Arizona Cardinals use rookie defenders sparingly in week one
Three rookies from this year’s draft had very little impact on the Arizona Cardinals defense during the team’s week-one victory
When it came time for the Arizona Cardinals to make their first-round selection during this past April’s draft, Steve Keim was thrilled. The club’s general manager believed that Clemson University sensation Isaiah Simmons would be off of the board, well before the Cards turned in their pick. Lady Luck was in the organization’s corner, however, and the multifaceted linebacker was gobbled up by Keim with the team’s eighth-overall choice.
It’s only one game, but the debut of Simmons during the Cards opening-day victory over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday was anything but memorable. The 22-year old was on the field for just 18 snaps, possibly because of a miscue he made early on in the contest. It was a classic “welcome to the NFL” for the rookie, courtesy of a perfect play call by 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
Already leading 3-0 with just under 10 minutes left in the first quarter, San Francisco lined up for a first down and ten from their own 24-yard line. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo lofted a pass to running back Raheem Mostert out of the backfield, and Simmons was assigned to cover him. Unfortunately, the 6’4, 238 pounder took a terrible angle on the ball-carrier, and Mostert was off to the races for a 76-yard touchdown.
Coincidentally or not, Simmons was used sparingly by Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph for the remainder of the matchup. The squad has the luxury of bringing the youngster along slowly, thanks to the fantastic free agent acquisition of inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell back in March. Simmons finished with just three total tackles versus the 49ers, but will likely see more action this coming Sunday against the Washington football team.
Simmons wasn’t the only first-year Arizona player to log minutes against San Francisco last weekend. Two other young bucks also had quiet debuts for the franchise. Defensive tackles Rashard Lawrence (14) and Leki Fotu (4) logged 18 snaps between them, but neither contributed a tackle or anything else for the Cards in week one.
Thanks to some excellent depth acquired by the front office during the past offseason, the Cardinals can bring their fresh-faced defenders along at a leisurely pace. The expectations for all three of the rookies, especially Simmons, remain high. Look for each one of the draft selections to have expanded roles for the Arizona defensive unit as the season rolls along.