By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and in a troubling revelation, the Arizona Cardinals announced plans to have first-round pick Isaiah Simmons focus on playing linebacker during his rookie season. Simmons was one of the most valuable prospects in this year’s draft class, in large part to his defensive versatility. In college, Simmons dominated as a linebacker, but he was equally impressive while playing cornerback and safety. There is no reason to commit to Simmons as a full-time linebacker in the modern NFL. Considering Arizona’s secondary was comically bad in 2019, the Cardinals should be ecstatic about Simmons. He has a chance to develop into a position-less superstar on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully, Arizona allows him the opportunity.
Running back Joe Mixon has reported being discussing a long-term extension to remain with the Cincinnati Bengals. Mixon is rumored to be contemplating a holdout as he seeks an extension. Despite a sub-par supporting cast around him in recent seasons, Mixon has managed to produce impressive numbers. With improvements around him on offense, he is likely looking toward a breakout 2020 season. However, the Bengals have more pressing needs on the roster to address before committing big money to a running back. Long-term deals for running backs seldom work out from the team’s perspective, and Mixon, while talented, isn’t a generational talent worth the risk.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa signed his rookie contract with the Miami Dolphins, an agreement that will keep him with the franchise for the first five years of his career. Miami landed a steal with Tagovailoa at five in this year’s draft. The Dolphins are likely going to ease Tagovailoa into things, an opportunity afforded by the presence of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Tagovailoa boasts incredible accuracy, underrated athleticism, and sound decision-making. All Miami needs to do to have a superstar under center for the long-term is to keep Tagovailoa healthy. Upgrading the offensive line is likely going to atop next off-season’s to-do list as Tagovailoa takes the helm of the franchise.
Indianapolis drafted running back Jonathan Taylor in the second round of last month’s draft, and the Colts stated intentions of a two-person attack out of the backfield with Taylor sharing time with Marlon Mack. On the surface, this is a solid plan as the duo complement one another. The one question is regarding how the duo gel with freshly-signed quarterback Phillip Rivers. For the bulk of his career, Rivers has thrived utilizing pass-catching backs, and neither Mack or Taylor have shown skills as a receiver. Having two productive running backs is never a bad thing, but for the Colts to win in 2020, it will take a more modern approach to offensive football that running the ball 30+ times a game.
Hardly content with some fresh faces on offense, the Colts also spent this off-season rebuilding its defense. Indianapolis sent its first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for interior defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to upgrade along the defensive front, and in a more low-risk, high-reward move, the Colts signed veteran free agent cornerback Xavier Rhodes. A former star cornerback, Rhodes saw his play fall off a cliff in 2019, settling as one of the worst defensive players in the NFL by season’s end. Now with a new team following his release from the Vikings, Rhodes will be looking to revive his career in Indianapolis’s unique, zone-heavy coverage schemes.
Veteran receiver Mohammad Sanu will be looking for redemption this season as a focal point of New England’s offense. Acquired for a second-round pick at midseason last year, Sanu was a statistical disappointment thanks in part to an ankle injury suffered during his third appearance with the Patriots. Following a return to action, Sanu notched just 13 grabs for 110 yards across six games, including a playoff loss for New England. Now healthy following offseason surgery, Sanu will be looking to re-establish himself as a strong complementary piece to a team’s passing attack. His skill set, alongside Julian Edelman, are perfect fits for quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who will be eased into things as New England’s starter in 2020.