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Former First-Round Pick L.J. Collier Comfortable With Cardinals

Defensive lineman seeks consistency as he works his post-Seahawks phase

Defensive lineman L.J. Collier celebrates after batting down a pass in Friday's game against the Broncos.
Defensive lineman L.J. Collier celebrates after batting down a pass in Friday's game against the Broncos.

L.J. Collier is a long way from his tiny hometown of Munday, Texas, a place with "one way in, one way out" and a high school that made Collier one of 25 in his graduating class.

The defensive lineman also feels a long way from the start of his NFL career in Seattle, even if he was just there last season.

The 2019 first-round draft pick of the Seahawks never found footing with his first team. But he already feels different with the Cardinals, different working under coach Jonathan Gannon and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis.

"I'm five years in, I've proven I can play. It's about consistency," Collier said. "Can I be a Pro Bowl-type player, can I help an organization get to the playoffs, can I be a showstopper? That's what is important to me. I have nothing left to prove to anybody but myself that I deserve to be here and that I can play at the highest level."

The Cardinals are trying to figure out their defensive line, with Collier's arrival on a one-year free-agent deal among the offseason pieces added. They are also trying to figure out what Collier might be.

His best season with the Seahawks was in 2020, when he started all 16 games and had the only three sacks of his career. But the last two seasons he played just 18 games, with 15 total tackles.

Collier has no issues with his time in Seattle. He called it a great organization with great coaches, and that he had a good conversation with GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll at the end of the 2021 season, understanding he wouldn't return.

"It just didn't fit for me, man," Collier said. "It wasn't my type of system, my type of place. I tried my best to make it work. Sometimes places don't work out. On to the next one, and I feel I have made a home here, and I feel like I will prove over the next couple of weeks I am worthy of the first-round pick I was a few years ago."

The shifting Collier will get along the defensive line under coordinator Nick Rallis is a bonus, he said, allowing him to have more freedom. That, Collier believes, will make a difference in his game.

He already has made an impression, flashing in multiple training camp practices and batting down a Russell Wilson pass in his handful of snaps as a starter Friday against the Broncos.

"I thought the D-line played with violence and they looked mean out there," Gannon said.

The Cardinals will need the line to continue like that. Collier said he wants to continue to show consistency, and – in a mindset his coaches could only love – brought up a couple of times how he needs to make the team first.

It's a little weird changing teams within the division, Collier admitted, but he has always liked the color red.

"I'm a Cardinal now," Collier said. "I let all that (previous) stuff go."

Images from 2023 Cardinals Training Camp at the Dignity Health Training Facility