From called out to balled out: Isaiah Simmons, Marco Wilson making their mark
TEMPE — Isaiah Simmons and Marco Wilson entered this past offseason pegged as two important pieces for the Arizona Cardinals defense.
Wilson was expected to take another step in his NFL progression after getting his feet wet in a big way last season in the form of 13 starts. Simmons was viewed as that do-it-all defender who could impact games from nearly anywhere on the field. He even picked up the label of star backer, signifying his worth within the unit.
But after getting through training camp, Wilson found himself relegated as the No. 3 cornerback behind Antonio Hamilton. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t mince his words with the move, saying he needed to see more from Wilson before anointing him an every-down starter.
It didn’t take long for Simmons to see his role diminish, either, with the star backer seeing just 15 snaps in Week 2 and 16 in Week 3 after playing nearly every down in the season opener. The benching appeared to do more with his practice habits than anything else, something both Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph spoke on.
For a defense that entered the season looking like a major liability with key departures and an influx of youth, getting the duo up to speed and playing like they should was imperative.
Fast forward to Week 7, and Arizona is getting just that.
From called out to balled out.
Simmons and Wilson were massive in the team’s 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football, with both defenders notching pick-sixes and really flipping the momentum squarely Arizona’s way.
Their performances were a culmination of them keeping their head down and continuing to work.
“It tells you everything you need to know about them as competitors,” Kingsbury said Friday. “They got challenged and have both answered the bell. Their practice habits and intentionality and everything they do, intensity, focus has just been tremendous.
“Particularly, Isaiah and what he’s done in Week 1 has been fabulous. Being able to cover nickel, whoever’s in the slot, play the nickel there. He’s so long, so big, so fast. Even if they get some separation, it doesn’t look like it to the quarterback. He’s done a tremendous job and just continues to make big plays.”
Following his limited role in Week 3, Simmons has accounted for 23 tackles, the pick-six, a QB hit and three passes defensed.
He’s spent most of his time in the slot (103) during that four-game stretch, followed by working out of the box (79).
“It was a great way to finish off the half and I think it gave us great momentum to come out and finish the game in the second half,” Wilson said of the duo’s back-to-back touchdowns.
Wilson on the other hand, has looked better with each passing week this season, totaling 29 tackles, the pick-six, five passes defensed (career high) and a forced fumble.
Even with Hamilton back in the fold following his freak cooking accident that left him with severe burns, Wilson has still maintained a consistent presence. His touchdown celebration on the pick-six hit another level, too.
“I’m happy he caught it,” Simmons said. “I didn’t see it, my back was turned and I was in coverage. I turned around then I saw him skipping and flipping.
“If you didn’t know he has a parkour video on YouTube, so I think that was parkour Marco out there doing what he was doing. He definitely got up there on that flip, he was hanging up there for a minute—it was very impressive.”
But even with the impressive snag, score and celly, there’s still more work to be done for Wilson. Just ask DeAndre Hopkins, who has been an added voice on the other side of the football for the CB.
“It was a great interception, but he also gave up a touchdown and I’m sure he’s not happy with that,” Hopkins said. “I push everybody like how I want to be pushed as well. When I go out and do something, I want the other guys to be like, ‘Hop, come on we need you’ and I think that’s what a great team needs, everybody pushing everybody and taking criticism.”