Nearly two weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals selected Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins with their first-round pick.
During Collins’ emotional draft call, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told him to “Get ready to come in and get going.”
“There ain’t no redshirting”
Looks like he was speaking the truth.
According to Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals plan on starting Zaven Collins immediately at MIKE linebacker and have given veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks permission to search for his new home.
1st round draft picks can change plans: The #AZCardinals picked LB Zaven Collins 16th overall, and he is now the starting MIKE backer. The team has given Jordan Hicks permission to find a new home via trade, source said. Hicks is a respected leader & AZ wants to do right by him.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 12, 2021
In year’s past, the Cardinals were not very fond of starting rookies. In 2015, first-round pick D.J. Humphries was redshirted with Bobby Massie manning the right tackle position. In 2019, second-round pick Andy Isabella barely saw the field as Damiere Byrd and Pharoh Cooper had more playing time. Last season, No. 8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons had very limited reps in favor of De’Vondre Campbell.
Looks like Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury are scrapping those previous blueprints for their top rookies.
After the draft in a media conference, Kingsbury made clear what his plans are for their top two draft picks in Collins and Rondale Moore.
"There ain't no redshirting," #AZCardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said to Zaven Collins during the draft— Andy Kwong (@akwong31) May 3, 2021
"Steve[Keim] made it crystal clear to the coaching staff and personnel department that those first two picks need to play, play early, and play a lot"
Music to my ears pic.twitter.com/z1EGXsLuCF
Even though the Cardinals have granted permission to Jordan Hicks to search for his next team to play for, he remains under contract with the Cardinals. He is not gone yet.
Though no veteran likes to be told that they will be a reserve, Hicks would be a valuable mentor for Collins and Simmons if he stays. The team captain would likely still have a role on the defense and would be the primary backup linebacker to the young starters. He did take a pay cut prior to the draft to stay in Arizona.
Unlike Simmons, Collins will have an offseason to learn Vance Joseph’s defense. He will have the opportunity to get to know his new teammates and will have months to strengthen their chemistry with each other prior to the start of the regular season.
Collins is coming off a collegiate season where he had 54 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and four interceptions. He was the best coverage linebacker in college football according to Pro Football Focus.
Though Hicks had 268 tackles and four interceptions in his two years in Arizona, he was constantly abused in coverage. The Cardinals signed Hicks to a four-year $34 million deal in 2019 because of his strength in pass coverage but it was a weakness in the desert.
Out with the old in redshirting rookies and in with the new with rookies learning on the go as they play.
No rookie will ever be fully prepared to start in year one but with more playing time, they will reach that state. They cannot grow if they are not given the ample opportunities to showcase their knowledge and skills.
As we saw with Simmons, he seemingly got better and better with the increased reps he received in the second half of 2020.
The future is now. It is looking younger and brighter than ever.