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Blueprint for How Cardinals Should Use Isaiah Simmons

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NFL: AFC Wild Card-Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is a copycat league.

There is nothing wrong with that.

Want to hit a home run with Isaiah Simmons?

Do precisely what the Chargers have been doing with Derwin James, by virtue of the creativity of their DC Gus Bradley. Check this article:

James had the advantage of attending the Chargers regularly scheduled off-season program in 2018 (but he couldn’t join them until early May). Thus, as quick a learner as Isaiah Simmons is, the Cardinals should treat his arrival to the team, whenever team activities are permitted, the same way the Chargers did:

Per The Ringer: When James reported for OTAs in early May, Bradley decided to keep every defensive option open for him. The staff’s plan was to try James at several positions across the defense and decide which roles suited him best. Slowly, they learned that James could thrive no matter where they dropped him. “Sometimes, he’s like a defensive end, and he’s rushing,” Milus says. “Sometimes he’s playing dime and he’s doing different things. We’re just using the skills that he has, and he’s been able to handle it.” During the Chargers’ season opener, a 38-28 loss to the Chiefs, James notched his first career sack and knocked down a pass about 40 yards downfield that had been intended for De’Anthony Thomas—the same De’Anthony Thomas who clocked a 4.34-second 40-yard dash time at his pro day in 2014.

Watch this video and see the multiple times in man or zone James makes a play on the football, particularly versus George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Gerald Everett, three of the best TEs in the NFL (two of whom play in the Cardinals’ division): click on the link—-it is awesome!

The amazing thing is—-Isaiah Simmons is 2” taller, 20 pounds bigger and 8 tenths of a second faster than Derwin James.

Simmons: 6-4, 238, 33 3/8” arms, 9 3/5” hands, 4.39 40, 39” VJ, 132” BJ

James: 6-2, 218, 33” arms, 9 1/2” hands, 4.47 40, 40” VJ, 132” BJ

Don't buy for one second the horse cookies about Simmons being a jack of all trades, master of none.

Would anyone say the same thing about Derwin James?

Ask yourself:

  • Do the Cardinals currently have a speedy, rangy single high FS who is clearly better than Isaiah Simmons? Answer: No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have a Cover 2 safety who is clearly better than Simmons? No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have an edge pass rusher who is clearly better than Simmons? Yes. Chandler Jones. After him? No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have a SS who is clearly better in man coverage on a TE? No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have a SS who is clearly a better blitzer than Simmons? No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have a speedy, athletic, playmaking OLB who is clearly better playing in space than Simmons? No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have a nickel LB who is clearly better than Simmons. No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have a QB spy who is clearly better than Simmons? No.
  • Do the Cardinals currently have a run stopping inside linebacker who is clearly better than Simmons? Yes. Two: Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell (3rd and 12th in the NFL in tackles in 2019 with 154 and 129 respectively).

The thing is—-the Cardinals have plenty of talent on defense. But, when you look at the special athleticism and skills that Isaiah Simmons brings to the defense, he is an instant upgrade at a number of positions, where, given the opponent, those unique abilities should be maximized.

We shouldn’t for one second buy that Simmons would be better off learning and sticking to the position of ILB with the Cardinals. Or with any team.

The whole point about Isaiah Simmons is his extraordinary versatility.

It will be much harder on the opponents if the opposing QB, OL, RB and TE have to check every pre-snap to see where Simmons is. Lining him up in a predictable place, nullifies that pre-snap advantage.

if there is any spot on the field that Isaiah Simmons should play consecutive, multiple snaps it’s at SS in man coverage versus TEs. Other than that, he should be moved around to create havoc for the offense and strategic advantages for the Cardinals’ defense.

Watch this short video and picture Derwin James’ explosiveness and kind of versatility in Arizona:

Now watch this video of Isaiah Simmons—-do you see the patterns?

I guarantee you that Clemson’s defensive coordinator Brent Venables studied what Florida State’s DC, Charles Kelly, did with Derwin James in 2016 and 2017 within their 3-4 base and nickel defenses and applied many of the concepts to Isaiah Simmons—-after all, Clemson and FSU play in the same conference, the ACC.

Now—-it’s the Cardinals’ turn to do the studying. Isaiah Simmons is too talented a player to pigeonhole.

As they say, “imitation is the greatest form of flattery.”