GLENDALE, Ariz. – With the Arizona Cardinals ’ first preseason game approaching Saturday against the Houston Texans, the starters have been written about, dissected and analyzed plenty during the first two weeks of camp. The coaching staff knows what they're capable of. It’s the guys behind them who will be fighting for their jobs.
Here’s a breakdown of five defensive reserves to watch Saturday against Houston:
Teddy Williams, CB: Williams isn’t just returning from an Achilles’ tendon injury, he’s making his debut at cornerback. Last season he displayed his speed at wide receiver but was moved across the line of scrimmage due to added depth at receiver. He’s a special-teams dynamo, especially at gunner, but Williams will need to prove starting Saturday that he could be a reliable backup for an already deep cadre at cornerback. Mistakes are expected, but he’s confident he’ll make this team.
Kenny Demens, LB: After spending all but two games either on practice squad or injured during his rookie season, Demens returned in 2014 in the middle of a stiff competition at inside linebacker. He’s the youngest of the trio competing for one spot alongside Kevin Minter, and while Larry Foote and Lorenzo Alexander have the experience, Demens has youth, quickness and durability on his side. The biggest knock on Demens has been his size but he can start proving Saturday that’s irrelevant.
Justin Bethel, CB: He made the Pro Bowl last year as a gunner on special teams, but since returning from Hawaii, Bethel has been making major strides as a defensive back. He’ll starting showing his new skills – which Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said this offseason could end up be being better than Patrick Peterson’s – on Saturday. Expect him to have a solid game because he’s a relative unknown as a cornerback and the tape that’s out on him isn’t strong, but in practice he’s been light years better than he was a year ago, getting his hands on passes and making plays. But there’s still work to be done.
Kareem Martin, DE: Like Ed Stinson, the other defensive lineman drafted in May, Martin will be charged with proving he’s a viable backup on a defensive line that finished last season as No. 1 against the run. Martin’s reputation to get to the quarterback will follow him this year. Saturday will be his first chance to show any improvement to his pass-rushing techniques. With John Abraham still not in camp, Martin could be working toward a pass-rush role.
Ed Stinson, DE/DT: The rookie will get his first shot as a backup on the Cardinals’ vaunted defensive line, a role he and Martin will share all season. And this will be coaches’ and fans’ first chance to see the guy who Darnell Dockett tweeted will be the next Dockett, if not better. The pressure is on.