With his versatile skill set and ability to play multiple positions on defense, former Clemson star Isaiah Simmons gives the Arizona Cardinals a variety of options on how to use him in their defensive scheme.
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim explained on ESPN’s NFL Live this week how the team plans to deploy its first-round draft pick.
“We’ll use him in a number of ways. He’ll predominantly play at our weak inside linebacker spot,” Keim said. “If you watched our team in 2019, you can certainly come away realizing that we had a couple major needs on defense. Number one, we really struggled with covering the tight end. Number two, we struggled tackling in space, and three, our chase plays, our speed on the perimeter. And these are all three things that I think Isaiah Simmons does extremely well.”
Simmons saw action at safety, slot cornerback, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and perimeter cornerback for Clemson last season, when he won the 2019 Butkus Award and earned unanimous All-American honors after amassing 107 tackles (16.0 for loss), 8.0 sacks, 10 pass breakups, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Swinney is confident Simmons will excel in the NFL regardless of where he lines up for the Cardinals.
“He’s a football player, and he’s whatever they want him to be,” Swinney said on NFL Now on the NFL Network this week. “If they want him to play linebacker, he’s going to be a great backer, he’ll be a dynamic linebacker. If they want him to play safety, he’ll be a dynamic safety. He can do so many things, but at the end of the day, he’s a football player in every sense of the word because he can cover, he can blitz, he can tackle, he can run. There’s really nothing that he cannot do as a defensive football player. So, really excited about his opportunity.”
Swinney sees the Cardinals as a perfect match for Simmons, who played his penultimate college game at Arizona’s State Farm Stadium where he picked off a pass during Clemson’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Ohio State in December.
“I’m happy for the Cardinals. I think it’s a great fit,” Swinney said. “He would have been a good fit for anyone, but it just worked out. He’s played in that stadium a couple times. In fact, his last interception came in that stadium. So he’s excited about it, and wherever they tell him to go, he’s going to go line up and give it all he has.”
Besides being a do-it-all defender, Simmons will be a valuable asset for the Cardinals in another way according to Swinney.
“He’s also a great special teams player,” Swinney said, “something that I think was pretty underrated and not talked about as much with him.”
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