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The Roles Of The Secondary

With 10 defensive backs available, Bowles will have options when game-planning


Defensive backs Jerraud Powers (25), Tyrann Mathieu (32) and Yeremiah Bell (37) are among the Cards' secondary options.

The one defensive back who has no concerns about getting a ton of playing time for the Cardinals was talking about all the other guys in the secondary.

Patrick Peterson is going to be the main cover cornerback, a sometimes-receiver and a punt return man. So maybe some extra depth in the defensive backfield helps.

"I doubt that I get tired," Peterson said, pausing with a smile for dramatic effect, "but just in case, if I need a blow or two, we have guys that have made plays, guys that have played in the playoffs."

The Cards have more than that. They have a giant list of available players in the secondary, which if for no other reason

gives defensive coordinator Todd Bowles a ton of options going into the regular season – which starts Sunday in St. Louis.

How those options play out will be one of the more interesting storylines of September.

"They are in the process of sorting themselves out," Bowles said. "I think each one has a special quality for different games, and we just have to get together as a defense and make sure we have the right guy out there."

In all, 10 defensive backs are on the roster. At cornerback, veterans Jerraud Powers, Antoine Cason and Javier Arenas join Peterson and inexperienced holdovers  Justin Bethel and Jamell Fleming. At safety, veterans Rashad Johnson and Yeremiah Bell front rookies Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson.

The preseason and training camp provided a good sense of how they might filter out for now. Powers will start opposite Peterson, and for much of the preseason, Cason came in for nickel situations to take the outside man while Powers slid inside.

Arenas, though, seemed to have a solid preseason. And Mathieu remains the wild card. The rookie figures to get more time at nickel cornerback than straight safety (barring injuries), which wouldn't be a surprise as he continues to learn the safety spot. But the chance to put him in various spots has to be tempting for Bowles as he draws up ways to mess with opposing offenses.

"To be honest, I don't know (what I'll do)," Mathieu said. "From top to bottom I think everybody brings something different to the table. I don't know how coach will approach the season, but as a unit I think we all think we can contribute."

Bowles said moving guys around wouldn't necessarily happen. If there are players who establish consistent good play, he said, the lineup isn't going to change. In the world of the NFL, though, a season tends to churn through a secondary at times.

The Cardinals have found that out themselves, with various injuries and poor play issues in recent years that have dictated change.

"It will probably be a pecking order at the beginning but every guy we kept definitely has an opportunity to play on Sundays and contribute to victories," Peterson said. "It's a long season. Guys get hurt, some guys may go into a slump, Coach might want to change up a combination here and there."

If that happens, the Cardinals have the personnel to carry it out.

"I'm sure," said Bell, "they've got a plan for all of us."

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