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Cardinals 2021 Lookahead: What's the Subsequent Step for Isaiah Simmons, ILBs? – Arizona sports activities

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Linebacker Isaiah Simmons # 48 (R) of the Arizona Cardinals stands with teammates during an NFL team training camp at the University of State Farm Stadium on August 20, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

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After the Arizona Cardinals missed the playoffs after ending 8-8 this year, we're jumping into – we hope – a relatively normal off-season.

In November, the NFL planned a 2021 off-season that officially begins on March 17th when free agents can be signed. Then comes the NFL draft, which is scheduled for April 29 through May 1.

The cardinals have to make big cadre decisions across the board. Looking back over the past year, we take a look, by position group, at the upcoming hiring decisions for Steve Keim, general manager of Arizona.

So far we have worked through the positions quarterback, defensive line, receiver, outside linebacker and running back.

Now it is a matter of examining the position group in which the development of the last selection of cardinals in the first round raises a number of questions.

Player under contract

Jordan Hicks ($ 9,000,000)
Isaiah Simmons ($ 4,696,376)

Free agents

De & # 39; Vondre Campbell
Tanner Vallejo
Ezekiel Turner

All salary data via Spotrac.com.

The good news

(AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)

The inner linebacker room is a good example of how a professional soccer team can be well spent, where future money is being spent, and developing internally – all at the same time. This is also an example of the super thin line between quality and quantity.

Arizona basic sets quarterback Jordan Hicks remains under contract for two more years. He's still a highly productive midfielder.

Last off-season, the Cardinals signed De & # 39; Vondre Campbell on a creative, well-paid deal that is essentially for a year and will land dead money on the salary cap the next season. It invalidates days after the Super Bowl this year. Arizona may have to pay a price to keep it.

If not, Isaiah Simmons appears ready to step into Campbell's place after his own rookie season.

Simmons made slow progress because the pandemic took defensive coordinator Vance Joseph with nearly 1,200 combined snaps at the rookie mini-camp, OTAs, and training camp. As the season started, Arizona was careful not to put too much strain on Simmons. He learned how to be the connective tissue of a team's defense.

At the end of the year, Simmons shone standing up for a struggling Campbell and had breaks playing as a pass-rushing full-back and falling as deep safety.

Simmons ended his admittedly frustrating rookie season with 54 tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fiddly recovery. Not that bad.

His speed and physicality were translated from the college game – and sometimes it was too much. Simmons earned five penalties, all of which included attacking an opponent.

The most promising part of Simmons' game was his covering ability in a 6-foot-4,238-pound frame. Of the Cardinals with 20 or more snaps, only backup security Charles Washington (21 snapshots) ended the year with better coverage than Simmons (206), who played nearly ten times as many possessions, according to Pro Football Focus.

He passed the eye test. Well, to see if he catches up with the rest of his teammates with a full off-season – and a year of experience – in the back pocket.

The concerns

(Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Let's assume Campbell won't be back.

He was one of the best tacklers in Arizona (99 total), a physical run defender, and a skilled cover man, at least against most bottlenecks. Campbell was one reason the defense's two most prolific tacklers, Hicks and Safety Budda Baker, saw their tackle numbers slip – and maybe that was a good thing.

So with Campbell gone and Simmons actually taking on a starting role, the Cardinals will have limited ability to do anything with their 2020 first round selection. If you remember, Simmons played alongside Hicks and Campbell a lot.

Who fills out the inside linebacker during parcels where Simmons chases the scrimmage line and rushes the passerby? What if Joseph wants Simmons to fall for security reasons or the man cover in the slot competes against heavy tight-end packages?

Then it is a question of whether the Cardinals want Simmons to play almost exclusively in the inside linebacker, or whether they prefer to use him as a real Swiss Army Knife.

Perhaps it offers a way to lean on a deeper set of safeguards, including Baker.

Even so, the Cardinals have avoided serious center-back injuries so far in the Kliff Kingsbury era. You are currently not very ready to survive if luck runs out.

Arizona is likely to bring back Zeke Turner, a special team ace who also barely played defensive snaps.

Tanner Vallejo, who supports Hicks and knows the defense well, will continue to be a free agent this off-season. Like Turner, he doesn't have an absurd amount of money and has a chance to return.

However, Simmon's ability to switch positions is a strength that has not been adequately exploited for many fans because the Cardinals wanted to slow his development. That's all in the past.

It would surely be a luxury if he entered the sophomore year to play multiple roles, as Arizona envisioned when it drafted him No. 8 overall. Whether this is possible or not remains to be seen.

Follow @kzimmermanaz

Phillips Law Group

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