The burgeoning relationship between Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons is the most-watched storyline of the Arizona Cardinals off-season, with the pair expected to start come the regular season. In their maiden outing at the core of the Cardinals defense, both, particularly Collins, made a good account of themselves against the Dallas Cowboys. However, after dealing with Dallas, Saturday brings a more difficult test in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs.
As well as a star-studded, championship-winning roster, the young duo will ostensibly face off against one of the NFL’s most innovative minds in Andy Reid. Reid’s complex scheme will test the pair like never before. In addition, given Reid’s tendency to play his stars in the preseason, it would not be a surprise to see the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce on the field. On Saturday, a monumental task awaits Arizona’s young linebackers as the Kansas City Chiefs roll into town for the second of Arizona’s preseason games.
Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons Face Toughest Test Yet in Andy Reid
Reading ‘Big Red’s Offense
The Chiefs have some of the best players in football. Yet offensive mastermind Andy Reid still plays a vital role. With the game’s best young improviser under center in Patrick Mahomes, the potential for innovation in Reid’s scheme is almost limitless.
An affinity for pre-snap motion has characterized Kansas City’s offense under Reid. The quarterback uses motion to simultaneously reveal the defensive coverage whilst also upsetting the defensive alignment for run fits. Reid sends receivers, tight ends, and running backs alike in motion throughout the game. The effect of the motion tends to be that it provides the opportunity to create mismatches, create confusion on the defensive side of the ball, and allows the Chiefs to get the ball into the hands of their best players.
Given the dynamism of Kansas City’s receivers, like Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, and their running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the offense must get them the ball quickly to exploit their speed and elusiveness. Therefore Reid often combines motion with screens and jet sweeps to create these running opportunities.
A Test of Mind and Body for Collins and Simmons
Zaven Collins is the new core of Arizona’s defense. He is expected to have the green dot in 2021 and therefore is responsible for making the calls on defense. Reid’s transient scheme will test Collins’ eye discipline and his knowledge of his playbook like never before. His ability to make on-field adjustments to the defense against the toughest schematic opponent in the NFL will give a strong indication as to his ability to do the same in the regular season. Granted, this is a preseason game; Reid won’t give away too much of his playbook on Saturday. Collins should expect, however, to see some unconventional looks on offense from the Chiefs this weekend.
Collins may be responsible for making the defensive calls, but this doesn’t diminish Isaiah Simmons’ role in any way. It is key that Simmons and Collins continue to develop as a tandem, as well as individuals. Given Kansas City’s proclivity for moving the ball laterally, Simmons and Collins will have to display their true sideline-to-sideline speed to combat the lateral game from the Chiefs.
However, it is ignorant to suggest that the Chiefs offense is devoid of a more conventional running game. What makes the Kansas City ground game distinct though is their star running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. As opposed to the bigger backs seen in the game against Dallas, Edwards-Helaire is shifty and explosive. An open-field nightmare, attacking the Chiefs downhill before their offense can get Edwards-Helaire into space is imperative. Kansas City’s depth at running back is similarly predicated on speed. Flowing to and blowing up run plays early in their development will be a key task for Simmons and Collins on Saturday.
Matchup Nightmares Everywhere
It’s the preseason. The Cardinals won’t face Patrick Mahomes for four quarters. However, as the regular season nears, there may be some cameos from Kansas City’s star players. This creates a salivating opportunity for the Cardinals to really see what they have in Isaiah Simmons. Simmons was ostensibly drafted to help the Cardinals pass coverage, particularly against tight ends. On Saturday, he may have the opportunity to go up against arguably the best tight end in the league in Travis Kelce. Kelce is a big body with receiver-like catching and route-running ability. In man coverage, Simmons must match up against Kelce and earn the ‘eraser’ tag that comes with his freakish athletic ability.
This game is earmarked for ESPN’s national broadcast because it features two of the league’s most exciting offenses. This is the Kansas City Chiefs; they have laid the foundations of a dynasty. For Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons, their football I.Q. will be tested to the extreme. Collins faces his first real test as a defensive leader in the NFL, whilst Simmons has to demonstrate his ‘eraser’ talent against some of the NFL’s most dynamic talent. The Chiefs are likely going to score a ton of points. However, in isolation, Cardinals fans should look for their young linebacker duo to get their defensive calls right, read plays correctly and, if they can dampen the Chiefs in both the run and pass only a handful of times, then it will project well for the Cardinals defense heading into 2021.