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Isaiah Simmons primed for larger role entering year 3

After the departure of Chandler Jones, Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons is prepping for a larger leadership role.
Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) readies for a play against the Tennessee Titans during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Chandler Jones and Jordan Hicks are no longer Arizona Cardinals, making way for two of the young budding stars within the organization in linebackers Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons.

Simmons will be entering his third year in the NFL and has steadily shown signs of improvement, although both he and the team are expecting more in 2022.

“I definitely want to exert myself as a leader because that’s who I’ve always been,” Simmons said. “I don’t really have a problem saying something to anyone because, at the end of the day, I am not trying to be anybody’s friend. We’re all trying to get to the Lombardi trophy.”

Simmons is a versatile player and has proved that, tallying 105 total tackles good enough for third-best on the team. But Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph said it is his time and Simmons tends to agree.

“I’m my biggest critic,” Simmons said. “My expectation for myself is to be the best in the game, ever. Why not dream big and be the best player to ever touch the NFL? Until I get as close to that as possible or reach that, then those expectations won’t be met and I won’t stop working.”

No one person can replace the Cardinals’ all-time sack leader in Chandler Jones and Simmons knows that. But the third-year player also knows that combined with his unique skill set and those around him, this year’s team can find a high level of success on the defensive end.

“Things definitely change when you lose a guy with over 100 sacks,” Simmons said. “But we have a lot of guys who will step up and fill in and we also have a really great secondary. I have a lot of faith in this group on what we’ll be able to do this year and we have enough pieces to be able to compensate for what we’ve lost.”

This is Simmons’ first full offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has an opportunity to continue to make strides and consistently perform like the first-round pick he was back in 2018.

“I think to become what he wants to be, which is the All-Pro, Pro-Bowl type player, I think leadership is the next step for him,” Cardinals Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “To be that guy you have to do everything right all the time and have a great work ethic and understand the system inside and out. I think he understands where he has to get to have that type of credibility on the field.”

When you look ahead to the upcoming season, the Cardinals’ defense very well could sink or swim based on the performance (or lack thereof) of Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons. Be sure to keep an eye on both of these men’s progression throughout the offseason, as they are a large piece to the success or failure of Arizona’s defense.

Minicamp wraps up Thursday, June 16.

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