Isaiah Simmons Says “Everything’s 100 percent Slowed Down” Entering Year 3
The Arizona Cardinals are still waiting for 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons to emerge as a game-changer on their defense, and the Clemson product sounds confident that things will finally come together this year.
Renowned for his super versatility, Simmons was drafted eighth overall by the Redbirds in 2020. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound Simmons lined up all over the field during his tenure with the Tigers, playing cornerback, safety, linebacker and defensive end.
Simmons wasn’t much of an impact player in his first two seasons with Arizona, recording just 3.5 total sacks, two interceptions and five forced fumbles. The good news for the Cardinals? Simmons feels “way more comfortable” heading into a pivotal 2022 season, and he sounds like a player who’s poised to break out in year three.
“Everything’s 100 percent slowed down a lot more,” Simmons told ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss. “Way more comfortable this year, even than I was last year, and I just feel like the method that I’ve been going about has been beneficial to me mentally.”
The Cardinals have the second-lowest odds of winning the NFC West at multiple Arizona sportsbooks. They’re +300 to win at FanDuel, behind the Los Angeles Rams (+125) and San Francisco 49ers (+200). Arizona is +400 at DraftKings — where they also trail the Rams (+125) and 49ers (+150).
Simmons played just 34 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in his rookie year, and though the number jumped to 92 percent in 2021, Pro Football Focus graded him at a disappointing 51.0 on the year.
But Simmons isn’t the only one who believes a monster 2022 season is in order. Redbirds head coach Kliff Kingsbury also expects the do-it-all workhorse to improve.
“To be around, everything slowed down, having figured out that he can play at a high level, I think he has the confidence to be a leader and I think as he grows and continues to become more and more of a professional,” Kingsbury said, per Weinfuss, “that will only get better.”
Arizona boasted the No. 11 scoring defense a season ago, but they’ll certainly need more out of Simmons with longtime pass rushing stalwart Chandler Jones out of the picture. Jones signed with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency, and general manager Steve Keim didn’t make any significant splashes to replace his production.
But that won’t have been necessary if Simmons can take that next step in 2022.
DeAndre Hopkins & Zach Ertz Among Highest Rated Pass-Catchers In Madden NFL 23
The developers of Madden NFL 23 have released their ratings for the top wide receivers and tight ends in the game, and two Cardinals made the top 10 for both positions.
Cardinals star DeAndre Hopkins was the fourth highest rated receiver with a 96 rating, behind only Davante Adams (99), Cooper Kupp (98) and Tyreek Hill (97). Zach Ertz and Hunter Henry of the New England Patriots were both rated at 84, tied for the ninth best at the position.
A model of consistency, Hopkins has six 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. He would have pushed for a seventh in 2021 if he didn’t miss seven games due to injury. But when healthy, Hopkins is easily a top-five receiver in the game. Be wary of some off-the-field situations, however.
NFLPA @nflpa statement on DeAndre Hopkins @DeAndreHopkins pic.twitter.com/iilXJCzYqu
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) July 19, 2022
Ertz was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles ahead of the 2021 trade deadline. He regained his Pro Bowl-like form in The Desert, racking up 56 receptions for 574 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
A full season in Arizona just might help Ertz get back to the 800-1,000 yard seasons we often saw in Philly.
2022 Arizona Cardinals News and Predictions
Arizona started out 7-0 last season before once again unraveling in the second half of the season. They went 4-6 over the final 10 games and were humiliated 34-11 by the NFC West rival Rams in the Wild Card Round.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, a wild card spot in the stacked NFC is very much in place. They will miss DeAndre Hopkins (suspended the first six games of the season) in the offense, but Ertz, newcomer Marquise ‘Holluwood’ Brown, Rondale Moore and A.J. Green can fill the void until Hopkins returns.
Having the explosive James Conner back ensures that the backfield will remain in good hands, too.
The main concerns for Arizona are on defense. Who will replace Jones’ elite sack production? Are their cornerbacks good enough to cover the many stud pass-catchers in the NFC? Can Simmons finally break through in year three?
Another real concern: Arizona has the second toughest strength of schedule for 2022, as their opponents combined for a 2021 winning percentage of .543. That said, there’s just too much talent on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense still has enough talent to get by here.
Arizona won’t match last year’s win total of 11, but they’ll once again hit double-digit wins to secure the final wild card spot in the NFC.