Arizona Cardinals: Isaiah Simmons Will Be X-Factor in Week 1 – 2022
By Sion Fawkes
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons will be a huge factor in making or breaking the team’s performance in Week 1.
The Arizona Cardinals matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs has all the makings of an instant classic quarterback duel. And while this game can come to who has the ball last, it will also boil down to which defensive players will make big plays at the right time.
For the Cardinals, no one faces more pressure than the versatile Isaiah Simmons. While Simmons is primarily listed as a linebacker or an inside linebacker, he is one player who can line up anywhere. And it is something you will see in the Week 1 contest against Kansas City.
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons will most likely be tasked with keeping tight end Travis Kelce in check.
One of the fastest linebackers in football, Simmons will need to show his speed to contain both the running game and the mobile Patrick Mahomes. However, he must also cover one of the star quarterback’s favorite targets, tight end Travis Kelce, a six-time All-Pro whose ultimate career stop will occur in Canton, Ohio.
Over the past two seasons, Kelce caught a combined 20 touchdown receptions, leading the league among tight ends in 2020 and 2021. If Simmons can keep Kelce in check during the game, it will draw the Cardinals closer to pulling off the upset.
And Simmons will face even more pressure since we will likely see Byron Murphy take on JuJu Smith-Schuster. Unlike Simmons, Murphy is a more proven commodity who could prevent one of Mahomes’ best receivers from putting up big numbers.
This means Mahomes may look to Kelce often and you can expect at least eight or more targets here. Last season, Kelce enjoyed a 68.7% catch percentage while racking up over a half-touchdown per game through the air.
If Simmons is effective in leading the charge to contain the Chiefs running game while doubling up on Kelce, it could force Mahomes to look elsewhere. He will either take a risk going one-on-one in the battle between Murphy and Smith-Schuster, or he will opt for targets like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, or Mecole Hardman. None of them, however, are as effective as Kelce. Especially in the red zone.
One upside is that Simmons has head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s backing. And that can go a long way not just in Week 1, but throughout the 2022 season.
While Simmons has had his moments in the NFL, he has yet to become an effective player in changing the game. In Week 1, he faces the tough task in becoming the X-Factor. Let’s see if he passes the test.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)