Cardinals to 'Look Into' Isaiah Simmons at Safety Amid Injuries

Mason Kern

When the Arizona Cardinals drafted Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson with the No. 8 pick in the first round of April's draft, they were touted for picking up an apprent steal. Simmons was highlighted as a "positionless" player who could serve in a variety of roles.

In May, head coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted Simmons was an attractive prospect in that regard, but that the franchise would try to ease him into a role slowly and not throw him into multiple position room meetings. The lack of a preseason and rookie minicamps did not help his development and Arizona has utilized him primarily at inside linebacker.

"That was definitely a big part of the fascination with him, was his ability to learn all those different positions and execute them in college at a high level," Kingsbury said May 11. "And then our thought process is, if he is able to really focus on one position, having the flexibility to still move around, but really focus on one, what does that look like? And the sky could really be the limit. That's what we were so excited about. The athleticism is through the roof, but his ability to play so many positions and not really having a chance to focus on one, we just think the sky can be the limit for what he can be if we really locked him in one position for a majority of the time."

Through three weeks, and due to the elevated level of play of free agent acquisition De'Vondre Campbell alongside Jordan Hicks at inside linebacker, Simmons has played in 35 defensive snaps: 18 for 29 percent of the total in Week 1; seven for 11 percent in Week 2; and 10 for 15 percent in Week 3.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals' safety group has been decimated by injuries. Jalen Thompson hurt his ankle on the second snap of the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers and has since been placed on reserve/injured. Backup Chris Banjo hurt his hamstring this past Sunday against the Detroit Lions after just 18 snaps and did not return. Pro Bowler Budda Baker played through an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his right thumb in Week 3 and is set to have surgery "very soon," according to Kingsbury.

As a result, the Cardinals game plan for Simmons may shift in the coming weeks. His positional versatility might be put on display moving forward.

"I think he is unique in that," Kingsbury said. "There was somewhat of a comfort level playing multiple positions coming from Clemson. He obviously has to learn an entirely new defense, new terminology, new scheme, but he has a feel for multiple positions and I think that will help the learning curve. 

"I know (defensive coordinator) Vance (Joseph) is trying to spoon feed it here and there to not overload him. But he's done a nice job so far of picking things up and we just have to keep him coming. Without the offseason, particularly, it made it tough on him, but he's made big strides recently and we continue to try and get him more incorporated in the defense."

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