It’s a situation the Cardinals’ second-year linebacker knows he’ll likely face Sunday, September 12, when Arizona opens the season at Tennessee. And Simmons isn’t backing away from the challenge.
“I’m not playing scared or anything,” Simmons told reporters Monday, September 6. “At the end of the day, he puts his cleats on just like me.”
While Simmons expects to show no fear against the Titans’ powerful 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back, he has plenty of respect for the NFL’s leading rusher the past two seasons.
“We’ve seen the monstrous stiff arm he has,” Simmons said, “so (we’ll be) trying to keep him off of our smaller guys as much as we possibly can.”
Henry set a Titans franchise record last season with 2,027 rushing yards, the fifth-best single-season rushing total in NFL history. Henry also became just the eighth player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season.
Former Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he believes Henry is poised to break Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards set back in 1984, in part because teams will play 17 regular-season games for the first time.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said slowing down Henry and the Titans’ running game will be a huge challenge for his defense.
“We know he’s a tremendous back. He’s done it against every team in the league,” Kingsbury told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday, September 7.
“The thing that impresses me the most … for a guy that massive (is) his breakaway speed, his balance and his consistency,” the Cardinals coach said. “Week in and week out, no matter how many carries he gets, how many hits he takes, he comes back the next week and seems to be stronger. He’s a freak athlete and player, and we’re going to have our hands full.”
Jones Wins Starting RG Job
There were a few surprises when the Cardinals released their Week 1 depth chart Tuesday, September 7.
Josh Jones, the Cardinals’ third-round pick (No. 72 overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft, will start at right guard against the Titans. Jones, at 6-foot-5 and 319 pounds, played in 13 games for Arizona during his rookie season, mainly at tackle.
“Josh has come a long way in a short time,” Kingsbury said. “(He) didn’t get a lot of action last year. … This year, (he) has transitioned to that guard position and really handled himself well. He’ll continue to have his ups and downs as young players do, but we like what we’ve seen so far.”
Jones, 24, had been battling Brian Winters and Justin Murray for the starting spot throughout training camp. Winters, who signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals after spending last season with the Buffalo Bills, is listed as Jones’ backup at right guard and also is expected to see action behind starter Justin Pugh at left guard. Murray will serve as the Cardinals’ backup right tackle behind starter Kelvin Beachum.
Chase Edmonds is listed No. 1 on the depth chart at running back, but James Conner also is expected to get his share of carries, particularly in short-yardage and goal-line situations. In the battle for the No. 3 running back spot, Jonathan Ward edged out hometown favorite Eno Benjamin, the former Arizona State star.
“We’ll ride the hot hand,” Kingsbury said of his running backs. “We have three or four guys that we feel can all get the job done, and that’s exciting for a play-caller.”
Seventh-Round Pick Released
The Cardinals selected Menet in the seventh round (No. 247 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft. The center from Penn State becomes the only player drafted by the Cardinals in 2021 who’s no longer on the active roster or the practice squad.