Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons could see time in the secondary in 2021

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

The Arizona Cardinals could take advantage of the versatility of linebacker Isaiah Simmons this season by having him line up at multiple defensive positions.

When the Arizona Cardinals selected Isaiah Simmons with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, they knew they were taking a positionless defensive player. However, going into his rookie campaign with the Cardinals, it was decided he would play inside linebacker and only remain there.

That seemed an odd choice at the time for many Arizona fans, as Simmons famously played a wide variety of positions during his college career at Clemson. According to The Draft Network, he played 303 snaps at cornerback, 218 at safety, 160 at outside linebacker (with 16.5 sacks his senior season), and 121 snaps at inside linebacker during his time with Clemson.

Simmons received some opportunities at safety during his rookie season with the Cardinals, and he generally graded well in the position. However, most of his playing time was spent in the box at the inside linebacker spot next to MIKE linebacker Jordan Hicks.

Enter Zaven Collins.

When Arizona took Collins at No. 16 overall in this year’s draft, he was immediately crowned the team’s new starting MIKE linebacker in place of the veteran Hicks. The disillusioned Hicks sought a trade, but the Cardinals have yet to send him elsewhere.

Arizona Cardinals might spice up the role of Isaiah Simmons in 2021

With three starting-caliber inside linebackers on the roster, Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph could have some interesting opportunities to utilize Simmons in multiple positions while Hicks and Collins hold down the inside linebacker spots this season.

There are plenty of competitive advantages to moving around a player like Simmons, who has the size and speed to match up well against both tight ends and many wide receivers. He has seemed hesitant at times in run defense situations in the current preseason, but he has shined in pass coverage.

It is possible he could find some playing time in the slot this year, but with the emerging Byron Murphy Jr. looking ready to hold down that role, it seems more likely that Simmons could be used at safety this season instead.

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For some reason, Simmons was marked as a free safety in “Madden 21,” and he continues to be labeled as such in “Madden 22,” so maybe Joseph will take a hint this year and move Simmons around the defense.