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Cardinals’ Troubling Roster Ramifications at Safety After Trades

Thursday’s trade of Isaiah Simmons had made the Cardinals safety talent and depth significantly weaker

Arizona Cardinals Training Camp Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

While a significant number of Arizona Cardinals’ fans are still celebrating the team’s new GM Monti Ossenfort’s trade of FS Isaiah Simmons to the Giants for a 7th round pick, one has to wonder what fans will think when they see the product on the field looks like without Simmons.

Jonathan Gannon’s and Nick Rallis’ thought process about moving Isaiah Simmons (whom we will refer to as “Zay”) to free safety was actually extremely smart. When I heard about the coaches’ intention to move Zay to free safety, I applauded JG and Rallis for identifying what had been one of the Cardinals’ biggest weaknesses under Vance Joseph —- deep middle and deep third coverage help over the top.

What makes Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson a dynamic safety tandem is their combined ability to storm the alleys to make big, timely hits on ballcarriers. That is their forte. Plus, Budda is an outstanding blitzer. And Jalen Thompson is solid in man-to-man coverage.

Yet, what both Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson lack is the size, speed and range (plus the instincts) to be prolific on the back end of zone coverage and combo man/zone coverages.

2022 Coverage Grades (per PFF):

  • Budda Baker —- 69.1 —- #48 in NFL safeties
  • Jalen Thompson —-59.7 —- #105 in NFL safeties

Combined 2022 Coverage Stas for Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson:

56 receptions in 79 targets, 70.1 completion %, 615 yards, 11.0 ave., 413 RAC yards 15 pass breakups, 4 interceptions (Budda: 3, JT: 1)

NFC West Safety Tandem Comparison:

  • Ryan Neal SEA —- 85.7 — #2 in NFL safeties
  • Quandre Diggs SEA —- 76.4 —-#20 in NFL safeties

Neal’s and Diggs’ Combined 2020 stats:

34 receptions in 61 targets, 55.7 completion %, 314 yards,, 9.2 ave., 170 RAC yards, 9 pass breakups and 5 interceptions (Neal: 1; Diggs: 4)

One way to measure how close safeties are in coverage is to look at the percentage of RAC yards compared to the number of total yards.

Notice how Budda and JT gave up 615 yards with 413 being RAC yards, while Neal and Diggs gave up 314 yards with 170 being YAC yards. That means that the Cardinals’ starting safeties percentage of RAC yards compared to total yards given up was 67.2%, while Seattle’s was 54.1%.

What those percentages indicate is how close the safeties were in coverage to be able to make the quickest possible tackles after the catch. Alas, the Cardinals’ safeties’ numbers indicate that they were consistently too far from their man in coverage. And that’s the problem.

Cardinals’ Team Depth at Safety Behing Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson:

  • Javonte Moffatt —- 6’0” 213, Middle Tennessee St. CFA 2020 —- 55 NFL snaps —- 3/3, 100% comp., 40 yards, 13.3
  • JuJu Hughes —- 5’11” 191, Fresno St. CFA 2020 —- 200 NFL snaps —- 10/11. 90.9% comp.,106 yds., 10.6 ave.,
  • Kendall Brooks —- 6’0” 206, Michigan St. CFA 2023
  • Andre Chachere —- 6’’0” 195, San Jose St. 2018 CFA —- 49 NFL snaps —- 7/11. 63.6% comp. 109 yards, 15.6 ave.
  • Sean Chandler —- 5’10” 200, Temple 2018 CFA —- 787 NFL snaps —- 21/25, 84.0 % comp. 271 yards, 12.9 ave (Note: suspended for two games for PED violation)
  • Notice —- not a single drafted player —- and all of their coverage numbers are to this date far below average —- certainly none of them have Isaiah Simmons’ 6’4” size, range and 4.39 speed.

What Could Have Been:

JG and Nick Rallis could have asked Zay to do three things as well as he is so capable of doing:

  • Make it extremely difficult for the QB to beat the defense over the top
  • Storm the alley to make big hits
  • Bring the romance to the Cardinals’ safety blitz

Rallis could have avoided having to assign Zay man-to-man coverage on any receiver that would be apt to turn him around.

Not being able now to play to Zay’s strengths leaves a significant void in the Cardinals’ secondary and ability to defend the deep thirds of the field.

What Now?

Obviously, Monti Ossenfort is going to have to pull a couple of rabbits out of the hat at safety via the waiver wire or further trades.

That means brining in a couple of players who have not been with the team, nor learned the playbook.

Some people are arguing that it was a wise culture move of Ossenfort to ostracize Isaiah Simmons —- you know, to make a statement to the team —- even though Monti denied that it was a statement.

Caveat emptor:

When ostracizing a player for the sake of team culture, the GM had better be sure that he has at least a serviceable depth at that player’s position. Otherwise, it leaves the team more vulnerable and less likely to win.

This just in —— nothing builds team culture more than winning.

Losing has a way of destroying the team’s morale and their confidence in the owner, GM, coaches and teammates.


Upon reflection, do you believe the Simmons trade was a good idea, given the

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