Isaiah Simmons knows Zaven Collins didn't get to play much against the Rams. Collins, the first-round rookie linebacker, had just four defensive snaps in the win, his lowest total of the season.
Simmons, last year's first-round rookie linebacker who didn't play much the first half of the season, is making sure his teammate is dealing with it OK.
"I talk to him every week just to see where his head space is at, just because I know how it feels to be in that position," Simmons said. "I told him 'As far as you coming along, you've played a lot more than I played up until this point. Don't get down on yourself, it's not that the coaches don't believe in you, it's not that we don't believe in you. Sometimes it's just how the cards fall, with certain packages we are running with their personnel.' It's not personal with us thinking he can't get the job done."
Collins had an offseason nothing like Simmons' first offseason, from the ability to get some offseason on-field work to being announced as a starter. And Collins had in the first three games still played around a third of the defensive snaps, although veteran Jordan Hicks was definitely ahead of him on the depth chart.
The Rams game, though, Collins was all but absent. Simmons cautioned that Collins' role could change weekly, the same thing defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was saying about Hicks early in the season.
Mostly though, the wise Simmons wants to be a resource for Collins, both because his own experience from 2020 is so fresh and because that's what guys like Hicks and De'Vondre Campbell and Chandler Jones and DeAndre Hopkins did for him last year.
"At first I thought I had to figure it all out on my own," Simmons said. You come into the league as rookie, everyone tells you (the players) have families, no one is worried about you. But it was literally the opposite of that when I got here."
Simmons started getting more and more defensive playing time just past the halfway point in the season. How Collins' situation plays out is TBD -- the Cardinals keep winning and Hicks stays healthy, it's hard to see radical change, but the Simmons-Hicks-Collins package will remain an option -- but Simmons will guide him the best he can.
"Zaven is able to help us in so many ways," Simmons said. "Just like it was for me, guys are there to help you out, (guys) that help you understand and have seen more in the NFL. Because it's different. Zaven doesn't know, just like I didn't know."