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Cardinals Have Multiple Candidates To Call Defensive Plays

Notes: Thompson, Collins, Vigil, Baker in mix; Isabella fights for roster spot

Linebackers Zaven Collins (25) and Nick Vigil (57) watch a play from the sideline in the first practice of training camp on Wednesday.
Linebackers Zaven Collins (25) and Nick Vigil (57) watch a play from the sideline in the first practice of training camp on Wednesday.

The time for Zaven Collins is now, but what that means is still being determined.

With the release of Jordan Hicks this offseason, Collins should start at inside linebacker after spending last season as a backup. But it's not a surefire conclusion Collins will call the defensive plays like Hicks once did.

Safety Jalen Thompson said multiple players have been wearing the defensive player's mic since the spring, including himself, and he would be comfortable calling the plays if needed.

Typically linebackers call the defensive plays but since Budda Baker and Thompson know the playbook well and have grown into bigger leaders for the defense, they make sense as candidates. Thompson called himself and Baker "skinny linebackers" at the safety position.

"We feel like we have multiple guys that can do it," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "That's what's good about having a guy like Budda and JT, who have been in the system this long. We'll see how that plays out but I'll say there are four or five guys we feel comfortable calling (the defense)."

Veteran Nick Vigil, a free-agent signee who is aiming to find defensive playing time as well, is another candidate.

One of the reasons linebackers call defenses often is because they are in the middle and are near both the secondary and the defensive line. But Thompson -- who has never called plays in his career -- said he felt he could be loud enough, and hand signals are also part of the equation.

"I feel like if I call the plays I can get it to the DBs quicker," Thompson said. "I think the linebackers would trust me with it too."


Andy Isabella will look to secure a roster spot in an expansive wide receiver room. The Cardinals took the receiver in the second round in 2019 to give the offense more speed, but he has never found a regular role and his on-field time has dwindled every year. Isabella suited up in just eight games last season, registering 13 receiving yards on just one catch.

He was give permission to ask for a trade after the season, but he remains on the roster. He wrote on Instagram before camp "it's been quite the journey so far in AZ. I've done a lot of looking in the mirror this last year and recognizing my failures and areas in my life where I am coming up short."

Isabella will compete with Antoine Wesley and Greg Dortch for the fifth and sixth spots on the depth chart -- fourth and fifth while DeAndre Hopkins is suspended.

"He just has to keep doing what he's doing," Kingsbury said. "We just happened to draft some really good players and have Hall of Fame players here (at the position). So it's been tough for him to show what he can do.

"But I'm excited to see his progress here. It's Year 4 for him in the system; he'll know the system inside and outside, so he'll be able to play fast."


Kingsbury said that the hope was that wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who went on the NFI list Tuesday with a hamstring injury, wouldn't be out long. Kingsbury said Brown tweaked his hamstring while running routes last week.