When the Arizona Cardinals drafted Isaiah Simmons in the 2020 draft with the eighth overall pick there were high expectations set for the linebacker from Clemson. What happened over the next two seasons showed that Simmons was a valuable asset to the Cardinals’ defense.
What was set up to be his sophomore season in 2021 felt more unorthodox than Simmons could have imagined. He would go on to play eight different positions over 2021. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Simmons played at linebacker (324 snaps), edge rusher (207), outside linebacker (193), slot corner (139), inside defensive line, left corner, right corner, and safety. Having this much experience around the defense could come in handy in the future, especially at the linebacker position.
ALL the latest Cardinals news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cardinals newsletter here!
All Around Play Was Blessing In Disguise For Simmons
Having to play all of these positions in his third season has given him all-around experience, but not enough to be an expert at any given one. Now heading into his third season, Hudson is ready to give the Cardinals everything he has.
“Just being able to go everywhere has just gave me, conceptually, more knowledge of our defense, which has been able to help me a lot,” Simmons said. “I mean, it’s a game of leverage, so knowing what your help is, is just, it’s been great.”
Although players usually stick to the same position for their career, Simmons has always been the player to go wherever he is needed on the gridiron. As he is projected to start at inside linebacker, calling the defense with sophomore Zaven Collins, his past experiences will only help him move forward.
“I’ve played multiple positions for as long as you guys have probably known my name,” Simmons said. “That’s just who I am.”
The 23-year-old linebacker also felt he needed to make it clear he could “dominate” at inside linebacker after the experiences of last season. Stepping up is one thing, but leading an Arizona defense that gave up the 12th least points, 11th least yards, and seventh in takeaways, will require hard work and dedication for the entire season.
Simmons Attempts To Become Leader No Matter The Cost
Simmons is not only confident in his abilities but has now begun making noise throughout the Cardinals locker room. Filling such a role at only 23, he is not shying away from the big moment. His intentions may not have been realized until he gave J.J. Watt, arguably a first ballot hall of famer, criticism of his own.
“I don’t really have a problem with saying something to anyone, because at the end of the day, I’m not really here to be anybody’s friend,” Simmons stated in response to his criticism of Watt. “We’re all trying to get to the Lombardi Trophy… If you don’t like what I’m saying, then you’re probably in it for the wrong reasons. Because I’m not saying anything to hurt anyone’s feelings or to call anyone out. It’s just all for the better of us.”
While it is clear Simmon’s intentions are good, it could deem foolish to go around calling out some of the biggest names in the locker room, especially one that you will share snaps with this season. Regardless, Watt is not the only player Simmons has expressed his concerns to, the other being his inside linebacker teammate, Collins whom he calls plays with. Respectfully, this is the kind of attitude that can bring teams closer together and help improve a unit for when it matters deep in a game or season.