Isaiah Simmons’ New Home: Can the Giants Harness His Versatility?

Just two days ahead of their preseason finale, the New York Giants embarked on a calculated, high-reward trade. The Giants acquired Isaiah Simmons from the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, exchanging a modest seventh-round pick in the 2024 draft.

Isaiah Simmons, at 25 years old, is undoubtedly brimming with talent. He was originally selected as the eighth overall pick by the Cardinals in the 2020 NFL Draft, but his career has been marked by a search for a true position on the field.

In his most recent preseason game for Arizona, Simmons briefly played as a safety, highlighting his versatility. This offseason, he transitioned to a defensive back role, a shift from his previous three seasons, during which he played various positions within the Cardinals’ defense.

With the Giants, Simmons is expected to start as a linebacker. However, the intention is not necessarily for him to immediately take the starting inside linebacker spot alongside Bobby Okereke. Instead, Simmons will serve as a hybrid player, combining linebacker, safety, rusher, and blitzer roles, perfectly suited for the defensive schemes devised by coordinator Wink Martindale.

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Isaiah Simmons @twitter.

While Simmons is widely recognized as a gifted athlete, some in the NFL consider him an “average football player” who could benefit from Martindale’s coaching. Martindale’s defense is known for its “positionless” approach, and Simmons’ unique skill set aligns well with this philosophy.

In the past two seasons, Simmons recorded impressive tackle numbers, with 105 tackles in 2021 and 95 in the previous season. He also demonstrated proficiency in pass defense, notching seven passes defended in each of the past two years.

Simmons’ versatility is evident in his positional breakdown during his tenure with the Cardinals, where he spent 40% of his time at outside linebacker, 23.3% at inside linebacker, and 26.6% at cornerback, primarily in the slot.

Giants coach Brian Daboll emphasized the team’s belief in Simmons’ untapped potential, particularly his athleticism, explosiveness, and size. While the precise role for Simmons is yet to be defined, he is expected to feature as a sub-package linebacker, similar to how veteran safety Tony Jefferson was utilized last season, albeit with Simmons bringing youth and enhanced explosiveness.

The challenge for the Giants lies in getting Simmons to embrace this linebacker position, as he had expressed a preference for safety earlier in the summer. However, Simmons’ tenure in Arizona did not align with his desired position, leading to this latest transition to linebacker.

The fact that the trade for Simmons only cost the Giants a seventh-round pick speaks to the current perception of his value in the league. The fact that he is entering the final year of his rookie contract likely contributed to the low cost, as the Cardinals had previously declined his fifth-year option.

Nevertheless, for the Giants, the focus is on unearthing Simmons’ latent talent and harnessing his athleticism within Martindale’s blitz-heavy defensive scheme. With 7.5 career sacks, four interceptions, and seven forced fumbles, there’s ample potential to be tapped into.

General manager Joe Schoen’s evaluation and the coaching staff’s guidance will be pivotal in Simmons’ development with the Giants. The hope is to maximize his explosive abilities and fit him into their defensive system effectively.

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