Should the Arizona Cardinals play Isaiah Simmons at edge?

Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Arizona Cardinals have struggled in getting to the quarterback all season, so perhaps they need to mix things up a bit at edge rusher?

As the Arizona Cardinals head into Week 3, it’s apparent that they need to do something at edge. Through two games this season, the Cardinals have just one quarterback sack, courtesy of J.J. Watt, and when you look at their advanced statistics in the pass rush, their numbers can be misleading.

The Cardinals are currently second in quarterback hurries with 19, second in hurry percentage at 23.2%, tied for third in quarterback knockdowns with 10, and second in pressures with 30. All of this signifies one of the league’s best pass rushing units.

But again, numbers can be wildly misleading, and every single stat I’ve mentioned are bad stats. Why? Because the Cardinals lead the league in blitz percentage at 50.0%, with the Denver Broncos clocking in second at 45.8%.

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The Cardinals pale in comparison to other NFL teams

While the Cardinals are tied for third in quarterback knockdowns, their quarterback knockdown percentage is 12.8%, eighth in the league. Not a bad ranking, you say, but here’s the kicker: The Chicago Bears have the 32nd-ranked blitz percentage at 1.6%, yet they lead the league in hurry percentage at 25.4%. 

They are also tied for 12th in the league with five sacks. The Cardinals, with their solo sack, are in a three-way tie for last in the league. This shows us that, if the Cardinals pass rush blitzed as often as the Chiefs, 24.5% blitz percentage, their aforementioned stats would shrink substantially.

Want more fun? The Chiefs have more hurries than the Cardinals, more quarterback knockdowns, eight more quarterback pressures, and four more sacks. They also have a higher quarterback knockdown percentage at 14.0%.

Knowing this data, it should tell us the Cardinals need to make changes at edge. Perhaps placing “star linebacker”  Isaiah Simmons at edge would be a good idea to experiment with.

Should the Arizona Cardinals put Simmons at edge?

Simmons currently has a PFF grade of 46.1, 60th out of 72 eligible linebackers. We know how poorly he played at linebacker and slot corner in Week 1, and we also know his subpar play kept him on the bench of much of the Cardinals tilt against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Cardinals wouldn’t miss Simmons at inside linebacker. And while he made a heads-up play last Sunday in the epic win over the Raiders, Simmons’ five tackles on the season pale in comparison to Zaven Collins’ 15 stops, including two for a loss.

While Collins has a high missed tackles percentage at 16.7% and an even lower PFF grade, he at least made plays behind the line and is currently on pace for 128 combined tackles this season, which currently ranks third on the team.

Parallels to a former Cardinal

Yes, I have said the Cardinals would be smart to keep Simmons in games as primarily an inside linebacker, but at the same time, I can’t help but make parallels between him and Haason Reddick. The Cardinals played Reddick at inside linebacker and everyone placed the bust label on him.

When Vance Joseph kicked him to outside linebacker, Reddick went off for 12.5 sacks. While he is no longer a Cardinal, Reddick remains an effective player in the NFL.

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Reddick, just 6’1, 235lb, is smaller than the 6’4, 240lb Simmons. He is also a faster, more athletic version of Reddick. In short, Simmons, while undersized, could find a home on the edge as a viable pass rusher. With Collins and Nick Vigil capable of developing into a sound duo at linebacker, and with Simmons’ physical makeup, it makes sense to at least try him at edge and see how he fares.

(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)