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Cardinals Understand Growing Pains Coming For Isaiah Simmons

Notes: No worries about Gonzalez; Maxx Williams misses second practice

Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons during Sunday's game in San Francisco.
Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons during Sunday's game in San Francisco.

The sack by new Cardinals defensive tackle Angelo Blackson in San Francisco? Part of that was due to the pass coverage of rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons.

That's the evaluation of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who knows the first-round pick had rough moments in his debut but saw good in it as well.

"(Simmons) missed the entire offseason, he missed the preseason games (and) it was a COVID training camp," Joseph said Thursday. "He's probably missed 1,200 snaps.

"I knew it was going to be tough early."

Joseph said Simmons was on star 49ers tight end George Kittle "seven or eight" times in the game. One was on Blackson's sack, when Joseph said 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garappolo wanted to go to his security blanket and could not.

Yes, Simmons gave up the early 76-yard touchdown catch to running back Raheem Mostert. Yes, he "could have played better" the later red zone touchdown allowed to running back Jerick McKinnon, when he and Jordan Hicks both took tight end Ross Dwelley and no one went into the flat with the back.

"(Isaiah) competing with Kittle and getting knocked around a little bit, that's what he needed," Joseph said. "Now he understands how hard it is to cover these tight ends, how physical this NFL game is. We couldn't simulate it for him – the speed, the toughness, the aggressive play of these tight ends, we couldn't simulate that in practice at all."

Simmons, who played 18 snaps of 62 snaps, would be out there every down if the Cardinals hadn't signed veteran linebacker De'Vondre Campbell. But Campbell's presence allows the Cards to take their time.

Joseph said Simmons is most comfortable learning multiple spots, and the way the Cards lined up against the Niners, Simmons often played as an outside linebacker. Joseph said he has a "small" first-and-second down role for now, with the hope he can expand to third downs soon.

Campbell said he's talked to Simmons and told him "don't put too much pressure on yourself. Everybody is looking at you with the magnifying glass and you're here for a reason."

"Everyone is good, you're not going to make every play," Campbell added. "Sometimes you're gonna get got. It's not about what happens in that moment, it's how you respond."

Joseph said after the game he called Simmons just to tell him he was proud of his first game.

"He's going to get better and better," Joseph said. "He just needs more time on the job."

'COMFORTABLE' WITH ZANE GONZALEZ

It was a roller-coaster first game for kicker Zane Gonzalez, who missed 52-yard and 49-yard field goals Sunday, but in between kicked a career-long 56-yard field goal. Gonzalez missed only four field goals all last season.

The Cardinals did reportedly work out veteran Mike Nugent – who actually kicked for the Cardinals in 2009 – but in a coronavirus world, that was likely preparation should Gonzalez get sick. Gonzalez impressed all last season,

"He's been great in camp," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Those were tough field goal attempts – all 50-plus I think – and he hit the 56-yarder which really gave us momentum going into halftime, gave us a chance to win that game. We feel very comfortable with Zane and where he's at."

MASON COLE SITS AGAIN, AS DOES MAXX WILLIAMS

Center Mason Cole (hamstring) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) both missed practice for a second straight day. Williams has had an ankle injury he's dealt with since training camp. Linebacker Kylie Fitts (wrist) did return on a limited basis. Safety Jalen Thompson (ankle) was put on injured reserve earlier in the day. Rookie offensive lineman Josh Jones (ankle) remained limited.

For Washington, linebacker Cole Holcomb (knee) was limited.

Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Training Center on Wednesday, presented by Hyundai.

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