TEMPE — Fifteen.
That’s the number of defensive snaps star backer Isaiah Simmons recorded in the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 2 win in overtime over the Las Vegas Raiders.
After seeing 61 snaps just one week prior, Simmons saw his role reduced from starter to fringe role player on top of handing over the green dot to second-year MIKE linebacker Zaven Collins.
That didn’t stop Simmons from making the most of the limited reps, highlighted by his forced fumble that cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. scooped and scored for the game-winning touchdown.
Following the matchup, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters that Simmons was given a reduction in playing time entering the week with the ask that he practices better.
On Thursday, though, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph chalked up the changeup to scheme over performance.
So which one is it?
“It was strictly game plan. … My biggest challenge is getting the right people out there versus the right people,” Joseph said. “That’s going to be our challenge each week. But he played his butt off. He had a great week of practice after the Chiefs game. He was intentional at practice, had great meetings. He played his butt off.
“The two plays he made at the end of the game, nobody on our team can make them but him. … I said, ‘Listen, it’s not about how many plays you play. It’s about how you play when you play.’ … Week to week there’s going to be packages to help us play great defense until we get our (injured) guys back.”
In Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Simmons saw the biggest portion of his snaps as a slot corner (29). But that was just one of the five positions the star backer commanded in the loss, with Simmons also lining up in the box (22), along the line (three) and in secondary as a safety (three) and outside corner (four).
This past Sunday, however, Simmons saw most of his snaps in the box (10). He also lined up out wide (two) and in the slot (three).
It’s clear there was a pronounced shift in game plan when it came to Simmons in Week 2. Getting demoted and not fitting into the game plan for the matchup can both be true.
But regardless of what the exact reasoning is behind Simmons’ limited role, not playing someone as unique as Simmons just looks straight-up odd — as Joseph noted.
While one would imagine Simmons getting back into a similar role thanks to his late-game heroics and improved practices, it could very well be a game-by-game decision for Joseph moving forward.
“It’s always going to be week to week with … where he plays,” Joseph said. “That’s why he was drafted, that’s his position, that’s his body type.
“And that’s the challenge for us each week: where to put him so he can make plays to help us win. Last week, it was a good deal for him and us.”
Joseph: Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons’ role in Week 2 ‘strictly game plan’ – Arizona Sports
TEMPE — Fifteen.