Before and when the Arizona Cardinals made former Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, everyone talked about his rare, freakish athleticism.
Using those gifts makes the college All-American versatile enough to play multiple positions in an era of defense where that's highly regarded. But it also takes a special mind and work ethic to understand all of the concepts needed to make that versatility and athleticism shine at the next level.
So far in Cardinals training camp, the 6-foot-4, 238-pound talent has proven he's mentally up to that task, according to the team's official website.
"Isaiah has been one of the most impressive rookies I've been around just because of his ability to retain information and understand concepts," Arizona linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "You can tell he was well-coached. He's studied football, he understands the concepts of football."
Much of that came from playing for Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, one of the best coaches in the college game who challenged Simmons to play all three levels: pass-rusher, linebacker and safety. Venables has long raved about Simmons' work ethic and ability to retain information, which is coming in handy as the NFL rookie is looking to lock up a major role heading into the Sept. 13 opener against reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers without the benefit of preseason contests.
"I've kind of been prepped and prepared for this level and how much of a mental strain it'll be," Simmons said.
Watson, Texans not close on new deal
Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans appear to not be in serious contract negotiations at this time, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. He said on SportsCenter that the two sides are "not particularly close right now" to reworking Watson's rookie deal, which has two years remaining. It was reported earlier this summer that there could be an extension and new contract in place before the start of the season, which is just two weeks away.
"It's possible the structure of that Patrick Mahomes 12-year, $500 million deal complicates matters a bit, because Watson's going to want a much shorter, very different contract," Fowler said on ESPN. "So expect some pressure to apply around Week 1. This should get done, but there's not been a lot of momentum just yet."
The Texans signed inside linebacker Zach Cunningham to a new deal four-year deal Sunday worth is $58 million total, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Higgins taking advantage of time with Green
Former Clemson receiver Tee Higgins grew up modeling his game after Cincinnati Bengals star A.J. Green. Now, the two are working together, and Higgins, who was drafted in the second round this offseason, is taking full advantage of the opportunity to receive tutelage from one of the greats in the game.
"I've been learning a lot – release technique (and) routes," Higgins told the Cincinnati Enquirer this week. "He's just a guy I always wanted to learn from, and now that I'm getting that chance to learn from him it's real cool. It's just something I want to keep building on, building that friendship."
Higgins missed some time early in training camp with a hamstring injury, but he's back participating in full with the second team and is drawing good reviews from his mentor.
“He’s a guy that’s willing to work," Green said. "He’s a quiet guy. He’s really going to help us a lot this year."
The 49ers released former Clemson WR Jaron Brown on Thursday, a week after signing him to a free-agent deal, to help make room for bringing in receivers River Cracraft and Kevin White. Brown spent the last two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks but wasn't resigned at the end of 2019 and became a free agent...Former Clemson and South Carolina running back Tavien Feaster was signed by the New York Giants on Thursday. Feaster, who signed with Jacksonville back in April as an undrafted free agent, was released by the Jaguars on Aug. 8.
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