Cardinals DC Vance Joseph explains rookie Zaven Collins’ diminished role
Arizona Cardinals rookie linebacker Zaven Collins did not play a single defensive snap in Sunday’s win against the Seattle Seahawks.
Isaiah Simmons and Jordan Hicks played every down as Collins remained on the sideline.
Sunday was the third week of the past four in which the 2021 first rounder played three defensive snaps or fewer.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph told reporters Tuesday that Collins getting banged up has had a lot to do with this.
“He was doing a good job and playing really well for us and he got nicked a couple weeks ago,” Joseph said. “It kind of slowed him down a little bit. Tanner (Vallejo) obviously was playing good football for us. And during that time, he played so well I didn’t want to change it back to Zaven.”
Vallejo’s role on the Cardinals defense had grown as Collins’ snaps went down. Although, Vallejo got placed on injured reserve last week, and the rookie still did not receive more playing time.
Collins exited Week 8’s game against the Green Bay Packers after suffering a shoulder injury in the second quarter. He had played at least 34% of Arizona’s defensive snaps in five of seven games before landing hard on his shoulder.
He was limited in practice for two days before getting back to full participation.
“He’s back and he’s reppin’, he’s getting better and better every single day,” Joseph said. “Most rookies, it’s really on their terms as far as how fast they grow.”
Collins’ primary role was on Arizona’s run-down packages. Against the run, Collins has a 69.9 Pro Football Focus grade.
He has 15 solo tackles and eight assists this year with five missed tackles.
The Cardinals took Collins with the 16th pick, after which general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury anointed him the starting Mike linebacker alongside Simmons.
That never materialized, but that does not mean he won’t have a role down the stretch of the season.
“He’s working and he’s looking forward to get more reps next week,” Joseph said.