It began immediately in April, moments after the Cardinals selected linebacker Zaven Collins in the first round of the draft.
Everyone knows the story.
How head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim immediately anointed Collins as the starting Mike linebacker, the job held the last two seasons by Jordan Hicks. The job which comes with having the green dot on the helmet to signify the guy calling the defensive plays.
How Keim called Hicks a few days after the draft to inform him he couldn’t compete for the job and would look for a trade partner.
How Hicks did not participate in offseason work, but reported to training camp and then simply worked.
How the Collins story was a constant throughout the summer with players and coaches crediting him with making a smooth transition to the role.
And then, how defensive coordinator Vance Joseph emphasized last week that Hicks is “going to have a huge role for our team. Obviously, he's played (over) 2,000 snaps in this defense, and you can't discount that. He's still a good player for us, and every game plan is going to be different.
“Some game plans, he's going to be on the field with Isaiah (Simmons) and Zaven. And sometimes he won't be, so every week is going to be a different plan to play the best guys for that game. But he's going to be a big part of what we're doing defensively.”
He sure was Sunday in the win over the Tennessee Titans. That three-player package opened the game with Simmons on the outside. However, the telltale green dot was on Hicks’ helmet and after that first play, Collins was on the field for only 21 more (34% total), while Hicks ended up tying safety Budda Baker for the most defensive snaps with 61 (95%).
Simmons played 58 (91%) and led the team with nine tackles (seven solo), while adding an interception and two passes defensed. Hicks had four tackles (three solo), while Collins had two solo tackles.
Asked Monday if Hicks’ role evolved during camp or if that was expected from him, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “I'd say a combination of both. He had a tremendous camp, came in, played his tail off all training camp and continues to do so going on on Year 3 in the system for him to (where) things have really slowed down. He's getting guys lined up and playing at a high level.”
Perhaps it will be different next week in the home opener against the Minnesota Vikings, and for games after that as Joseph said.
But, for one game, at least, more than four months of chatter were much ado about nothing.
Of course, Kingsbury did echo Joseph’s words when he said, “It'll be week to week, like I've said all along it’s three guys. And you throw Tanner Vallejo, Zeke Turner in there, we all think can play at a high level. And we want to get those guys all three on the field as much as we can together. And that'll continue to be the plan based upon game plan and personnel matchups and whoever we're playing.”
It was also notable that rookie cornerback Marco Wilson started opposite Byron Murphy Jr. They both played 58 snaps (91%) while Robert Alford played 49 (77%).
Of Wilson, Kingsbury said, “The moment definitely didn't seem too big for him. Having to guard two of the premier wideouts in the league (A.J. Brown and Julio Jones), he stepped up and was game and took on the challenge and had his moments. And I think going against the guys he goes against in practice every day has really helped him when you're dealing with A.J. Green and Hop (wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins) and see (Christian) Kirk day in and day out, it definitely helps you on Sundays.”
Charting the snaps (snaps/percentage; starters in bold)
OFFENSE (69 snaps, 19 players)
Quarterbacks: Kyler Murray (69/100)
Did not play: Colt McCoy. Inactive: Chris Streveler
Running backs: Chase Edmonds 40/58; James Conner 34/49; J.J. Watt, Leki Fotu 1/1
Did not play: Jonathan Ward. Inactive: Eno Benjamin
Wide receivers: DeAndre Hopkins 61/88; A.J. Green 55/80; Christian Kirk 39/57; Rondale Moore 20/29
Did not play: Andy Isabella
Tight ends: Maxx Williams 55/80; Demetrius Harris 23/33; Darrell Daniels 15/22
Offensive linemen: LT D.J. Humphries, C Rodney Hudson 69/100; LG Justin Pugh 66/96; RG Josh Jones 56/81; RT Kelvin Beachum 41/59; T/G Justin Murray 32/46; G Brian Winters 13/19
Inactive: T Joshua Miles
DEFENSE (64 snaps, 23 players)
Defensive linemen: DE J.J. Watt 46/72; DT Zach Allen 36/56; NT Rashard Lawrence 21/33; DT Leki Fotu 17/27; NT Corey Peters 15/23; DE Michael Dogbe 13/20
Linebackers: ILB Jordan Hicks 61/95; OLB/ILB Isaiah Simmons 58/91; OLB Chandler Jones 48/75; OLB Markus Golden 45/70; ILB Zaven Collins 22/34; OLB Devon Kennard 13/20; OLB Kylie Fitts 10/16; ILB Tanner Vallejo 6/9; OLB Victor Dimukeje 4/6
Defensive backs: S Budda Baker 61/95; CBs Byron Murphy Jr., Marco Wilson 58/91; S Jalen Thompson 54/84; CB Robert Alford 49/77; S Charles Washington, S Deionte Thompson, CB Antonio Hamilton 3/5
Inactive: CBs Luq Barcoo, Tay Gowan
SPECIAL TEAMS (27 snaps, 32 players)
LBs Tanner Vallejo, Zeke Turner, Kylie Fitts 20/74; S Charles Washington 19/70; RB Jonathan Ward, S Deionte Thompson, CB Antonio Hamilton 17/63; LB Victor Dimukeje, K Matt Prater 14/52; TEs Maxx Williams, Demetrius Harris; LS Aaron Brewer, P Andy Lee 10/37; T D.J. Humphries; Gs Justin Pugh, Josh Jones, Brian Winters; T/G Justin Murray; C/G Max Garcia; WR Rondale Moore; TE Darrell Daniels; LB Isaiah Simmons; S Jalen Thompson 7/26; CB Byron Murphy Jr. 6/22; T Kelvin Beachum 4/15; C Rodney Hudson, DE J.J. Watt, DTs Leki Fotu, Zach Allen, LB Jordan Hicks; NT Corey Peters 3/11; CB Marco Wilson 1/4