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Cardinals Working On Roles For Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons, Kyzir White

Linebackers remain puzzle pieces for new coaching staff

Linebacker Kyzir White takes part in Wednesday's minicamp practice.
Linebacker Kyzir White takes part in Wednesday's minicamp practice.

Kyzir White had a clear focus when he reached free agency this spring.

If he wasn't going to stay with the Philadelphia Eagles, he wanted to join his former defensive coordinator with the Cardinals, after Jonathan Gannon got the head coaching job.

But as a linebacker, White still faces unknowns of what he will ultimately do in defensive coordinator Nick Rallis' defense, and how it will mesh with the last two Cardinals' first-round picks – Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons.

"They will put us in the best situations to be successful, and whatever we do well, they will capitalize on that," White said of the coaches he knows well. "Let us play free, play fast."

The Cardinals are going through their first voluntary veteran minicamp this week, the first time Gannon and his staff get a chance to look at their players. But in this early window, it's difficult to say there is a position with a greater spotlight for how it will filter out than the one with not only the holdover first-round picks but also White, arguably the Cardinals' top free-agent signing.

"That's why we like to get on grass first, and see how they move and what they are comfortable with," Gannon said Wednesday. "We've got a long time to make that decision and we won't rush that decision."

Collins, who played the vast majority of the time on the inside in his first two seasons, is working with the outside linebackers/edge rushers this minicamp. Gannon said "we'll see" if Collins remains there when the games count.

Zaven Collins (25) talks with Cam Thomas (97) during outside linebacker drills on Wednesday.
Zaven Collins (25) talks with Cam Thomas (97) during outside linebacker drills on Wednesday.

Last season, out of 1,076 defensive snaps, Collins was in the box 785 snaps and on the defensive line – on the edge – 182 times.

"What I love about Zaven is that is the type of makeup you want in your players," Gannon said. "It's, 'Coach, I'm willing to do anything you want to help the team.' When you have a b unch of guys like that on your team, you have a good chance to win."

Simmons was present at the Dignity Health Training Center Wednesday, although he was not out on the field during the open portion of practice. The Cardinals face a Monday deadline to decide whether to pick up Simmons' 2024 rookie contract option year – which would guarantee him around $12.7 million – or let him play out his contract this year.

"It's probably a better question for (GM) Monti (Ossenfort)," Gannon said about the option. "We take it one day at a time and make decisions with all the information that we have."

Gannon was still playing coy about his defensive scheme – "Week 1 you'll find out" – and there isn't a ton that can be sorted out with these few days on the field. (The Cardinals complete the minicamp Thursday, a few hours before the draft.)

But Gannon said there has already been discussion and analysis of players from video, even as the field work starts to take precedent.

"Kyzir is a good example," Gannon said. "I was with Kyzir for a year and he did some things where he was comfortable and there were other things he didn't love. And he's been vocal about that. You want that interaction all the time with all your players. You never want them out there uncomfortable. That's a process that has started."

Images of the Arizona Cardinals practicing during the voluntary veteran minicamp at the Dignity Health Training Facility