On the opening night of last month’s NFL Draft, Kliff Kingsbury made something perfectly clear to the first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. Immediately after being selected, Zaven Collins was told by the head coach that he “should get ready to come in and get going,” and that “there ain’t no redshirting.” Now, two weeks after that conversation, it appears that Kingsbury was being entirely truthful with the rookie linebacker.
Reports are surfacing that the Cards have given veteran Jordan Hicks permission to see if another team would be willing to make an offer for his services. A trade of the 28-year old would pave the way for Collins to start at one of the two inside linebacker spots in coordinator Vance Joseph’s 3-4 defense. It’s a ringing endorsement for the 21-year old, who was chosen 16th-overall by the Cardinals back on April 29th.
The scenario for Collins is a bit different than it was for Arizona’s top selection from a year ago. Isaiah Simmons, the eighth-overall selection in 2020, was brought along at a much slower pace last fall. The 6’4, 238 pound Simmons got to learn behind both Hicks and free-agent addition De’Vondre Campbell for a good portion of the campaign.
Big Red’s coaching staff did attempt to throw Simmons into the fire right away, but the early results were far from favorable. A blown coverage by the youngster during the season-opener allowed Raheem Mostert of the San Francisco 49ers to score from 76 yards out on a pass-reception. Simmons sat and watched for quite awhile after that blatant mistake, but it looks as if Collins may not have that luxury.
For one thing, Campbell is no longer with the Cardinals. The 27-year old free agent is still looking for work, and general manager Steve Keim does not appear to be interested in bringing Campbell back into the nest. A deal that would involve shipping Hicks out of town would leave Collins and Simmons as the unquestioned starters in the middle of the team’s defensive unit.
Arizona’s coaching staff is showing a whole lot of faith in the 6’4, 260 pound Collins. There’s no guarantee that Hicks will generate any trade interest, but it seems likely that he could be released if he doesn’t. However that situation plays out, it certainly appears that the Cards are preparing to roll with what would be the most-youthful inside linebacker combination in professional football.