Cardinals’ LB Isaiah Simmons among top breakout candidates in 2021

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The Arizona Cardinals are putting a lot of responsibility on a pair of young linebackers in 2021. 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons and this year’s first-round selection, Zaven Collins will be the two starters.

They will get a ton of playing time and hopefully will make a lot of plays.

For that reason, in terms of second-year players poised to have a breakout season, Pro Football Focus names Simmons as one of the top candidates.

There were always going to be growing pains when it came to Isaiah Simmons’ transition to the NFL, and that was apparent in 2020. He was labeled a Swiss Army knife coming out of college after playing over 100 snaps on the defensive line, in the box and as a defensive back. That transition to the NFL was tough for Simmons, though, as is evident in his lackluster 59.9 PFF grade.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury touched on Simmons’ learning curve from Year 1 and how he expects him to up his game in his sophomore season.

“[Isaiah Simmons] was a unique circumstance last year, there’s no doubt. Of all the players drafted in that area, to come in and start at a new position that you’ve never really played and not have an offseason at all, no preseason games — that’s a lot to throw at a guy.

To have it slowed down in the offseason, that type of pace of teaching and learning I think has been huge for him. We expect him to make huge strides.”

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph believes Simmons was the best rookie defensive player at the end of last season. He had to learn six positions in 2020.

He has learned them. He made plays last season. Given the nature of his position and the responsibilities he will have, he needs to break out.

If he doesn’t, the Cardinals might be in trouble defensively. They don’t have any other option.

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