Arizona Cardinals first-round pick Isaiah Simmons was benched in their season opener
Coming out of Clemson, linebacker Isaiah Simmons was known for playing almost every position on the defense. He could line up as a safety, linebacker, pass rusher, and even a slot corner occasionally. However, Simmons became acquainted with a new position: left bench.
Simmons’ NFL career got off to an ice-cold start when he was called for a horse collar after tackling George Kittle on the first play of the game. He then made another crucial mistake in coverage. Simmons overplayed running back Raheem Mostert to the sideline, and when Mostert made a quick-cut towards the middle of the field, it was all over. Mostert froze Simmons en route to a 76-yard touchdown.
The troubles didn’t stop there for Simmons. Although there were some miscommunications on a pick play, Simmons was credited with allowing a crucial touchdown in the fourth quarter. Per PFF, Simmons was targeted three times and allowed three catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns in only eight coverage snaps.
Those numbers may not seem too bad, but the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft only played 18 defensive snaps. That accounted for just 29 percent of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps. On top of that, he allowed a catch every time the ball was thrown his way.
It was a strange sight to see Simmons struggle in pass coverage. Coming out of Clemson, Simmons was known for his speed and coverage as a linebacker. He had eight pass deflections and three interceptions a season ago as a member of the Clemson Tigers.
Simmons, like many other rookies, may have struggled because of the lack of preseason games. Even his coach, Kliff Kingsbury, thought the same.
“Isaiah was in his first game, obviously, and it was moving pretty fast for him to start,” Kingsbury said. “I thought he settled in as the game went on, but there’s going to be some growing pains early on in the season. … He’s a tremendous talent and I expect him to get better and better as the weeks go on.”
Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury (Cardinals.com)
Simmons has a long career ahead of him, and his poor performance is only a slight bump in the road. The Cardinals are playing the Washington Football Team next week.
Simmons will look to bounce back, and get on the coaching staff’s good graces. However, for Simmons to do that he has to fix the coverage issues and mental mistakes that he made during the Cardinals season opener.