Tua Tagovailoa and Antonio Gibson among NFL sophomores


(Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

Whenever I see NFL teams picking up multi-position defensive players early enough in the draft to practically force a starting role as early as possible, I remember something Casey Stengel once said about another. subject: “They say it can’t be done, but sometimes it doesn’t always work. Unless your coaches have an absolute plan for such a player, that player will be lost in the transition until such a plan comes true.

That was the case for Simmons, Clemson’s old weapon everywhere from the defensive line to the lunge, which the Cardinals selected with the eighth pick overall. GM Steve Keim has long had an interest in multi-position players – his history with this dates back to former draft picks Tyrann Mathieu in 2013 and Deone Bucannon in 2014 – so you’d assume Simmons would come with a specific goal in mind for his unique gifts. .

It didn’t really happen. Simmons started just seven games last season, playing 89 snaps on the defensive line, 193 in the box, 71 in the slot, eight in free safety and 15 in the cornerback. He was primarily effective as an indoor blitzer and cover type, but overall it seemed like options anxiety had won the day.

“He’s been playing as an NFL linebacker for two weeks in a row. He’s playing nickel, he’s covering receivers, ”said Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. said of Simmons in November. “To his credit he was patient – he was frustrated – but he was patient in taking his turn, learning and working in the practice. It shows in the games. We have to play it more because it can help us win.

“He was patient to take his turn, but it’s about time. “

Simmons has gotten more shots over the season, but he’s also shown the flaws in the plan with increased opportunities. He allowed touchdown passes against the Eagles and 49ers in Weeks 15 and 16,

In May Joseph said Jim Trotter of NFL.com that the Simmons plan is now more precise.

“He’s comfortable with the outside linebacker,” Trotter told Joseph. “He’s comfortable rushing the passer, we’ve even used him safe for two games, but the only area we want to work on with him this year is playing inside the linebacker behind that line. scrimmage in the racing game, then the 10-cent package. “

That makes sense, especially since the Cardinals doubled up and selected another multi-position linebacker, Zaven Collins of Tulsa, in the first round of the 2021 draft. If the Cardinals are going to have the same adjustment issues with Collins this year, they better define the role of Simmons sooner rather than later.

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