Zach Allen showcased enough potential for the Cardinals to take a chance on the defensive lineman in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Three years later, their belief is coming to fruition.
"I knew what kind of player I was and could be," said Allen, who missed 17 games his first two seasons with injuries. "The first couple of years of dealing with injuries, you can't predict them, and they're always the worst. But that was the first time I've dealt with injuries in my career. So, it was a wake-up call and gave me a lot of urgency this offseason to prove it in Year Three."
Allen is having the best season of his young career, tying linebacker Jordan Hicks for the third-most sacks (4.0) on the team. Allen said being healthy this season is among reasons the uptick in production doesn't shock him.
"Luckily, I've been able to put together some consistent performances and play at a high level on a defense with a lot of great players," Allen said. "They make my job easier."
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is not surprised with the year Allen is having. Joseph is proud to see Allen join quarterback Kyler Murray and cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. in the list of 2019 draft class members to take the next step in their development process.
He also pleased to see Allen take more of a leadership role after the gut-punching loss of veteran J.J. Watt.
"I'm not surprised; that's why he was drafted," Joseph said. "He's always had the talent to do it; he's been hurt the first couple of years. He is one of our leaders in our defensive lineman room because he works at it (improving) so hard and so much. He has a high football IQ, and he's playing good football.
"That's a good thing that we can draft a kid, watch him grow into his third year and be one of our main guys. It's been fun to watch."
ANDY LEE LANDS ON COVID LIST
Punter Andy Lee entered Covid-19 protocols Wednesday after testing positive for Covid. Lee is the second Cardinals player currently on the Covid list, joining center Rodney Hudson.
It's possible Lee could return by Saturday's game by testing off the list, but the Cards are expected to add a punter in case.
ZAVEN COLLINS REMAINS BACKUP
The plan was to start Zaven Collins , but Jordan Hicks took that role. Of late, Collins has barely seen the field on defense, but Joseph said the linebacker is still progressing from the sideline despite his lack of snaps.
"He's helping on special teams and a backup for us right now," Joseph said. "The problem with Zaven is he's a backup Mike and a backup Will."
Hicks is the Mike, and Isaiah Simmons is playing the Will.
"To put him on the field, someone has to leave, and right now, we have 11 guys we feel good about," Joseph added. "That's the problem, but he's fine and still in a good place right now. He's waiting for a chance to play, but right now, he's a backup."
With Hudson still on the Covid list, Max Garcia is the starting center, but Garcia (knee) was downgraded from limited to DNP in practice on Wednesday. Marcus Henry is the team's third-string center.
Also not practicing were running back James Conner (heel), wide receiver Rondale Moore (ankle), and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips (knee). Linebacker Isaiah Simmons (shoulder) was upgraded to limited. Also limited were tight end Zach Ertz (hamstring), wide receiver Antoine Wesley (ankle), defensive lineman Zach Kerr (ribs), and linebacker Markus Golden (knee).
For the Colts, offensive lineman Ryan Kelly (personal), offensive lineman Quenton Nelson (illness), safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) did not practice.