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Cardinals 'Green Dot' Will Vary When Needed

Depending on the week, different players on the Cardinals defense will rock the green dot on their helmet.

If you've ever watched an NFL game, you've probably noticed a green dot on the back of select players' helmets. 

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That green dot indicates the player is receiving radio communication from coaches to relay play-calls. For the offense, the quarterback will always have the voice of his coaches and coordinators in his head. For the defense, typically the MIKE linebacker will have that dot, holding the responsibility of telling all levels of the defense on how to get organized. 

The dot, which cuts out at 15 seconds left on the play clock, is allowed on up to three players. For the Arizona Cardinals, quarterback Kyler Murray holds those rights on the offensive side of the ball. 

For the defensive side, it's not quite clear who will be a staple with radio communications, although the answer had changed a handful of times through the offseason. 

Prior to the draft, it was linebacker Jordan Hicks who would have assumed those duties. After the Cardinals selected linebacker Zaven Collins in the first round and Hicks was told he couldn't compete for the starting job (later revealed to the media in training camp), the rookie from Tulsa would have assumed those duties. That was the narrative for several months.

After defensive coordinator Vance Joseph doubled-down on Collins being the No. 1, it was assumed that Hicks would take a back seat to a duo of linebackers that held just one season of experience together. Throughout training camp, much of the talk also centered around how often Collins, Hicks and Isaiah Simmons would be on the field at the same time.

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But everyone knows what happens when anyone assumes anything. 

During a 38-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, it was indeed Hicks that not only played more snaps than Collins, but also had the green dot on his helmet. The three linebackers were on the field together at times, including on the first snap of the game, but it wasn't that often with the snap count 61 for Hicks, 58 for Simmons and only 22 for Collins.

When asked what we should expect from the linebacking corps and whoever could wear the green dot moving forward, Joseph said it would change on a weekly basis according to the game plan. 

"Every week the game plan is going to change. We thought it was going to be a heavy, heavy run game. So Zaven was going to play a bunch of snaps, but once we got to a three- or four-score lead, it became a nickel (defensive sub-package) game. So he lost probably 20 to 25 snaps with it being a three-wide receiver personnel game, but it's strictly game plan," Joseph said Thursday. 

"It can be different this week, different in Week 3 or 4. Every week (when we consider) who we play and what our guys do best, that's our job to find that out and to put it into our game plan. Last week, it was more for Jordan to be the play-caller and Zaven to play more base downs." 

The presence of Hicks is a luxury for the Cardinals, affording the team different looks and scheme opportunities based off what opposing offenses may do, and at worst Hicks provides incredible depth behind two athletic but young playmakers at linebacker. 

It appears the green dot won't just have one home this season, as the Cardinals plan on being flexible when it comes to what puzzle pieces fit where on defense. All three prominent linebackers at some point may carry the radio signals within their helmet for their side of the ball. 

For the Cardinals, one green dot doesn't take away a few green lights.