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Isaiah Simmons Shows Off Versatility Against Eagles

Notes: Ball security an issue; no injury update on Gardeck

LB Isaiah Simmons alternated between coverage and pass-rushing against Jalen Hurts and the Eagles.
LB Isaiah Simmons alternated between coverage and pass-rushing against Jalen Hurts and the Eagles.

The Cardinals let Isaiah Simmons roam on Sunday.

The top-10 pick has played mainly inside linebacker as a rookie but displayed his versatility in the 33-26 win over the Eagles.

Simmons began the game at free safety – nearly securing an interception on the first Eagles pass – and moved all over the field the rest of the way, the clearest example yet of the trust he is garnering from the coaching staff.

"He's continuing to improve, and that's what we wanted to see," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We felt like it was a game where we could use him in multiple positions. He's starting to have a better understanding of the defense, so he can handle that type of assignment.

"When you have a dynamic quarterback like Jalen (Hurts), it allows you to put him in position where he can see ball and go get ball at times. I thought he continued to improve his understanding of what we're looking for, and he continues to make plays out there."

Simmons had four tackles in the contest but missed Hurts a few times in the backfield. The pass that could have been intercepted was tipped by receiver Greg Ward before it got to him, but Simmons pounded the turf afterward, upset he couldn't corral it.

Pro Football Focus saddled Simmons with a negative grade on Quez Watkins' 32-yard bubble screen touchdown in the first quarter, but otherwise did not tag him with a catch allowed in 32 coverage snaps.

According to PFF, Simmons played 65 snaps on defense – 26 at outside linebacker, 17 at inside linebacker, 13 in the slot, five at strong safety, two at outside corner and two at free safety.

Simmons often paired with Haason Reddick at outside linebacker, giving the Cardinals an edge duo with unparalleled speed and athleticism.

"Jalen really hurt New Orleans by getting outside, making plays outside of the pocket, getting out and running," Kingsbury said. "We knew we wanted to try to avoid that and make him step up, or try to contain him in the pocket. When you have two guys that can basically run with any player on the field in Haason and Isaiah, it definitely gives you the ability to chase those guys down when they do get out and try to make a play."

BALL SECURITY MUST IMPROVE

The Cardinals lost the turnover margin by three to the Eagles but were still able to secure a 33-26 win because of some strong offensive play.

Kingsbury said he's not interested in tempting fate like that again. Quarterback Kyler Murray lost a fumble deep in Arizona territory and threw an end zone interception. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins lost a fumble inside the Philadelphia 10 and fumbled again later in the game, though the Cardinals retained possession.

"We have to improve," Kingsbury said. "I saw a stat where if you turn it over three times and the other team has zero, you have an eight percent chance of winning the game. It was pretty remarkable we were able to win that game. But we have to be better in that. You get those opportunities in the red zone on first or second down, you just can't turn it over. We've got to get points out of that. Our guys understand that. The margin for error is getting smaller and smaller as we wrap up the season, and we've got to get better in that area."

NO INJURY UPDATE ON GARDECK

Dennis Gardeck continued his unbelievable season with two more sacks against the Eagles on a career-high 24 defensive snaps. However, the outside linebacker left the contest late with an unspecified injury and was carted to the locker room.

Kingsbury did not have an update on the injury, but hopes to know more by Monday evening or Tuesday.

CARDINALS MAKE PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES

The Cardinals signed safety Chris Miller and cornerback Picasso Nelson to the practice squad. Defensive lineman Daylon Mack was released from the practice squad to make room.

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