The Arizona Cardinals disappointed down the stretch at the end of the 2021 season. The playoff performance against the Los Angeles Rams was also discouraging, although the Rams going on to win the Super Bowl softened that blow a little bit.
Nonetheless, 2022 has a ton of excitement in Arizona, and Kyler Murray signing a $231 million extension finally can shut down all those rumors and seal the quarterback position in the desert for a long time.
Yet, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has a lot to prove in 2022, and his late-season struggles are as evident as ever. Some players will need to step up. Otherwise, Kingsbury might be headed for the unemployment line.
Which player needs to take the biggest step forward?
Cardinals’ Safety Isaiah Simmons Lands on PFF’s ‘Most to Prove’ List
There you have it. Isaiah Simmons, the former Clemson star, has a target on his back heading into the 2022 season.
The Cardinals selected Simmons at No. 8 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft and had high hopes that he would become the future cornerstone of the defense.
Unfortunately, he has yet to show the signs of a top-10 pick, and Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus listed Simmons as the Cardinals player with the most to prove this season.
Simmons was the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft but has just a 51.8 PFF grade through two seasons. He’s played 789 snaps in the box, where he’s earned a 61.9 grade, 326 snaps on the defensive line (51.4 grade), 236 snaps in the slot (40.2 grade), 39 snaps at cornerback (68.7 grade) and 10 snaps at free safety (32.6 grade). Early in camp, Simmons has been playing the “star” or nickel role in the Cardinals’ defense.
All in all, it has been a rough start to the NFL career for Simmons. After so much hype heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, he has not been able to piece it together — although the flashes of talent have been there.
So far in training camp, Simmons is catching everybody’s attention.
If Simmons can turn the page and become a star like everybody was expecting, the Cardinals’ defense could be that much better in 2022.
Simmons is Embracing His New Role on Defense
Simmons was always seen as a unique player coming out of college. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has come up with a new title for Simmons: Star Backer.
According to Cardinals reporter Darren Urban, Simmons is enjoying the role and the name for it.
“I like the new name for it,” Simmons said. “I feel like it’s kind of fitting.”
Los Angeles Rams star Jalen Ramsey has also played the “star” position and is everywhere on the field. Derwin James is another player that plays everywhere on the defense, and Simmons is expected to do the same type of role in the 2022 season.
Joseph has high hopes for Simmons this season, hence the role being titled Star Backer.
“Right now he’s our Star-backer,” Joseph said. “Whatever you want to call him. We’ll see. That’s what camp is for. How far we can go with playing certain spots. Right now, it’s just reaching for the stars and hope it’s good enough.”
The sky truly is the limit for Simmons, and if he can become the type of player he was at Clemson, the NFC is in a world of trouble.