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Young Cornerbacks Getting Their Reps

Injuries to top cover men mean more offseason experience for the rest


Cardinals cornerback Cariel Brooks (35) breaks on a ball during OTAs.

The Cardinals have nine Pro Bowls worth of cornerback talent on the sideline right now, which isn't a good thing.

The upshot? During an offseason featuring a lot of newcomers at the position, there will be plenty of repetitions to go around.

Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu – a safety who doubles as a slot corner – are all expected to be sidelined until training camp with injuries.  In their stead will be a variety of players attempting to get noticed, from draft picks Brandon Williams and Harlan Miller to returner Cariel Brooks to recently-signed veterans Asa Jackson and

Shaun Prater.

All of them know the top of the depth chart will belong to the sidelined trio when they return, but for now, the backups will try to make the most of the practice time.

"I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't take advantage of every opportunity I get with them being out," said Williams, the team's third-round pick.

Information is given to the Cardinals newcomers at a furious pace, as the coaching staff finds out who can handle the complexities of the defense. In some stacked positions, it's hard for the deep reserves to put that knowledge into motion, as they watch the first- and second-string units get the work.

The cornerbacks are in position to be more active participants.

"It makes a huge difference," Jackson said. "Coming into the league, I was lucky enough to play with Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and those veteran guys (with the Ravens). That's one of the things they taught me – the best way to learn is by doing it. So really taking advantage of the reps that you do get -- and having an opportunity to get a lot of those

reps now -- is only going to help me mature as a player here and hopefully turn into an impact guy here, which is my goal."

There is some uncertainty at the position, since last year's starting cornerback, Jerraud Powers, signed with the Ravens and Bethel is unproven. Peterson, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, has been out lending advice to the others on the practice field as he rehabilitates.

Coach Bruce Arians has always said he will keep deserving players on his roster, so it's hard to know how many cornerbacks will make the team. That's still a long way from being determined, and the players said they aren't thinking about it yet.

"We're not really looking it as a first-string, second-string type of deal," Brooks said. "We're just working, getting better every day."

The cornerbacks know the big test will come in training camp when contact is allowed, as that's when the coaches will decide on who makes the roster. But they're not taking for granted the current opportunity with Peterson, Bethel and Mathieu watching from the sideline.

"The cream is always going to rise to the top," Jackson said. "All this stuff with no helmets, no pads, everyone looks good then. It's when you've got to really start banging, it's when you're tired and have to remember the little things, that's when things start getting separated. This is teaching and learning time, which is important though, because you've got to have a base to build the rest on."

The Cardinals close out the first week of OTAs

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