When they selected Zaven Collins, the Cardinals had now invested more in their two inside linebacker positions in the Steve Keim era than any team I can remember, but it was a little different with the pick of Collins.
Collins, more than any previous linebacker selected lined up as a linebacker. In fact, he even talked about it in the pre-draft process, he is a linebacker.
What makes Collins unique is the way he plays as an off-ball linebacker, as a player with patience that takes his time to get to the play and make it.
What you get is a player who gets through the trash and makes plays. It can get him into trouble at times, he can let himself get blocked too much and then he’s chasing plays from behind, but when he stays free he makes plays downhill with aggression.
It shows really well in coverage. Watch his work reading and reacting to short screens:
He’s incredibly patient attacking screens… This could be a key factor in why AZ loved him. Stymie SF, LA RBs in passing game pic.twitter.com/6mRiSXH5mB— Yup (@SCoxFB) April 30, 2021
You see it when dropping as well.
When you talk about a LB in coverage, this is what makes Zaven so good. Passes a guy off, takes the crosser and closes with authority pic.twitter.com/BMWBztwpyX— Yup (@SCoxFB) April 30, 2021
The thing with Collins is, he is an eraser. When he gets hands on you, you are down and done.
There is some question on whether the Cardinals would deploy Collins as an edge. While he is more than capable as a blitzer, he lacks the bend you would want to see to be an everydown edge type of player.
Definitely not an edge rusher, but has d the ability to get there on designed blitzes. pic.twitter.com/fsvE5ahQtG— Yup (@SCoxFB) May 2, 2021
Overall: Collins profiles out like Dont’a Hightower of the New England Patriots. He may not be an “All Pro” but Hightower is one of the best inside linebackers and defensive leaders in the NFL.
He is a consistent presence on a Patriots team that has been to four and won three Super Bowls.
That is what Collins could be, and that should have Arizona Cardinals fans excited.