The Arizona Cardinals are hoping that last year’s first-round draft pick, linebacker Zaven Collins can be a prominent part of their defense in 2022. Drafted to become the team’s defensive quarterback and the one calling plays at inside linebacker, after a rocky rookie season, he is unsure what exactly his role will be in 2022.
“We’re doing all kinds of stuff,” he said when he spoke to reporters after the team’s final practice of OTAs on Thursday. “I could be the man in the middle. I could be somewhere in the middle but maybe not calling it. We don’t know what that is yet, so we’ll take that into training camp.”
Collins had a prominent role in the defense early in his rookie season and had some success before his playing time began to disappear in the second half of the season. He got a little work as an edge defender at outside linebacker when injuries hit the team and they did not have enough bodies.
Collins attributes the struggles last season to two things — the effects of his two shoulder injuries and then just bad practices. He accepted the blame for it.
“Dealing with the shoulder, it had a lot more effect on me than I probably thought,” he said. “At some point, after I had injured it a second time, I was trying to be a tough man about, which was probably not a good idea.”
That echoes what defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said last season about Collins’ playing time. When he got hurt, he missed practice time and Tanner Vallejo just practiced better.
“If you have bad practices, you’re not going to play in the game,” Collins said. “That’s where the transition went with that.”
Collins didn’t lack effort last season. He put in extra time with linebackers coach Billy Davis. He spent time with Isaiah Simmons and Jordan Hicks.
He says his mental errors are down this offseason.
The Cardinals brought in linebacker Nick Vigil this offseason in free agency. If Collins isn’t ready to handle the big duties as the defensive…