Cardinals cornerbacks Justin Bethel (left) and Brandon Williams talk technique at a recent practice.
By now, that cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson was supposed to be decided.
Rookie Brandon Williams had a good offseason, but veteran Justin Bethel, coming off a foot injury, was supposed to be ready at the outset of camp and eventually take hold of the job.
Bethel reinjured his foot just before camp, however, and "it set a whole new thing in motion," coach Bruce Arians said.
Heading into the Cardinals' third preseason game, things are far from settled. Williams tops the depth chart and as of now would be the starter. Bethel returned to practice this week, and while he still hasn't been taking 100 percent of the
work, Arians said there is "plenty of time" for Bethel to take back the starting job.
And then there is veteran Mike Jenkins, signed right before camp. Jenkins broke his hand early, had surgery and is now playing with a cast.
"Michael Jenkins is the sleeper in the mix," Arians said. "He's a pro, he's been struggling in the cast and now that the cast is smaller, he's in the mix as a starting corner."
It's not ideal to have cornerback uncertainty, but Arians has talked positively of each. The coach even said that the fourth-and-20 Hail Mary Bethel appeared to have surrendered at the end of the Green Bay playoff game – allowing the Packers to have a chance to produce their game-tying Hail Mary touchdown – wasn't even Bethel's fault.
Bethel, Arians said, played well down the stretch last season. What Arians wants to see out of Bethel now – something that has followed Bethel at the position for a while – is a "bravado that goes with a corner."
"Going out and jumping in somebody's face and covering them," Arians said. "Getting beat and shaking it off. He struggled last year, thinking he let the team down when someone caught a pass on him, it bothered him. They are going to catch passes on you because they are going to throw a hell of a lot of them at you. Come back and battle."
That's something Jenkins has, and something Arians says he sees in Williams every day – one of the reasons the raw rookie has surprised even General Manager Steve Keim at this point.
It's been a subject that Peterson has addressed many times with Williams, whom Peterson has mentored since he arrived.
"It is tough to get a young guy to understand that his confidence is everything, and also keeping that confidence up, because once your confidence is shot, what are you playing for?" Peterson said. "Now you're out there second-guessing yourself."
Williams has been modest in his spot, saying often he just wants to work hard and have a shot to play. Bethel is still hopeful he can start.
"I would obviously love to think that, but at the end of the day the coaches are going to put in who they feel will help the team the best," Bethel said.
Only a couple of weeks remain to decide.
"That'll be a nice battle the rest of the way," Arians said.
Images of the Cardinals defenders with interceptions in 2015