The Arizona Cardinals must completely overhaul their defense sans a few players if they want to dramatically improve stopping the run in 2024, but one move wouldn’t take much of a transaction. Last offseason, the Redbirds slid Zaven Collins from inside linebacker to edge, and the experiment was a massive waste of time even at midseason.
In a recent post, I speculated about what the rushing defense may have looked like had Collins lined up alongside Kyzir White. Both Collins’ PFF Grade and his production this season back up the fact that he would have likely fared way better had he teamed up with White to begin with.
His overall grade was a solid 72.1 at edge, but his rushing defense grade of 73.9 and coverage grade of 67.0, two pivotal marks for an inside linebacker, were responsible for him finishing 46th in the league and garnering the best overall season of Cardinals edge rushers. Although his job changed to chasing quarterbacks, Collins still logged 41 combined tackles, and six behind the line, further showing off his capability of stopping the run.
Arizona Cardinals must slide Zaven Collins back to the inside in 2024
Looking at how well Kyzir White fared before he missed the last six games should also make this an easy call among the Cardinals coaching staff as a Collins-White tandem would be ultra-productive. If the Redbirds announced Collins would move back to inside linebacker, then they not only would have much-needed depth at the position should they bring Krys Barnes and Josh Woods back, but they could also focus primarily on the defensive line and edge.
Knowing how well Collins produced at the position in 2022 (even if the current staff wasn’t in place) and White in 2023, respectively, the Cards would have a pair of tackling machines who are no strangers to racking up stops behind the line, and that move alone would at least bring Arizona’s rushing defense out of the NFL’s basement.
As to whether it happens will remain a mystery for the foreseeable future, but you can always hope if you follow this Arizona Cardinals team. The coaching staff announced the move relatively early last offseason, so let’s hope they change their mind early and announce that Collins will revert to inside linebacker for 2024.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference, grades provided by PFF [subscription])