Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Young defender named “Most Improved Player” for Cardinals

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The Arizona Cardinals have an abundance of talent across the board. That’s why they are at the top of NFC West with 8-2.

General Manager Steve Keim has put together a solid squad of young and old. He has hit on free agents, keeps the experienced edge rusher Markus Golden and signs the all-pro recipient AJ Green. We saw a great season from the second-round picking corner Byron Murphy 2019 and insights into the skills of rookie receiver Rondale Moore.

Arizona have lost two of their last three games. But when Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins come back from injury, this team can look just like the group that started 7-0.

There are so many reasons to point out why the cardinals are serious contenders.

We will not forget a young person who has not been in the limelight as much as others.

Most players in all professional sports discover the “second break-in”.

For sophomore linebacker Isaiah Simmons, it’s the opposite.

After an offseason without any preseason games or even OTAs due to COVID-19, he started his career in 2020 against league rivals San Francisco 49ers.

It was not nice.

In Week 1 of 2020, the game began with a Simmons horse collar penalty that cost the Cardinals 15 yards. He never seemed comfortable and sometimes looked confused in coverage. After playing 29 percent of the defensive snaps in week 1, it wouldn’t be that high percentage until week 9.

A season later, Bleacher Report NFL writer Kristopher Knox recognized Simmons as the “Most Enhanced” Cardinal of 2021.

Before week 10, Simmons Colts all-pro linebacker Darius Leonard joined as the only player this season with over 50 tackles, three forced fumbles and four defended passes.

However, while Simmons had eight tackles against the Panthers, he was among the top three worst-rated defenders for the Cardinals, according to Pro Football Focus. So the timing of Knox’s piece might not be as perfect as it seems.

But remember, Carolina’s hasty attack on Christian McCaffrey is hard to stop and the entire team couldn’t keep up with Joe Brady’s concepts.

Even so, Simmons looks like a beautiful building block. His sideline-to-sideline speed was demonstrated in coverage against pro bowler Aaron Jones in Thursday Night Football.

Simmons has shown why he was consistently in the top 10 in 2021. He flew against the 49ers and forced the 2020 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk to fumble.

And it seems like forever now, but Simmons scored nine tackles and one interception in the opener against the 8-2 Titans.

Simmons played 91% of the snaps, keeping Derrick Henry at bay, who stuffed the all-pro running back into the red zone twice.

With Simmons on the edge at times, you can see how much freight train he really is. Just ask 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance, who got crammed in fourth on the goal line.

In 2021, Simmons was a little question mark.

Now you can clearly see the versatility of Simmons. Its volatility at the edge, in the corner of the slot and in the box is exhibited to such an extent that you don’t even know where No. 9 is next.

In his sophomore season he showed why rookies should be slacked off and patient with their development.

Simmons has shown why he was consistently in the top 10 in 2021. He flew against the 49ers and forced the 2020 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk to fumble.

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