PFF’s Renner: Cardinals’ Isaiah Simmons a breakout candidate in Year 3

Jun 25, 2022, 8:05 AM
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons #9 during the NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals an...
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons #9 during the NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams on October 3, 2021, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After a productive 2021, one NFL analyst believes Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons is posed for a big year this upcoming season.

Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner listed Simmons as a Year 3 breakout candidate, highlighting the linebacker’s athleticism in his article published on Tuesday.

Much was made of Simmons’ inability to see the field as a rookie, although to me that was overblown. Linebacker is the single most cerebrally demanding position on a defense. To add an entire new playbook on top of an entirely new position is a gargantuan ask for a rookie. So when Simmons didn’t look like Luke Kuechly early on in his career at a position he never played in college, many people freaked out. Now is the time to put up or shut up, though. He’s had a full season of playing time to digest what opposing offenses can throw his way. Now the flashes that we see of his position-changing athleticism can become the norm. After allowing fewer than 1.0 yard per coverage snap last season, Simmons should be able to play even faster in 2022.

Last season was a positive one for Simmons as he started all 17 games for the Cardinals, registering 105 tackles (third-most on the team), 1.5 sacks, seven passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

It was a big step forward for the 2020 first-round pick after starting just seven games his rookie season and recording 54 tackles, two sacks and two passes defensed.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and the Cardinals are hoping that Simmons’ upward trend continues following the departures of captains Chandler Jones and Jordan Hicks this offseason.

With Hicks no longer in the fold, Simmons will be one of the voices second-year pro Zaven Collins leans on as he works to take over the starting MIKE linebacker spot.

“I definitely want to exert myself more as a leader because that’s just who I’ve been,” Simmons told reporters during minicamp. “I don’t really have a problem with saying something to anyone because at the end of the day, I’m not really here to be anybody’s friend. We’re all trying to get to the Lombardi Trophy.”

As it stands Wednesday, Arizona’s inside linebacker room features Simmons, Collins, Nick Vigil, Tanner Vallejo, Joe Walker, Ezekiel Turner and Ben Niemann.

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