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Simmons’ versatility gives Cardinals ‘clear advantage’ over offenses

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) and Denzel Johnson react after making a defensive play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State, in Clemson, S.C. Simmons was selected to The Associated Press All-Atlantic Coast Conference football team, and named Defensive Player of the Year, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro, File)

From nearly all sides of NFL circles, the Arizona Cardinals struck gold in first-round pick Isaiah Simmons.

The 6-foot-4, 238-pound athlete was a force for the Clemson Tigers, using his ability to not only play, but excel, at more than one position on the gridiron, providing headaches for opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks.

And while the NFL presents a whole new ballgame filled with the best of the best, the versatility Simmons brings to a defense could be something he can hang his hat on early on in 2020.

Joining the Big Red Rage on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Thursday night, Cardinals director of player personnel Quentin Harris discussed what he’s seen from Simmons and just how much of an impact he can make for a defense looking to to improve on 2019’s numbers.

“He’s a guy that does many things and has many strengths. What we want to do and what we talked about is to maximize those strengths so it’s going to be similar to what he did in college,” Harris told Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley. “He obviously had a strong comfort level of playing multiple positions and being moved around.

“I don’t think the plan is going to be that much different from a week-to-week basis when you get a piece like that where the opposing offense doesn’t know where this guy’s going to line up. … I think it gives us a clear advantage.”

As a junior at Clemson, Simmons played five positions for head coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers, including all linebacker positions and at both slot and perimeter cornerback. Simmons also saw time at safety.

Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph sees Simmons being used in different scenarios when they arise, but not quite to the same extent we saw Clemson use the linebacker. Dubbed a problem solver by Joseph, Simmons figures to be a catch-all option when unfavorable matchups present themselves to the defense.

Arizona envisions Simmons to be one of the team’s main threats right away defensively with his size and ability to move around the field. This offseason has been anything but normal, however, putting Simmons and all other rookies behind the eight-ball.

“They’re going to take time learning the new defense obviously with the [coronavirus] pandemic going on,” Harris said. “The offseason’s kinda tweaked as to what they can do and the reps they can get. There may be some growing pains there, but I don’t see a big liability outside of those rookie growing pains early.”


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