After two up-and-down seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, linebacker Isaiah Simmons is settling into his role and ready for a big third campaign.
"Everything's 100 percent slowed down a lot more," Simmons said, via ESPN. "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."
Part of what took Simmons longer to get comfortable in the Cardinals defense was the need to play a boatload of positions. Simmons was charted lining up at eight different positions last season, per Next Gen Stats, from linebacker to edge rusher to OLB to corner. The Cards used the former No. 8 overall pick everywhere in 2021.
"Just being able to go everywhere has just gave me, conceptually, more knowledge of our defense, which has been able to help me a lot," he said. "I mean, it's a game of leverage, so knowing what your help is, is just, it's been [great]."
Simmons will still move around the formation this season but is expected to find himself more often at inside linebacker, where he will run the defense alongside Zaven Collins.
The game slowing down for Simmons should allow him to be in better positions to make plays. He netted 105 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2021.
Along with being more prepared after the snap, Simmons' leadership role is growing in Arizona. That includes sometimes having to get after former Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
"We butt heads a little bit, but it's just because I want J.J. to be better than he's ever been," Simmons said. "Which is, that's a lot to say, especially to a defensive player of the year. He's my biggest critic, but he wants me to be the absolute best I can.
"So, if it's J.J. telling me something that I don't want to hear, I feel like he will want me to do vice versa. So, just being able to get after him knowing that we can get after each other, all with the same end goal."
With the loss of Chandler Jones up front, the Cardinals are banking on development from Simmons and Collins as they seek to return to the postseason in 2022.