It was a trying first five games for Isaiah Simmons, the talented but inexperienced rookie linebacker for the Cardinals.
In limited action, the No. 8 overall pick never received a Pro Football Focus grade above 64.0 in any game and struggled noticeably in the opener against the 49ers.
However, he has turned it on since Week 6, with grades of 86.3 against the Cowboys, 92.6 against the Seahawks, 64.6 against the Dolphins and 78.1 on Sunday against the Bills.
Simmons played 32 snaps on defense against Buffalo, taking on a big role after inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell left with a calf injury. Simmons was given above average marks in run defense, pass rush and coverage, which dovetails with the pre-draft reports of his versatility.
Simmons had a particularly noteworthy play when he tossed Bills quarterback Josh Allen to the ground for a near-sack. Allen somehow managed to get rid of the ball, but Simmons got up and tackled running back Devin Singletary for a loss of five to force a punt.
Simmons had the second-highest grade on the Cardinals' defense Sunday, and it seems likely he will continue to push for more playing time down the stretch even when the team is in good health.
Other Pro Football Focus observations from Week 10:
- Budda Baker finished as the highest-graded player on the team with an 84.8 overall grade. While he didn't have the splash plays of recent weeks, the Pro Bowl safety was dominant in all three phases on defense and was a big part of keeping Allen in check.
- Left tackle D.J. Humphries continued his stellar season with a grade of 84.1. According to PFF, Humphries did not allow a sack, hurry or pressure on 41 pass-blocking snaps. Humphries, who signed a three-year extension with an average annual value of $14.6 million per year this offseason, will be a bargain if he keeps this up.
- Left guard Justin Pugh also continued his impressive year with an overall grade of 79.7. His best two games of the year have been the past two, per PFF. It wouldn't be a surprise if both Humphries and Pugh get some Pro Bowl consideration this year.
- Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick gave up a couple of early catches to John Brown but really settled in. He finished with an overall grade of 76.1, including a team-best coverage grade of 81.4, which included an interception.
- Tight end Dan Arnold and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins were both given grades of 77.3, which tied for third-best on offense. Arnold had a critical catch on fourth-and-5 to extend a drive in the first half. Hopkins had a pretty big reception at the end of the game.