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Keeping Isaiah Simmons focused on one position should be beneficial for him in the long run

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Simplify the playbook for rookies and veterans to thrive

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals 2020 draft class looks great on paper, highlighted by the selection of Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons with the No. 8 overall pick.

While Simmons’ positional flexibility will offer tremendous value to the Cardinals’ defense, expectations for him and rookies of all teams should be tempered in their first season in the NFL.

This Coronavirus pandemic has already affected offseason plans as players and coaches are only allowed to do virtual meetings. Although there is a possibility for them to return to their respective NFL facilities during this summer, it remains to be seen when every team will be given that green light.

With no rookie minicamp or coaches to guide them in person, it will be difficult for rookies to have their intended impact on the field. It is phenomenal to have a player like Simmons that has experience playing slot cornerback, inside linebacker, pass rusher, and both safety positions. Limited reps during the offseason and learning the Cardinals’ defensive playbook individually due to Covid-19 will make it challenging to play him at multiple positions.

Before the Cardinals can take full advantage of his versatility, it is best if he learns one position and all of the assignments that come with it in his first year in the pros.

“Our thought process, is if he is really able to focus on one position, having the flexibility to still move around, but really focus on one, what does that look like?” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday on ESPN. “And the sky can really be the limit.”

GIF from PFF

It would not make sense to play Simmons all over the field and overwhelm him with what each position entails in the playbook in his first year in the NFL. He was drafted with the intentions of him being an inside linebacker. Get comfortable and master one position before playing him everywhere. That does not mean they cannot use him at safety or slot cornerback from time to time

He can still do plenty of things with his athleticism at inside linebacker, which includes dropping into coverage, blitzing the quarterback, and serving as a quarterback spy. Simplify the playbook and transition into the NFL as much as possible to make it easier for the rookies to thrive.

GIF from PFF

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has the responsibility to make use of Simmons’ athletic ability but also to put him in the best position to be successful. Over time, he can and will develop into a Pro Bowl-level talent with his athletic gifts. In order for that to happen, Joseph must be smart with how he uses him on the field in the upcoming season.