What exactly will the Arizona Cardinals’ defense look like in 2023? This is a bit of a mystery.
Linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins appear to both be playing new positions. Simmons is transitioning to safety and Collins has practiced all offseason as an outside linebacker, playing the edge.
Below are some predictions for the defensive starting lineup.
We could see a three-man base defense (five on the line of scrimmage with two OLBs). Collier, a former first-round pick, has the greatest talent and upside of the room.
Watkins has accomplished the most in the NFL among the D-linemen on the roster and Lawrence has been good when healthy.
If it is a two-lineman base, make it Collier and Watkins.
Thomas showed a lot of promise as a rookie and Collins has gotten extensive work this offseason at the edge, where he played part-time over the first two years of his career.
Myjai Sanders and second-round pick B.J. Ojulari will play but Collins and Thomas probably are the starters.
White is the one guy on defense we know is Jonathan Gannon and Nick Rallis’ guy. He is a lock in the middle of the defense. With Simmons and Collins now playing other positions, the other spot is up for grabs.
Barnes is the only other guy in the room with any real NFL defensive experience and played well his first two seasons with the Packers.
Wilson and Hamilton both play with the physicality that Gannon and Rallis want.
Rashad Fenton could be in the mix and has starting experience but we have heard nothing about him this offseason.
Christian Matthew was a rookie last year and forced into action late in the year.
They drafted Garrett Williams and Kei’Trel Clark but Williams is coming off a torn ACL and has gotten no offseason reps yet and I’m not sure Clark will be ready to start before Week 1.
Bakr and Thompson are studs. The question is how much and in what exact role will Simmons play. Will he play primarily in the slot? That is my guess right now.
But they coudl go with a “big nickel” defense in their base defense with two down linemen, two edge defenders, two off-ball linebackers, and five defensive backs.
Simmons’ versatility allows him to be on the field all the time if that is what they want from him.