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Whatever the reason for Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons’ diminished role, it still is befuddling.
We always hear coaches say that the goal is to get the best players on the field as much as possible. Raise your hand if you believe Ben Niemann or Nick Vigil are better players than Simmons.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said last week that no one else on the team could have made the plays that Simmons made at the end of the Week 2 victory over the Raiders. Yet, there was Simmons playing only 33 percent of the defensive snaps against the Rams, albeit an increase over the 22 percent he played against Las Vegas.
On Sunday, Vigil started the game and he ended up playing 38 percent (18 snaps) while Niemann played 31 percent, which was one snap fewer than Simmons’ 15. It is a huge reduction from the 92 percent played by Simmons during the entire 2021 season and the 87 percent that he played against Kansas City.
There were other eye-opening numbers from Sunday’s game.
Cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. was active for the first time this season, but played no defensive snaps and eight on special teams (32 percent). Corners Byron Murphy Jr. and Marco Wilson played all 48 snaps, while Jace Whittaker played 45 (94 percent). Even coming back from injury and being new to the team, is Whittaker clearly better than Mullen?
With wide receiver A.J. Green exiting the game late in the second quarter with a knee injury, that meant more snaps for Andy Isabella and Andre Baccellia. Green played 34 percent (28) of the team’s 83 snaps. Isabella finished with 32 snaps (39 percent) and Baccellia 26 (31 percent).
Asked if there was concern about Green’s availability, coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday, “There is. I’m not sure exactly where it sits. It sounds like it’s better news; it’s a bone bruise. But I’m not sure if that’s going to be this week or maybe next week when he’s back.”
Aside from Green, linebacker Zaven Collins left the game with a shoulder injury and played 73 percent (35) of the defensive snaps after playing all of the snaps against the Raiders. Nose tackle Rashard Lawrence (hand) played 40 percent after playing 49 percent against the Raiders. Left guard Justin Pugh (elbow) left the game, but returned after missing 11 snaps that were taken by Max Garcia.
“I think Zaven should be OK,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll see how he feels on Wednesday, but it didn’t seem to be serious today when I saw him.”
Lawrence had a cast on his hand after the game and Kingsbury revealed, “He had surgery. Not sure of the exact timetable, but he won’t play this week.”
Finally, the head coach said of Pugh, “It should be a deal where it’s day-to-day and I’m hopeful he can play on Sunday.”
Despite not practicing much during the week, running back James Conner still played 60 percent compared to Eno Benjamin (27) and Darrel Williams (17). Williams would have been a better option than Conner in passing situations. Conner was targeted five times and caught three for only 18 yards. Williams had no receptions on one target. Benjamin was targeted four times and caught two for seven yards.
It was also another meager game for the team’s 2022 draft picks. Tight end Trey McBride actually started the game, but played only four offensive snaps the rest of the way while adding 15 (60 percent) on special teams. Linebacker Cameron Thomas played three snaps (6 percent) on defense and one on special teams.
Inactive were running back Keaontay Ingram, center Lecitus Smith, linebacker Myjai Sanders and cornerback Christian Matthew.
Charting the snaps
(snaps/total possible snaps; starters in bold)
*Indicates player that did not play from scrimmage, but participated on special teams
OFFENSE (81 snaps, 19 players)
Quarterbacks: Kyler Murray (83/100).
Did not play: Trace McSorley, reserve/injured: Colt McCoy.
Running backs: James Conner (50/60), Eno Benjamin (22/27), Darrel Williams (14/17).
Did not play: *Jonathan Ward. Inactive: Keaontay Ingram.
Wide receivers: Marquise Brown (79/95), Greg Dortch (67/81), Andy Isabella (32/39), A.J. Green (28/34), Andre Baccellia (26/31).
Inactive: Rondale Moore (injured). Reserve/injured: Antoine Wesley. Reserve/suspended: WR DeAndre Hopkins.
Tight ends: Zach Ertz (77/93), Maxx Williams (9/11), Stephen Anderson (6/7), Trey McBride (5/6).
Offensive linemen: LT D.J. Humphries (83/100), C Rodney Hudson (83/100), RG Will Hernandez (83/100), RT Kelvin Beachum (83/100), LG Justin Pugh (72/87), G Max Garcia (11/13).
Did not play: C/G *Sean Harlow, T/G *Josh Jones. Inactive: C Lecitus Smith. Reserve/injured: G Cody Ford, G Marquis Hayes.
DEFENSE (48 snaps, 20 players)
Defensive linemen: DE Zach Allen (40/83), DE J.J. Watt (30/62), DT Leki Fotu (20/42), NT Rashard Lawrence (19/40), DE Michael Dogbe (19/40).
Inactive: DL Jonathan Ledbetter.
Linebackers: ILB Zaven Collins (35/73), OLB Markus Golden (32/67), ILB Nick Vigil (18/38), ILB Isaiah Simmons (16/33), ILB Ben Niemann (15/31), OLB Devon Kennard (15/31), OLB Dennis Gardeck (14/29), ILB Tanner Vallejo (13/27), OLB Cameron Thomas (3/6), OLB Victor Dimukeje (2/4).
Inactive: ILB Ezekiel Turner (injured), OLB Myjai Sanders.
Defensive backs: CB Byron Murphy Jr. (48/100), CB Marco Wilson (48/100), S Budda Baker (48/100), S Jalen Thompson (48/100), CB Jace Whittaker (45/94).
Did not play: CB *Trayvon Mullen Jr., S *Deionte Thompson. Inactive: CB Christian Matthew.
Inactive: Reserve/injured: S Charles Washington. Reserve/non-football injury: CB Antonio Hamilton
SPECIAL TEAMS (25 snaps, 33 players)
LB Tanner Vallejo (21/84), LB Dennis Gardeck (21/84), S Deionte Thompson (21/84), RB Jonathan Ward (17/68), LB Ben Niemann (17/68), TE Trey McBride (15/60), LB Victor Dimukeje (13/52), TE Stephen Anderson (12/48), CB Jace Whittaker (12/48), K Matt Prater (9/36), RB Darrel Williams (9/36), TE Maxx Williams (9/36), LB Nick Vigil (9/36), P Andy Lee (8/32), LS Aaron Brewer (8/32), RB/KOR Eno Benjamin (8/32), CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. (8/32), DT Leki Fotu (7/28), CB Marco Wilson (5/20), T D.J. Humphries (4/16), G Will Hernandez (4/16), T Kelvin Beachum (4/16), C/G Sean Harlow (4/16), G Max Garcia (4/16), T/G Josh Jones (4/16), DE Zach Allen (4/16), DE Michael Dogbe (4/16), S Budda Baker (4/16), WR/PR Greg Dortch (3/12), NT Rashard Lawrence (3/12), G Justin Pugh (2/8), WR Andre Baccellia (1/4), LB Cameron Thomas (1/4).
Top photo of Isaiah Simmons via Getty Images
Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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