Isaiah Simmons remains positionless in Cardinals’ new-look defense

Mar 28, 2023, 2:43 PM

Arizona Cardinals star backer Isaiah Simmons (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...

Arizona Cardinals star backer Isaiah Simmons (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Cardinals have a rather large decision to make when it comes down to the versatile Isaiah Simmons.

And no, I’m not talking about the fifth-year option looming.

In what has become a yearly discussion for most of Simmons’ NFL career, he is seemingly without a home base in the defense as head coach Jonathan Gannon and coordinator Nick Rallis continue evaluating the unit and seeing who fits where.

“He obviously has a very unique skillset,” Gannon said Tuesday at the annual league meeting. “A lot of the guys that look like him can’t do what he can do. Just excited to get on the grass with him and see what he’s comfortable with what we’re going to ask him to do. Just excited to see how he fits into what we’re going to do and help us win games.”

It’s no secret Simmons has moved around defensively since joining Arizona as the eighth overall pick in 2020.

In his role as star backer in former Cardinals DC Vance Joseph’s defense, Simmons lined up along the line, at inside linebacker and out in coverage in 2022. He spent the majority of his time in the secondary, however, posting 409 snaps as a slot corner, 28 out wide and 53 as a strong safety.

Moving throughout the defense, Simmons put up his best season as a pro — outside of an early-season benching over bad practice habits.

In 17 games played (13 starts), Simmons stuffed the stat sheet with four sacks, 99 tackles, five of which were for losses, two interceptions, seven passes defensed, four QB hits and two forced fumbles.

He also did not miss a game for the third consecutive season.

The jury’s still firmly out on where Simmons will line up, but the free-agent addition of Kyzir White may have shed some light on at least one position Simmons roams.

Viewed as an off-ball linebacker that could very likely slide in next to MIKE backer Zaven Collins in addition to having familiarity with both Gannon and Rallis from their time in Philadelphia together, White has a real shot at starting on the inside and moving Simmons out of that role.

“Even though we might have a vision for (Simmons) and he might say, ‘I can do this, this and this,’ let’s make sure he’s comfortable with what we’re asking him to do mentally and physically,” Gannon said.

“That’ll take a little bit of feeling out from both sides but we got time before we line up for Week 1 in September. … We’re not going to rush that, but really good communication with Isaiah.”

Gannon may not have gone into specifics on what Simmons’ role will be, but he did mention the linebacker’s health out of the blue. He didn’t verbally say what the linebacker had been dealing with, though, he did pat his shoulder while explaining where Simmons was at health-wise.

“He got good news about his health, so he’s going to be here excited and ready to go,” Gannon said.

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