Arizona Cardinals: 3 reasons why Isaiah Simmons playing defensive back is a good idea

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals
New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Arizona Cardinals offseason has been full of mysteries. One mystery that has been solved, however, is what position Isaiah Simmons will play in 2023.

For the longest time, I kept Arizona Cardinals defensive back Isaiah Simmons listed as a star backer, even if I knew such a position probably wasn’t going to exist Jonathan Gannon and Nick Rallis running the show. Instead, I used the term ‘star’ to keep the option open regarding where Simmons would ultimately play in 2023. 

This week, we got clarity that Simmons will play in the secondary this year. Now, this doesn’t solve the entire mystery, as we still don’t know what kind of capacity Simmons will be playing in. He could be one of the following:

  • A cornerback
  • A slot cornerback
  • A third safety
  • A tweener/hybrid

Either way, deciding to play Simmons in the secondary now is a wise decision as opposed to settling him into a primary position at some point in training camp. Here are three primary reasons why this is the case. 

Why the Arizona Cardinals are wise to play Isaiah Simmons in the secondary now

1 - Simmons is playing alongside a young group

When you look at the Arizona Cardinals secondary, or those who should be in the team’s long-term plans, Budda Baker is the oldest member of the group. Jalen Thompson, Marco Wilson, Garrett Williams, and Kei’Trel Clark are all 25 and younger, so Simmons is joining a group of players who could be in the desert for a long time. 

If the former star backer swoops in and proves himself early, then the Cardinals declining his fifth-year option earlier this offseason will become more irrelevant. But more on that later. 

2 - Simmons only needs to worry about playing in the secondary

Between 2020 and 2022, former defensive coordinator Vance Joseph had no idea how to use Simmons, and it ended up with the eighth overall pick putting up solid but otherwise unspectacular numbers. In the secondary, Simmons was terrible, but that’s because Joseph kept bouncing him back and forth between the defensive backfield and linebacker. 

With Simmons focusing primarily on playing in the secondary this season, he finally has a chance to learn how to play in the unit with zero distractions. That will translate to a much better product on the field than what we saw last season when he was constantly out of position. 

3 - It gives Simmons the best chance to be part of the long-term plans

We know the Arizona Cardinals didn’t pick up Isaiah Simmons’ fifth-year option, but that doesn’t mean he’s going elsewhere next season. Further, with outside linebacker/edge stacked at the moment, plus a solid rotation at linebacker coupled with thin depth at corner, Simmons has the best chance to stick around as a defensive back. 

While we don’t yet know what capacity he will wind up in, the likeliest scenario is that he will play nickel, or slot corner. In case you were wondering, here is the current list of corners without Simmons who should make the team. 

  • Marco Wilson
  • Antonio Hamilton
  • Christian Matthew
  • Garrett Williams
  • Kei’Trel Clark
  • Kris Boyd

Hamilton is an older player and he won’t be around much longer, while Matthew is a fringe player with no ties to the current regime. Williams and Clark are rookies, while Boyd is mainly a special-teamer. This lack of sound or experienced depth gives Simmons the perfect opportunity to be a long-term fixture in the unit, and a better chance than at linebacker.

dark. Related. Cardinals: Projecting where 5 tweeners will end up in 2023. Cardinals: Projecting where 5 tweeners will end up in 2023