We caught up with Ryan Kantor of Shakin the Southland to get to know Isaiah Simmons a little better.
If you have questions about Simmons or newly acquired Nuk Hopkins, give Ryan a follow on Twitter @Ryan_Kantor
1. What does Simmons bring as a leader?
Without being in the locker room, it is hard to say what he meant to the chemistry of the defense, but he was certainly the lynchpin that allowed the defense to attack in various ways. Clemson’s normally dominant defensive line was rebuilding last year. To compensate, they found exotic ways to bring pressure. Simmons’ ability to play LB, S, or even CB allowed them to be aggressive. He also brought a lot of the pressure himself leading the team with 16.5 TFLs and 8 sacks.
2. We know Venables is one of the best DCs in the world, can the NFL use him well enough to get the same production?
If the Cardinals want stick him at outside linebacker or safety and not make the most of his talent, he’ll still be a serviceable NFL player, but the coaching staff in Arizona has an opportunity to use his flexibility to create a dynamic scheme. You can put him on a TE, a slot receiver, blitz the QB, or drop him back and have him cover a deep half of the field. It can and should be done and I think having a former college coach at the helm who isn’t as set in traditional NFL ways is good in this regard.
3. Where does Simmons need the most work in his game?
Playing so many positions, it takes a little more time to refine his craft at any one position. Fighting off blocks when he can’t use his speed may be the only criticism I’ve seen that really sticks.
4. What is your favorite memory of watching Simmons play?
I tried not to overthink this one and just go to the first big play that came to mind and that was his sack against UNC. Clemson was playing like garbage on the road as heavy favorites. Simmons was playing great though and on this particular play the safety takes the receiver that Simmons is aligned over, allowing him to come on a blitz. The running back tries to pass protect, but is immediately thrown on his back and Simmons gets a critical sack (see it at the 0:40 mark of this video).
One other play that deserves mention is his interception of Justin Fields in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. He starts off near the middle of the field and the QB assumes he has the deep middle third of the field. After the snap, Simmons starts moving to his left and when the pass along the sideline goes up, he uses his speed to close and step in front for the INT. It’s a beautiful play and a demonstration of how a good defensive coordinator can use his versatility and athleticism to bolster their scheme. You can see a more detailed breakdown of that play here. In that article, you’ll also see that 98% of our readers expected Simmons to go before the Cardinals picked at #8. You got a steal!