Isaiah Simmons growing comfortable with green dot, pokes fun at Hunter Renfrow
TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals star backer Isaiah Simmons is growing comfortable with the green communication dot on the back of his helmet.
In his third year in the NFL, the former 2020 No. 8 overall pick out of Clemson has the added responsibility of receiving the play call from defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and passing that along to the rest of his teammates on the field.
However, after not playing in any of the Cardinals’ three preseason games last month, Simmons wore the green dot in a game for the first time ever in Week 1’s season-opener. And against the Kansas City Chiefs’ high-powered offense, there were obviously some growing pains.
“It’s a little more difficult just for the fact of you have to talk a lot bit more, so just making sure I was adamant about making sure all 10 guys had the call,” Simmons said after practice on Wednesday. “With that also comes your own communication within the play. It’s a little harder to be conditioned for that I would say, but that’s really the biggest thing.”
The conditioning Simmons is referring to is the number of reps, or lack thereof, when it comes to how much in-game experience he has had getting the calls from Joseph, communicating it to the rest of the defense and then making any additional calls or checks based on the offense’s formation or look.
And then on top of all that, play the unique “star backer” position that is a combination of linebacker, safety and nickel corner.
“Just a different level of conditioning, having to be able to verbalize the call and verbalize the checks that we’re making,” he said. “Just a different level of conditioning, not something I’m opposed to.”
“With the green dot, you learn that once that play is over, you may not be able to run down and celebrate with your guys or you may not be able to be upset about what just happened,” Simmons added. “You have to move on and go back and relay the call to everybody because ultimately, everything is running through the green dot.”
After Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes came into State Farm Stadium and embarrassed the Cardinals on their home turf, Arizona is now preparing for another tough test defensively on the road against an offense with some playmakers in the Las Vegas Raiders.
Simmons and Co. will have to try to stop, or at least slow down, the likes of signal caller Derek Carr (three), running back Josh Jacobs (one), tight end Darren Waller (one) and wide receivers Davante Adams (five) and Hunter Renfrow (one), who combine for 11 Pro Bowls.
Not to mention Adams’ two All-Pro selections in each of the last two seasons, making him one of the best wideouts in the NFL. After coming over from the Green Bay Packers in a trade this offseason, he reeled in 10 catches for 141 yards and a score in his Raiders debut.
“Just controlling the targets between (Adams and Waller) and Renfrow. … So just being able to stop them as well as control the run game.” Simmons said of what challenges Las Vegas presents.
“(Adams) is a pristine route runner [and has] great ball skills,” he added. “If you put those two together — he does all the little things correctly and knows how to get open. That makes you pretty great to me.”
The Cardinals star backer might be able to help out his fellow secondary teammates in guarding Renfrow, who is coming off of a career year with 103 receptions for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns.
After all, the duo spent three years together as teammates at Clemson from 2016-18 where they won two national championships and made three consecutive College Football Playoff appearances.
“We all know about Renfrow, especially me. … I think a lot of people underestimate him because of his visual presence,” Simmons said. “He kind of just looks like your average dad but he’s actually a really, really phenomenal football player.
“In college, I used to fool around with him, call him old and whatnot — not that he’s old, but he just doesn’t look like a football player. He’s actually very, very good. I think a lot of people in the league have learned that. He’s getting respect from everyone.”