Cardinals' Kliff Kingsbury: Isaiah Simmons to Focus on Mastering LB as Rookie

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 12, 2020

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) and Denzel Johnson react after making a defensive play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Richard Shiro/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals brass has finally reached a consensus over how to use first-round pick Isaiah Simmons this season. The former Clemson Tigers standout will stay put at linebacker for the time being. 

On a conference call with reporters Monday, head coach Kliff Kingsbury reiterated the Cardinals' desire for Simmons to master one position in his rookie year after seeing time at five different spots last season.

The second-year head coach said

"Our thought process, is if he is really able to focus on one position, having the flexibility to still move around, but really focus on one, what does that look like? And the sky can really be the limit. That's why we were so excited about him. The athleticism is through the roof. But his ability to play different positions and not really have any chance to focus on one, we just think the sky can be the limit for what he could be if we really lock him into one position the majority of the time."

When Arizona selected Simmons No. 8 overall in last month's draft, general manager Steve Keim raved about the ability of the Kansas native to play different positions on defense, calling the 6'4", 238-pounder a "Swiss army knife."

Clemson utilized that skill by mostly deploying Simmons at safety and linebacker. In 2019, he recorded 104 total tackles, seven sacks, eight pass deflections, three interceptions and one forced fumble. 

Soon after the draft, the Cardinals began to clarify their plans for Simmons with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, saying it was unlikely he'd see time at safety or cornerback. The team isn't ready to use Simmons, who has been issued the No. 48 uniform number, the way Clemson did as he transitions to the NFL

Arizona's defense ranked last in the league in 2019. Assuming Simmons can help clean that up so soon would be a bit much. Now the Cardinals want to make sure he can develop into a dependable linebacker before tapping into his versatility.