Arizona Cardinals’ Zaven Collins focused on nailing what he knows
TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals fans got a good glimpse Sunday of what they had been waiting for in second-year pro Zaven Collins.
Quarterbacking the defense in the team’s Week 2 win in overtime over the Las Vegas Raiders, the linebacker turned in the best performance of his career.
Playing 100% of the team’s available defensive snaps (67), Collins finished with eight tackles and a forced fumble in the victory.
With the green dot, Collins looked to have taken a clear step forward in the come-from-behind win.
So what’s changed?
“I’m just learning to be a student of the game, come out here and practice as hard as possible,” Collins said Wednesday. “If you mess up, you mess up. Still, run to the ball. … It’s Year 2 for me so I’m just trying to make it as slow as possible by just flying around.
“And if you don’t understand something, ask questions. But knowing as much as possible, too, because I play MIKE and stuff like that, you got to know everything.”
Collins also credits his improved play on how he is digesting information.
Instead of just getting the call and getting after it, the linebacker has taken it upon himself to really understand the “why” behind defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s methods.
“He’s grown so much. Last year, he was spinning,” Joseph said Thursday. “But this year, he’s calmed down, he’s leading meetings after meetings, so he is right where he should be as a starting second-year MIKE player. He’s very intelligent, he works at it, so the sky’s the limit for this kid. He should be a good player for us for a long time.”
You don’t have to look far to see that the change is already paying dividends or Collins, who has been on the field for at least 97% of available defensive snaps over two games played in 2022.
Arizona’s defense showed on Sunday that it could hang with a very good Las Vegas offense for at least a half of football.
Now, it’s on Collins and the rest of the Cardinals defenders to put together a consistent 60 minutes of game action. They’ll certainly need it with a Los Angeles Rams team coming to town.
“Just got to come out and know what we know,” Collins said. “Get off the field on third downs, stop them, make it fourth down, make them punt and just do that and I think we’ll be fine.
“The detail of every play (is what this league comes down to),” the linebacker added. “You can’t go through and not do the details. Everyone in this league is talented, everyone can move fast, everyone can run, everyone’s big and strong. … It comes down to the details.”
Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella on his back injury: “It was tough (not to play last week). I squatted Tuesday and my back gave out. Luckily it wasn’t too serious. I was able to come back, but it sucked, especially right now (being) my best opportunity. It was a tough hit for me for sure.
“I’m back. “I’ll be ready to go soon.”