Joseph: Isaiah Simmons will be LB/problem solver

Just who would scoop up Clemson's dynamic defender Isaiah Simmons was about as much of a curiosity as where on the field the first-round talent would play.

It was the Cardinals that selected Simmons on Thursday with the No. 8 pick and it is linebacker he will play, Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph told the media via Zoom on Tuesday. However, Joseph isn't about to confine Simmons specifically to linebacker when opportunities present themselves to allow the talented hybrid to showcase his versatility.

"He'll be a linebacker," Joseph said. "But we drafted this guy because of what we saw him do at Clemson. So, the things he did there, he's going to do for us also. As far as covering tight ends, and again, he's going to be a problem solver. Obviously each game plan is different and, as problems come along and he can solve them for us he will definitely be a candidate to do those things for us."

Much of the press conference was taken up by questions surrounding Simmons and when asked if it was realistic in today's NFL for Simmons to do the things he did at Clemson, Joseph repeated the plan, emphasized that he'll be a backer and also admitted it remains to be seen how much of the versatility can translate to the pro game.

"I think some of it is [possible], I think some of it's not. These are the best players in the world," Joseph said. "Some of the things he did at Clemson I think are realistic, but some things won't be. He's going to be a linebacker for us. He's going to have some special roles versus certain opponents that we play. But I can't guarantee he's going to play corner for us or safety for us full-time.

"I wouldn't bet against him, but I think what he did at Clemson some it will translate and some won't."

As a member of a national titlist two seasons past, Simmons dazzled with his ability to fill up a stat sheet with tackles, sacks and passes defended as he lined up inside and outside at linebacker, ranged at safety and even dropped back as a cornerback.

"If it's a job that we think he can do, we will put him out there. That's why he was drafted," Joseph said. "I want Isaiah to be Isaiah."

Simmons' junior campaign was a tour de force of defensive versatility. He had 104 tackles (16.5 for a loss), eight sacks, three interceptions, eight passes defended, two forced fumbles and a top-10 selection awaiting.

While his versatility might not be able to translate, his speed will.

"It's a good piece to have. With the new NFL offenses, it's so lateral," Joseph said. "Having a guy with his length and his speed is always critical.

"His skillset is out of this world."

Simmons' selection broke a string of two straight quarterbacks taken in the first round for Arizona. The last defender the Cardinals picked up in the first round was Haason Reddick, another versatile threat who has underwhelmed and many believe hasn't always been used correctly.

For Joseph, Simmons is a welcome addition as he tackles a 2020 season in which pressure will be high after the Cardinals' 2019 defense gave up a league-high 402 yards per game.

"I want to be the best, and I want us to play top 10 defense," Joseph said. "The pressure is always there, but the pressure is always solved when you have four draft picks and having your two corners starting Week One for you. Everyone feels pressure in this business. But that's part of it. ... Last year, we had some rough moments, but I thought the last month of the season, we got better. That was a positive not to finish on."

And Simmons would seem to be a positive addition to build on.

"He's a guy that can solve problems for us and, with his speed and length," Joseph said, "he can be an eraser when bad plays happen."

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