “Competition brings out the best for everybody.

“It’s all competition. No hatred or anything like that. You can’t be mad because they bring somebody else in. That’s just the business side of it. You just expect it.”

Only three cornerbacks remain from last year’s team: Patrick Peterson, Jamell Fleming and Justin Bethel. In his third year, Peterson is the veteran of that trio and a Pro Bowler his first two seasons.

Added during the first week of free agency were Antoine Cason and Powers, then Bryan McCann a few weeks later. Josh Hill and Ronnie Yell were signed as undrafted free agents and, finally, Javier Arenas was acquired via trade earlier this month.

With Peterson occupying one starting spot, it leaves the Cardinals with eight corners vying for the other spot heading into OTAs. Cason, Powers and Arenas combined for 103 NFL starts, stiffening the competition. During the first day of OTAs, Powers lined up opposite Peterson on the first team. Cason was working in with the second team but was the third cornerback in during nickel situations.

“I know my abilities,” Cason said. “I know what I’m capable of. It’s great. Why wouldn’t a team want to bring in good players? For me, step up, take the challenge, play hard and be the best man.”

They all know nine corners won’t be on the roster at the end of training camp. It’s part of the business of being in the NFL. But after a summer of developing their friendship, it’s still tough on them to watch their friends get cut, Powers said.

Instead of becoming a distraction for the group, it’s their motivation. They all want to avoid that gut-wrenching feeling of being cut after the final preseason game.

“I just look at it as an incentive to play better,” Bethel said. “You work hard, go out there and make some plays and get my spot on the team.”

Coach Bruce Arians has given everyone a shot at making the roster by holding two simultaneous practices during OTAs. It gives everyone a chance to play, Bethel said, which means it gives a chance for the coaches to evaluate everyone on tape.

“If you can’t play, you can’t play,” said Bethel, a second-year corner who stood out last year because of his special teams play. “If you can, you can. It’s on the film.”

Arenas said the worst thing a corner can do is be concerned about competing against eight other corners. Fleming admitted he’s thought about it “a little” but said the thought was fleeting.

For the next four months, they’ll compete against each other every day, trying to impress the coaching staff and earn that coveted starting position. But it’s not personal to any of them. It’s their job.

“That’s the beauty of being here this short time I’ve been here, everybody kinda co-exists really well,” Cason said. “You need to have a secondary that’s close, that’s tight. At the end of the day – I’ll speak for myself – I understand it’s not going to be nine corners at the end of cuts, but I’m going to go into each day, respect ever player for who they are and what they bring, and come and work hard. And in my mindset I will be one of those guys that’s out there playing.”

All nine of the Cardinals’ corners have that mindset. It’s all about the competition.

 

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