Cardinals might be utilizing a new defensive formation in 2021

(Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Jordan Hicks
(Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Jordan Hicks /

Could the Arizona Cardinals end up using a new defensive formation with three linebackers in 2021?

In a recent camp summary post by Darren Urban of the Arizona Cardinals official website, the team trotted out Jordan Hicks, Isaiah Simmons, and Zaven Collins in a new defensive formation.

This is a rather unexpected development, as Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has been extremely adamant that Collins would start over Hicks from the get-go. It was believed that Hicks wouldn’t even get the chance to compete for the job.

Hicks has had over 250 combined tackles in the past two years with the team. He’s been as reliable of a player at the middle linebacker position for Arizona since maybe Karlos Dansby.

Arizona Cardinals would be wise to keep all three linebackers on the field

By having these three impactful linebackers on the field, it gives Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph all the options he’s ever desired. Simmons gradually got better at evading pass protection last season, and he should only get better with a regular off-season this year.

Hicks has been involved with Joseph’s scheme since 2019 and he can help teach the system to Collins, his unexpected heir to the middle linebacker throne.

Hicks made quality plays close to the line of scrimmage last year. The addition of Corey Peters and a (hopefully) healthy Jordan Phillips on the defensive line will free up gaps to help stop opposing rushing attacks.

Collins is a jack-of-all-trades, highlighted by his run-play recognition, getting to the spot he needs to, and making the tackle.

While draft scouts raved about his pass coverage skill, he might actually be more like Hicks. Collins will be the one who is used more to bring pressure than Simmons.

There’s always the chance the Cardinals may employ a Tampa 2 scheme. The speed of Simmons and Hicks qualifies them for this scheme that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rode to their first Super Bowl title in 2002.

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Despite it being so early in the season, this formation may just work for Arizona. Let’s hope it lasts, the potential success could help this team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2015.