Cardinals’ Zaven Collins In Line For Starting Edge Rush Role

Zaven Collins entered the league with questions about where he would best be suited to line up. During his first two years with the Cardinals, he played primarily as an inside linebacker, but that will change this season.

The former first-rounder will shift to a pass-rushing role under new head coach Jonathan Gannon and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis. Collins spent OTAs and minicamp working on the outside, learning a position other than the one he served as a full-time starter at in 2022. He logged over 1,000 snaps last season, 785 of which came inside the box.

Collins’ run defense PFF grade (45.2) took a considerable step back from that of his rookie season, though, and it came in much lower than that of his pass rushing-mark (65.5). He will look to continue his success in the latter department after the position adjustment, one which should keep him in a starting role moving forward. The Tulsa product may in fact be the Cardinals’ top edge rusher based on spring practices, as noted by team reporter Darren Urban.

Arizona lost plenty of pass-rushing production from its defensive line this offseason with J.J. Watt retiring and Zach Allen departing in free agency. That will leave added emphasis on the team’s outside linebackers, a group which includes Collins along with 2022 third-rounders Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas. That pair each played a rotational role during their rookie seasons, and their experience relative to Collins on the outside does not appear likely to move them higher on the depth chart.

The Cardinals added BJ Ojulari in the second round of this year’s draft, giving them another young option in their edge rush group. The LSU product has been sidelined through injury during the offseason, though, leaving plenty of first-team snaps available to Collins as he prepares for a position change come the fall (something which also holds true of fellow former first-rounder Isaiah Simmons). Their success in adjusting to altered roles will no doubt go a long way in determining Arizona’s level of play on their new-look defense in 2023.

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