Depth at inside linebacker goes on and on for the Arizona Cardinals

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 27: Tanner Vallejo #51 of the Arizona Cardinals walks to the locker room before a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Cardinals 26-23. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 27: Tanner Vallejo #51 of the Arizona Cardinals walks to the locker room before a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Cardinals 26-23. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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The Arizona Cardinals are apparently taking out insurance for a scenario in which Zaven Collins fails to cut it in the NFL. 

Last season turned out to be a disappointing one for Arizona Cardinals rookie Zaven Collins. The club’s first-round draft pick was handed a starting job at inside linebacker prematurely, and the results were far from impressive.

It’s a year later now, and the Cards have decided that they’re going to sink or swim with the 23-year-old Collins. However, the front office did keep some extra bodies around who can act as insurance for the former University of Tulsa star.

For the time being at least, Collins and third-year pro Isaiah Simmons will be out there with the first-string defense. The 24-year-old Simmons, Arizona’s opening-round choice back in 2020, is expected to take a huge step towards Pro Bowl status this coming season.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph apparently has special plans for the versatile Simmons. There’s been speculation that the 6 foot 4, 238 pounder will be utilized as a “star-backer”, a role that will allow Simmons to line up at a variety of positions for Joseph’s unit.

Arizona Cardinals held onto an excessive amount of inside linebackers

One player who’s breathing down the back of Collins is Nick Vigil, a seventh-year veteran who’ll be ready to step in if the youngster falters. The 29-year old Vigil could also be called into action if the plan that involves moving Simmons around like a chess piece becomes a regular part of the Cardinals’ defensive game plans.

The Redbirds also elected to hold onto Tanner Vallejo, a 27-year-old journeyman who was credited with a pair of starts at inside linebacker in 2021. There’s also Ben Niemann, a free-agent acquisition who’s solid preseason performance earned him a roster spot. Ezekiel Turner was retained by the Cards as well, but the 26-year-old will contribute primarily on special teams.

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Arizona will carry an almost unprecedented six inside linebackers on their 2022 roster. The excessive depth at the spot should not come into play if Collins can live up to the lofty expectations that have been placed upon his head.