CARDINALS CORNER

Cardinals LB Zaven Collins grateful for Jordan Hicks’ mentorship as a rookie

Oct 25, 2022, 1:39 PM | Updated: 1:39 pm
Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears is tackled by Jordan Hicks #58 of the Minnesota Vikings durin...
Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears is tackled by Jordan Hicks #58 of the Minnesota Vikings during the second half at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

TEMPE — The transition from former captain Jordan Hicks to Zaven Collins at the MIKE backer position did not go as seamlessly as the Arizona Cardinals envisioned back in 2021.

Prematurely anointing the first-round pick Collins as the starter over Hicks on draft night, Arizona found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place: Let Collins learn on the job and accept the miscues and inconsistencies, or turn back to Hicks and let Collins wait for his time another season?

With Collins clearly not ready to handle the brunt of the workload that comes with quarterbacking the defense, Hicks regained his job with a strong camp. He remained a key contributor over the course of the season, recording triple-digit tackles for a third-straight year before signing on as a member of the Minnesota Vikings in free agency heading into 2022.

For some, that kind of back and forth can create bad blood between two players. Not for Hicks, who instead took the high road.

The veteran produced while establishing a good relationship with Collins. He also gave the rook the wisdom to succeed as a high-profile draft pick who didn’t see much success his rookie year. Collins had the physical traits of an NFLer, but his mental game and getting up to speed in the playbook needed sharpening.

Now, it appears the lightbulb has lit up for Collins, who with 49 tackles is one tackle off the team lead held by safety Budda Baker.

Collins gets a chance to show what he picked up from his mentor when the Cardinals face Hicks’ Vikings on Sunday.

“Seeing Jordan’s going to be fun,” Collins said Tuesday. “I try to talk to him every once in a while and see how him and his family are doing. He’s a really good dude. He helped me a lot with just learning the game and learning how things work in the NFL. He was really good to me in that aspect.

“He’s given me a lot of knowledge and a lot of breakdown and stuff like that. He’s really helped me and it’s going to be nice to see him.”

Since joining the Vikings this offseason, Hicks has continued as that consistent presence in the middle of a defense, recording 56 tackles, two sacks, an interception, four passes defensed, a forced fumble and two QB hits over six games played.

And while Collins hasn’t filled up the stat sheet quite like Hicks has this season, he has certainly looked the part as Arizona’s starting MIKE backer seven games into his second NFL season.

On top of 49 tackles and two sacks, Collins appears to have permanently taken over play-calling duties relayed to him by defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

His direction has helped the Cardinals’ defense turn from a weak link to a consistent force through a 3-4 start.

“I’m just a lot more comfortable within the NFL, within our scheme understanding offenses, how they work, what they’re trying to do, situational stuff, what the call is saying to us,” Collins said. “Obviously, the green dot (helmet with a microphone) helps too, because VJ is sitting there telling me certain stuff to do. It’s definitely slowed down, and what we talk about in our locker room and in our defensive meeting rooms is just going out every day and putting the work in.

“I think if we just continue to do that as a defense, we’ll just get better. It’s not just me, it’s everyone. We’ve gotten better and better and better each week. If we continue to do that, we’ll be fine.”

Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins works on the side during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Robbie Anderson runs through drills during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins works on the side during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Robbie Anderson runs through drills during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals K Rodrigo Blankenship works out during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals TEs Maxx Williams and Bernhard Seikovits and OLB Victor Dimukeje run through drills during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

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