Arizona Cardinals top pick showed promise after rocky start

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Isaiah Simmons
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Isaiah Simmons /

After a slow start to the 2020 campaign, Arizona Cardinals rookie Isaiah Simmons flashed a bunch of potential down the stretch

It was the opening Sunday of the 2020 campaign, and the Arizona Cardinals defense was lining up to stop the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona rookie Isaiah Simmons was handed the unenviable assignment of covering Raheem Mostert, a savvy sixth-year running back with plenty of speed. What followed was a 76-yard touchdown reception by the 49ers veteran, an introduction to the NFL that Simmons would likely love to forget.

Fortunately, the rough start to his pro career did not do irreparable harm to the resilient Simmons. Instead, the 22-year old linebacker gradually improved, and by season’s end had the Cards and their fans excited. Simmons has exhibited an impressive skill-set that justifies the fact that the front office made him the eighth-overall pick of last year’s draft.

Simmons was a versatile performer at Clemson University who played several different positions on the defensive side of the ball. But when he joined the Cardinals, the coaching staff decided that it would be best to keep the 6’4, 237 pounder at one spot. Simmons was placed at inside linebacker, where he could learn behind starters Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell during his first year in the desert.

The most memorable moment for Simmons this past fall came during a week-seven victory over the Seattle Seahawks. With just 1:04 left in overtime, the youngster intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and returned it to the Seattle 49-yard line. Six plays later, placekicker Zane Gonzalez drilled a game-winning field goal that gave Arizona a 37-34 win.

In 16 appearances (seven starts) for the Redbirds, Simmons racked up 54 tackles, two sacks, two passes defensed and the pick against the Seahawks. Pro Football Focus, the well-respected website, recognized the Nebraska native’s play by naming him to their annual All-Rookie team.

Next. State of Cardinals quarterbacks. dark

Simmons was on the field for 376 plays this past season, a mere 34% of the Cards defensive snaps. The defender’s playing time could increase dramatically in 2021, especially if Campbell is lured away during free agency. After a rough beginning, it now appears that a bright future lies ahead for the extremely talented Simmons.