Cardinals’ Victor Dimukeje, Collins impressed in OLB roles vs. Cowboys

Jan 6, 2022, 4:11 PM

(Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)...

(Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After showing their worth as special teamers, Arizona Cardinals rookies Zaven Collins and Victor Dimukeje were thrust into meaningful defensive roles against the Dallas Cowboys with linebackers Markus Golden and Devon Kennard on the COVID-19 list.

Up against the best scoring offense in the league, the rookies stepped up mightily as the Cardinals took down the home team 25-22.

And while it was certainly a group effort on Sunday, the duo’s play didn’t go unnoticed.

“I went to both of those guys after the game and I told them I was very proud of them, Vic especially, because of when he found out he was playing and what he was dealt with,” linebacker Chandler Jones said Tuesday.

“He was a bit nervous and I told him, ‘There’s nothing that you didn’t do at Duke that you can’t do in the NFL.’ He had a few words of encouragement that I gave him. Ultimately, he played well and I’m excited for him to keep flourishing as a player.”

Collins may have gotten the start, but it was Dimukeje who finished with the majority of the snaps between the two, seeing 45% (29 plays) to Collins’ 30% (19 plays).

Outside of a first-play blown coverage, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph had nothing but good things to say about Dimukeje, who had a tackle and a QB hit in the win.

“He played well, he’s got a bright future,” Joseph said Thursday. “He’s a guy that’s covered kicks for (special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers) all year. He had a chance to play some snaps on defense and he played well. He’s a powerful guy, he’s very smart — except for that first play. He’s a kid that will be a good Cardinal for a very long time.”

Joseph echoed his comments on Dimukeje when speaking on Collins’ effort in the win. Collins, who recorded a tackle and a pass defensed on his way to a 74 Pro Football Focus grade, was able to show off his natural ability on the outside.

“I was also happy with Zaven’s performance playing SAM backer for the first time,” Joseph said. “You can see his body unlock and you can see the size and the speed. He also made some plays off the ball in the run and the pass game alike, so it was fun to watch him play. He was excited to have a chance to play SAM backer.

“We’re looking forward to getting him more snaps at SAM and inside backer of course but to watch him play fast and play with confidence was a joy to us as a staff.”

The Cardinals take on the Seattle Seahawks at 2:25 p.m. on Sunday. Tune to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station for all the action.

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