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Cardinals’ Zaven Collins...imagine if...

Imagine if Zaven turns out to be as good an edge as Will Anderson Jr.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Today, as I was juxtaposing training camp footage of one-on-ones between the Cardinals’ Edge Zaven Collins and T Paris Johnson Jr. with the Texans’ Edge Will Anderson Jr. and T Tytus Howard —- I got to thinking —-when Monti Ossenfort, Dave Sears, JG and Nick Rallis were evaluating the Cardinals defensive personnel a couple of months before the 2023 NFL Draft —- did moments of Zaven Collins playing on the edge like this one (click below) —- lead them to believe that they already had an edge athlete comparable to Will Anderson Jr. on the roster?

If they did arrive at that conclusion —- and it’s been very clear from the get-go that MO, DS, JG and NR believe Zaven Collins is a nifty fit on the edge in the Cardinals new defense —- then this adds further context as to why they were so willing to trade their #3 and #105 picks to the Texans in exchange for:

  • Picks #12 and #33 in the 2023 NFL Draft
  • 1st and 3rd round picks in the 2024 NFL Draft

When one compares Collins’ physical numbers and his athleticism to Anderson’s, it’s astonishing how the numbers are close to being identical.

Their height/weight is in the neighborhood of: 6-4, 260.

Both have 33” range arms and both have close to 9”range hands.

Both ran 40s in the 4.6 range.

Both has 10 yard splits in the 1.62 range.

And get this —- both were consensus 1st team All-Americans and winners of the Bronko Nagurski Award given annually to the nation’s best collegiate player on defense.

Recent Nagurski Award Winners:

  • 2019: Chase Young, Ohio St.
  • 2020: Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  • 2021: Will Anderson, Jr., Alabama
  • 2022: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

The big difference is that Zaven Collins played mostly at ILB at Tulsa while Will Anderson played exclusively on the edge at Alabama.

Therefore, Zaven Collins has some catching up to do —- but —- seeing as Zaven has already flashed some playmaking talent on the edge in the NFL, maybe both he and Will Anderson come into this season on near equal footing.

One thing is for sure —- both Collins and Anderson. have their hands full rushing against the likes of Tytus Howard and Paris Johnson Jr.

Here were two of the training camp one-on-one drills I was watching this morning::

Note — my focus was to see how comparable Anderson and Collins look physically and athletically. Judge for yourself.

In both cases Anderson and Collins got stuffed on their initial get-off and then on their attempts to spin inside. Working against big, physical tackles like Tytus Howard and Paris Johnson Jr.should make them better prepared come game days, especially when they hone the techniques that will help to win those reps on occasion.

Draft Year Numbers:

  • Howard: 6-5, 322, 5.05 40, 29” arms, 10 5/8” hands, 29” VJ, 21 reps
  • Johnson: 6-6, 313, 5.07 40, 36 1/2” arns, 9 1/2” hands, 32 1/2” VJ, 28 reps

Size and athletic edge: Johnson

  • 2019 HOU Tytus Howard —- R1, pick #23
  • 2023 ARI Paris Johnson Jr. — R1, pick #6

Tytus Howard’s new contract: three-year, $56 million extension that includes $36.5 million guaranteed.

Therefore, imagine if Zaven Collins brings to the Cardinals on the edge what Will Anderson Jr. could have.

Which Bronko Nagurski winner will have the better season this year?