The New York Giants made a headline-grabbing trade on Thursday afternoon that promises to add depth and athleticism to their defense. Despite having an open slot for a starting linebacker next to Bobby Okereke, and with second-year talents like Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers still under development, the Giants opted to inject some raw talent into the mix.
They traded a mere seventh-round pick and absorbed just $1 million of former Arizona Cardinals’ first-round pick Isaiah Simmons’ salary for the 2023 season. Although Simmons has fallen short of the high expectations since his NFL entry, he comes packed with untapped potential and unparalleled athleticism—assets the Giants defense aims to capitalize on.
Unlocking Simmons’ Potential
Lucky for the Giants, their defense is already designed with versatility in mind—a good fit for Simmons, who hasn’t solidified a starting role across his three-year NFL career. At 25 and boasting a physique of 6’4″ and 238 pounds, Simmons arguably has his best playing days ahead of him.
Even if Simmons doesn’t secure the LB2 spot next to Okereke, his versatile skill set won’t go to waste. He can function as an off-ball linebacker or as a hybrid player specializing in passing downs, utilizing his speed and size to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
What Went Wrong in Arizona?
Simmons has all the physical attributes to succeed in the NFL, but his stunted development in Arizona may be attributed to mismanagement and ineffective coaching. With the Cardinals eager to rebuild under new leadership, the Giants seized the opportunity, acquiring a potential game-changer at minimal risk and for what could turn out to be a substantial reward.
Simmons’ Stats: A Mixed Bag with Promise
In the previous season with the Cardinals, Simmons registered 70 tackles, 20 stops, and an 11.7% missed tackle rate. While he did give up 527 yards and three touchdowns, he also recorded two interceptions and three pass breakups. Additionally, he racked up nine pressures, which included four sacks and four quarterback hurries.
A Perfect Fit for Martindale’s Defensive Philosophy
Defensive coordinator Martindale is notorious for his aggressive defensive schemes that emphasize blitzing and numerical advantage at the line of scrimmage. Simmons fits like a glove in this system. Last season, his playtime was spread over various positions—110 snaps at the defensive line, 297 in the box, 53 as a free safety, 409 in the slot, and 28 as a boundary corner. His prowess as a blitzer and his ability to drop into coverage makes him an ideal fit for a Giants defense that will rely heavily on man-to-man coverage.
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A Risk Worth Taking for the Giants
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Simmons will become a star overnight. However, the Giants have a strong track record of maximizing late-round draft picks and letting players thrive in what many are dubbing a “positionless” defense.
If the gamble fails, the loss is minimal. But if anyone can unlock Simmons’ raw talent, it would be head coach Brian Daboll and his adept team of talent evaluators.