Simmons, a year ahead of Collins, was an integral part of the unit this season. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph lauded the way Simmons – as was his ability in college – can play multiple spots on short notice. The Cardinals used him as such.
According to Pro Football Focus, Simmons was used for 596 snaps as an inside linebacker, but also 237 snaps on the defensive line/edge rusher, 165 snaps as a slot corner, 24 snaps at outside cornerback and 2 snaps at free safety (through the playoff game).
“The sky is the limit for Isaiah,” linebacker Chandler Jones said. “I tell him all the time, ‘You’re going to be a tremendous player.’ Better than what you see out there right now, honestly.”
Collins had a more difficult time, his rookie season unfolding the opposite of Simmons in 2020. Simmons played little early and a lot more later; Collins’ work dried up significantly in the second half of the season.
Over the last nine games (including the playoffs), Collins played just 38 defensive snaps. And after he was announced to be the starting inside linebacker over Hicks when he was drafted, he ended up playing 29 snaps at outside linebacker in his last three games and only six on the inside.
Joseph praised Collins for his work against the Cowboys late in the season, and with the future of Jones in the air, it remains possible Collins could get even…