Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons set to start for Cardinals as ‘prettiest linebacker duo’

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The Arizona Cardinals have used the offseason to add veteran talent at almost all positions in the starting lineup — that is, except for one position. At inside linebacker, the Cardinals will go young.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed what was reported earlier this week — they intend on having 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons and No. 16 overall pick in April’s draft Zaven Collins both starting at inside linebacker this coming season.

General manager Steve Keim described Collins and Simmons as being “trees” in the middle of the defense. Simmons is 6-4 and 238 pounds. Collins is 6-4 and 260.

Both move well.

Kingsbury, speaking to reporters after the first practice of rookie minicamp, called them “two really fast trees, which is good.”

The middle of the field will be formidable even with the inexperience.

“They will win the prettiest linebacker duo award when they line up side by side,” Kingsbury said. “Those are two big, long, athletic cats.”

He knows there could be mistakes.

“We know there’s going to be growing pains obviously — two guys who are getting indoctrinated into the league,” Kingsbury added. “They are athletic enough to make up for some of the experience they don’t have.”

One way the Cardinals will try to mitigate Collins’ inexperience, especially since his position is the one to call the defense, is maximize walkthroughs.

Kingsbury said they would “max those out” because actual full-speed practice reps are limited in the offseason.

As for the fate of Jordan Hicks, whom Collins is replacing in the starting lineup, Kingsbury preferred to keep the conversations they have had private.

He had nothing but positive things to say about him, despite the report Hicks has been given permission to seek a trade.

“He knows how we feel about him,” said Kingsbury. “(He is) one of the most respected players on our team. Has been a great leader. I’ll just leave it at that.”

The Cardinals are taking a calculated risk with their youngsters. They obviously believe in them.

We will see in a few months if the gamble pays off.

Listen to the latest from Cards Wire’s Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

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