It wasn’t the most consistent rookie season for Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons but he was one of the most impactful rookie linebackers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
The outlet named Simmons one of two linebackers on its All-Rookie team.
PFF noted the struggles Simmons had in his first season.
Simmons’ NFL career started just about as poorly as it could have against Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ offense in Week 1. Still, he has done an excellent job of rebounding and contributing positively to the Cardinals’ defense since. In two games against San Francisco, Simmons has earned a PFF grade of just 27.7, but that rises to 68.7 against all other opponents.
With that in mind, Simmons’ coverage grades specifically on PFF boosted him above the rest of the competition in his class.
He has shown flashes of the kind of plays he can make in coverage — none bigger than the overtime interception against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks back in Week 7 — but he still hasn’t quite put it all together. What Simmons was able to put on the field narrowly edged out other players who delivered solid performances in limited samples, like Willie Gay Jr. and Kamal Martin.
Simmons was drafted No. 8 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. The versatile defender was mostly used as an inside linebacker, playing behind veterans Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell.
In the first seven weeks of the season, Simmons failed to register 30% of the team’s defensive snaps in the game. After the bye, though, he hit that mark in all nine games.
That included a 10-tackle, one-sack effort in Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Simmons finished the season with 54 tackles, 2.0 sacks, one interception and one fumble forced.