Arizona Cardinals: Strong linebacking unit is freeing up Collins, Simmons

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Cameron Thomas (97) during voluntary Organized Team Activities at the
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Cameron Thomas (97) during voluntary Organized Team Activities at the / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

The Arizona Cardinals don’t boast a playoff roster, but their linebacking unit is one of the most underrated position groups in the NFL.

How do we know the Arizona Cardinals have a strong set of linebackers? Look no further than the fact that Isaiah Simmons might see even more time in the secondary this season, depending on how much he’s needed at corner, slot corner, and even safety. 

Then there is Zaven Collins, who continues to see time at edge as the Redbirds continue their offseason program. During my analysis and predictions regarding the defensive line and linebackers, I placed Collins in both units thanks to the time he spent during a small minicamp in April before the NFL Draft. 

Now that Collins is continuing to see work at the position, it’s becoming more apparent than ever he will make the switch, at least on a part-time basis. And you can credit that to the strong linebacking unit the Cardinals will boast this season. 

Arizona Cardinals will boast a strong set of linebackers in 2023

With a trio comprising Kyzir White, Kris Barnes, and fifth-round pick Owen Pappoe, the Arizona Cardinals could have a trio of sure tacklers at linebacker that doesn’t always need to involve Simmons or Collins. With the latter two likely to see reps in the unit, their roles will expand, allowing the Cardinals to keep more fresh legs rotating in and out in the defensive backfield and at edge. 

Unconventional? Most definitely. But it also gives them a chance to throw off opposing offenses, as they may have no idea where Collins and Simmons will line up. Will the Redbirds use them more at linebacker, which is at the moment, their respective listed positions, or more at edge and in the secondary, respectively?

For a team that projects to have a weak roster, and by extension, a weak defensive line this season, the Arizona Cardinals need to use a few tricks to the trade. And they may have just found a few thanks to the versatility of their 2020 and 2021 first round picks. 

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Source: Zaven Collins gets work with edge rushers in OTAs by Jess Root,