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Cardinals feel the time has come to expand Isaiah Simmons’ role

Discussion about Isaiah Simmons coming into the draft focused on all the different places he could fit on a defense after starring at a variety of positions while at Clemson.

Over the first seven games of his rookie season, that discussion changed to one involving how little Simmons was playing for the Cardinals. The eighth overall pick never played more than 29 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and saw 83 total snaps before the bye.

Things have picked up the last two weeks, though. He played 32 snaps in each of the last two games and could see a bigger jump on Thursday night if De’Vondre Campbell doesn’t play after being listed as questionable with a calf injury. Even if Campbell does play, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said the moment has come for Simmons to take on a bigger role.

“It’s been two weeks in a row where he’s playing like an NFL linebacker. He’s playing some nickel, he’s covering receivers,” Joseph said, via “To his credit, he’s been patient -- he’s been frustrated -- but he’s been patient in waiting his turn and learning and working in practice. It’s showing in the games. We’ve got to play him more because he can help us win. He’s been patient to wait his turn, but it’s time.”

Joseph said Simmons couldn’t play fast enough earlier in the season because he “was uncertain and wasn’t sure that he knew what to do.” Now Joseph believes the rookie is sure of himself and it sounds like he’ll be getting more opportunities to show it.