After eight positions last season, football finally went down for the Arizona Cardinals’ Isaiah Simmons

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TEMPE, Ariz. – On his way into his third NFL season, Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons is experiencing the phenomenon that usually comes after a player’s first season.

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Football is finally slowing down for the previous election in the first round.

It took an extra year for Simmons because of what has been put on his plate: the need to learn more positions.

Simmons, who finished No. 8 overall in the 2020 draft, lined up eight different positions last season, according to the NFL Next Gen Stats, from linebacker (324 snaps) to edge rusher (207) to outside linebacker (193) to slot corner (139). Add his reps on the inside of the defensive line, left corner, right corner and safety, and there are few defensive positions that Simmons did not play last season. With so many positions to learn, it’s no surprise that it’s taken Simmons until his third season to get a better grip on the game.

“Everything is 100 percent slowed down a lot more,” Simmons said. “Much more comfortable this year, even than I was last year, and I just feel like the method I’ve been going for has been beneficial to me mentally.”

Despite working on safety this offseason, Simmons said his main focus this year will be inside the linebacker, where he, along with 2021-choice Zaven Collins in the first round, will lead the Cardinals’ defense.

Simmons, 23, believes he can “dominate” as a linebacker with two years of experience and has learned various roles.

“Just being able to go anywhere has just given me, conceptually, more knowledge about our defense, which has been able to help me a lot,” he said. “I mean, it’s a game of leverage, so knowing what your help is is just, it’s been [great]. “

Simmons has no plans to try to limit himself. Playing one position is not “really me,” he said, though that would have helped him get further.

“I have played several positions as long as you probably knew my name,” he said. “That’s just who I am.”

With a higher level of comfort comes the opportunity for Simmons to open up as a leader. He says it has been inside him throughout his NFL journey, but is able to reveal it more now.

“I don’t really have a problem saying anything to anyone, because in the end, I’m not here to be anyone’s friend,” Simmons said. “We’re all trying to get the Lombardi trophy.

“If you do not like what I say, then you are probably in it for the wrong reasons. Because I do not say anything to hurt anyone’s feelings or to call anyone out. It’s just for the best for us.”

Maybe it’s his age, or maybe it’s just the way he’s connected, but Simmons does not mind welcoming the veterans into the locker room. And that means asking JJ Watt to get his butt in gear once or twice.

Simmons was nervous the first time he said something to Watt and masked his criticism as a joke.

“We’re a little off, but it’s just because I want JJ ​​to be better than he’s ever been,” Simmons said. “I mean, that’s a lot to say, especially to a defender of the year. He’s my biggest critic, but he wants me to be the absolute best I can be.

“So if it’s JJ telling me something I do not want to hear, I feel like he wants me to do the opposite. So just being able to get after him, knowing we can get after each other, all with the same end goal. “

Simmons has been like that with Collins, too. He came after Collins once or twice during the high season, but hopes his inside linebacker knows he is not harping. He’s trying to make Collins better.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury credited that the game was slower for Simmons, that this was his first real offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the changes have been noticeable for Kingsbury.

“To be around, everything went slower, after finding out he can play at a high level, I think he has the confidence to be a leader and I think as he grows and continues to become more and more of a professional, “Kingsbury said,” it only gets better. “

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