Joseph: Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons’ role in Week 2 ‘strictly game plan’

Sep 22, 2022, 6:05 PM

Isaiah Simmons...

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Fifteen.

That’s the number of defensive snaps star backer Isaiah Simmons recorded in the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 2 win in overtime over the Las Vegas Raiders.

After seeing 61 snaps just one week prior, Simmons saw his role reduced from starter to fringe role player on top of handing over the green dot to second-year MIKE linebacker Zaven Collins.

That didn’t stop Simmons from making the most of the limited reps, highlighted by his forced fumble that cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. scooped and scored for the game-winning touchdown.

Following the matchup, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters that Simmons was given a reduction in playing time entering the week with the ask that he practices better.

On Thursday, though, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph chalked up the changeup to scheme over performance.

So which one is it?

“It was strictly game plan. … My biggest challenge is getting the right people out there versus the right people,” Joseph said. “That’s going to be our challenge each week. But he played his butt off. He had a great week of practice after the Chiefs game. He was intentional at practice, had great meetings. He played his butt off.

“The two plays he made at the end of the game, nobody on our team can make them but him. … I said, ‘Listen, it’s not about how many plays you play. It’s about how you play when you play.’ … Week to week there’s going to be packages to help us play great defense until we get our (injured) guys back.”

In Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Simmons saw the biggest portion of his snaps as a slot corner (29). But that was just one of the five positions the star backer commanded in the loss, with Simmons also lining up in the box (22), along the line (three) and in secondary as a safety (three) and outside corner (four).

This past Sunday, however, Simmons saw most of his snaps in the box (10). He also lined up out wide (two) and in the slot (three).

It’s clear there was a pronounced shift in game plan when it came to Simmons in Week 2. Getting demoted and not fitting into the game plan for the matchup can both be true.

But regardless of what the exact reasoning is behind Simmons’ limited role, not playing someone as unique as Simmons just looks straight-up odd — as Joseph noted.

While one would imagine Simmons getting back into a similar role thanks to his late-game heroics and improved practices, it could very well be a game-by-game decision for Joseph moving forward.

“It’s always going to be week to week with … where he plays,” Joseph said. “That’s why he was drafted, that’s his position, that’s his body type.

“And that’s the challenge for us each week: where to put him so he can make plays to help us win. Last week, it was a good deal for him and us.”

Cardinals Corner

Paris Johnson Jr. runs out of the tunnel...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals OL Paris Johnson Jr.’s mindset at left tackle is simple, yet effective

Cardinals OL Paris Johnson Jr.'s mindset at left tackle is a two-step process: Win 1-on-1 battles and watch the football go down the field.

10 hours ago

Michael Wilson celebrates after the catch...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals camp battles: Michael Wilson vs. Zay Jones for WR2

Of the positional battles heading into Cardinals training camp, the competition at WR2 between Michael Wilson and Zay Jones is at the top.

1 day ago

Bilal Nichols looks on...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ Bilal Nichols paying it forward with 3rd annual youth football camp

Growing up with two monumental role models in his grandparents, Bilal Nichols is hoping he can be the same to those in his hometown.

4 days ago

Kyler Murray smiles...

Tyler Drake

49ers turned to Cardinals fans in Arizona’s win vs. Eagles: ‘Get ’em, Kyler Murray!’

The San Francisco 49ers had a major rooting interest in the Arizona Cardinals' Week 17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles last year.

5 days ago

Trey McBride runs the rock...

Tyler Drake

Trey McBride outside of top 10 tight ends in ESPN ranking

An ESPN poll of NFL executives, scouts and coaches had the Arizona Cardinals' Trey McBride outside of the top-10 tight ends.

5 days ago

Joseph: Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons’ role in Week 2 ‘strictly game plan’