LB Isaiah Simmons ready to help solve TE coverage problem for Cardinals

Apr 27, 2020, 5:13 PM

Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)...

Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals had a lot of problems in 2019, and one that seemed to always give opposing offenses an extra edge that Arizona couldn’t afford to allow was its coverage on tight ends.

Arizona’s defense gave up 15 touchdowns to the position in 2019, and grabbing a linebacker that could at least eliminate that as a weakness was an obvious priority in the offseason.

The Cardinals’ first-round pick Isaiah Simmons arguably makes it a strength now.

“Yes, that was extremely attractive for us is his ability to cover tight ends,” general manager Steve Keim said Thursday. “A lot of times in the NFL what you’ll see is, many of the linebackers in today’s game aren’t athletic enough to cover the tight ends that are having success and the safeties aren’t long enough.

“When you watch him move tape he sort of looks like a gumby doll, the guy’s got zero stiffness. He’s a natural knee-bender he’s got tremendous lateral quickness, and he can run and close like a bullet.”

Simmons discussed the specific role with Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Monday. When it comes to keys defending the position, he said it’s about not underestimating them.

“I think it’s just patience and just understanding that a tight end is no longer a stiff guy,” Simmons said. “He’s just a really good receiver.”

Then it’s his athletic prowess.

“I think I’ll be able to contribute a lot just because most of the guys that can’t cover tight ends — a lot of them don’t have the size to cover a tight end but the guys that do have the size really can’t cover them,” he said. “So I think I have a good mixture of both of those and will be able to really contribute and cover the tight ends.”

Simmons certainly has both of those things at nearly 6-foot-4, over 235 pounds while running under a 4.4 40-yard dash.

That makes Simmons the most versatile defensive player in his draft class, and a large part of why the Cardinals and others are so high on his ability.

“This league has become a mismatch league, where you see tight ends and you see different things that offensive coordinators, like Kliff, take advantage of defenses,” Keim said. “To me, this guy is an eraser and minimizes some of those problems.”

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