Cardinals cornerback rookie Brandon Williams continues with his first-team work on Monday afternoon at training camp.
Coach Bruce Arians prefers not to rely on rookies until after Thanksgiving, but Brandon Williams is ready to eat.
The Cardinals' third-round pick has practiced at first-team cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson since the outset of training camp, and on Monday Arians said Williams "will be an exception" to his strategy of bringing rookies along slowly.
Justin Bethel was the projected starter at the second cornerback spot but hasn't practiced this offseason after surgery to repair a broken foot. The starting role is "Brandon's job right now to lose," Arians said.
It's an impressive ascent for a player who has only one season of cornerback experience in his life. Williams entered Texas A&M as a highly-touted running back.
"We knew what kind of athlete we were getting, but he's a better football player (than originally thought)," Arians said. "You never know how mature a guy is going to be when you draft him. He's very, very mature and he's focused on what he wants to do."
Williams has never gotten swallowed up by the moment, even as he has gone from a guy projected to play mostly on special teams to a possible starter on a Super Bowl contender.
"I wouldn't say it's a surprise," Williams said of his sudden ascension. "Not to be cocky, but I know how hard I work for it. If you work hard for something and believe in yourself, good things tend to happen."
Arians said the position Williams plays has aided his progress. While the offensive linemen that come in have a hard time adjusting to the Cardinals' scheme, cornerback – especially the way it is deployed in this defense – is less in-depth.
"If you were a multiple-zone-reading team, reading routes and doing all of those things, it would take a lot of time," Arians said. "You play man-to-man as much as we do, it's not as hard."
Bethel suffered a setback with his foot before the start of training camp and has been on the physically unable to perform list throughout. Arians doesn't expect him back until sometime after the second preseason game in San Diego on Aug. 19. Arians was matter-of-fact when asked what Bethel will need to do to win back the starting job.
"Be better than Brandon," Arians said.
SHORT STINT EXPECTED FOR STARTERS IN PRESEASON DEBUT
The Cardinals starters are expected to play between 10 and 12 snaps in the preseason opener on Friday against the Raiders. Inexperienced first-teamers like Williams and right tackle D.J. Humphries should see more time, but for the most part, Arians wants to evaluate his younger players.
"This game really isn't about the starters," he said. "It's more about the guys from 30-to-53 (on the depth chart)."
After a couple weeks of seeing the same faces, wide receiver Michael Floyd said it will be nice to face off against an actual opponent.
"Whenever you see scuffles or arguments going on in practice up front with the linemen and D-linemen, it's always time to go up against somebody," Floyd said. "You don't want to be fighting or arguing with your teammates."
NO INJURIES FROM LIVE HITTING
Arians said no one was added to the injury report after the first live tackling session of training camp at the Red & White practice on Saturday. Wide receiver J.J. Nelson (groin), linebacker Alani Fua (knee) and nose tackle Corey Peters (foot) didn't practice Monday but could be back this week. Quarterback Carson Palmer and guard Evan Mathis didn't practice in what were assumed to be a veteran's days off.
Cornerback Elie Bouka (hamstring), cornerback Mike Jenkins (hand), wide receiver John Brown (head), defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (ankle), cornerback Asa Jackson (leg), linebacker Lamar Louis (unknown) and center Taylor Boggs (calf) were out.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu (knee) and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle), on the physically unable to perform list, could return around the same time as Bethel following the Chargers game, Arians said.
Fan images from the Cardinals' Red & White practice on Saturday