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Cardinals plan on using 'eraser' Isaiah Simmons all over on defense

Cardinals Wire logo Cardinals Wire 4/24/2020 Jess Root
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The Arizona Cardinals were thrilled to make Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons their selection in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday. Why?

“We just truly feel like he’s one of the best players in this draft,” general manager Steve Keim said after the selection.

Simmons is an “unusual, unique, dynamic player — a guy that does multiple things for you.”

Simmons played all over the field for Clemson. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 218 snaps at safety, 286 snaps in the slot, 160 at outside linebacker, 120 at inside linebacker and 17 as a perimeter cornerback.

Keim had a special name for Simmons.

“We call that kind of a player an eraser in this league.”

“When you watch him on tape and you see him play the deep middle, the deep half,” he said. “You see him play in the box, you see him blitz and rush the passer. He’s sort of a Swiss Army Knife and does it all.”

It is believed he can be the solution to the problem the Cardinals have had at covering tight ends.

Last season, the Cardinals allowed over 1,100 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns to tight ends.

“A lot of times in the NFL what you see is, many of the linebackers in today’s game aren’t athletic enough to cover the tight ends that are having success and the safeties aren’t long enough,” Keim continued. “You have guys like Budda Baker and Tyrann Mathieu, who are very good football players but they are also 5-8 o 5-10.”

Simmons is 6-4 and 240 pounds with great length and elite speed and athleticism.

“This league has become a mismatch league where you see tight ends and you see different things that offensive coordinator like Kliff (Kingsbury) take advantage of defense and, to me, this guy is an eraser and minimizes some of those problems.”

So far, the Cardinals have no plan to keep him in one position, although they call him a linebacker. They want to utilize him “the way he was used at Clemson.”

“Whether it’s walking him out in the slot, playing him in the deep middle, letting him blitz, letting him rush, all those different things,” Keim said. “You have a guy that’s this long and this fast and this productive, you just let him go.”

The Cardinals don’t really have any opening in the starting lineup so it, in a way, allows him to move around more, subbing at inside or outside linebacker, at safety or playing in nickel or dime packages.

“Being able to move him around to different spots and do different things with him because there isn’t just an extreme need sitting here today where he’s got to play Day 1 and has to make a major impact at a certain position, we want him to be comfortable,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We want to use him in ways that he can be successful and make sure we maximize who he is as a player early on.”

Starting or coming off the bench as a unique sub for multiple roles, Keim was clear about one thing.

“He’ll find his way on the field, that’s for sure.”

Listen to the latest from Cards Wire’s Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Stitcher Radio.

Ep.265

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