NFC Notes: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks

Cardinals

When the Cardinals drafted LB Zaven Collins in the first round, GM Steve Keim wasted no time saying they brought him in to start. That caused veteran LB Jordan Hicks to seek a trade but after nothing materialized, he resolved to make the best of the situation and mentor Collins like he was mentored by veteran LB DeMeco Ryans when he entered the league with the Eagles. Ultimately, Hicks ended up winning the starting job while Arizona took it slow with Collins. 

“When you hand something to somebody, not only is he looking over his shoulder like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have this,’ but maybe you have people looking from outside in and thinking, ‘Damn, that’s a weird dynamic,’” Hicks said via the Athletic’s Robert Mays. “But with the competition in that whole room, the way that everyone handled it, we all showed up with a smile on our faces — as friends, as respectable peers.”

Something similar happened last year with first-round LB Isaiah Simmons — a blue-chip athlete who had to catch up to the mental side of playing linebacker. Simmons benefited from easing into things and is playing well in his second season. Cardinals LB coach Bill Davis expects similar results for collins. 

“Everybody wants an instant superstar, especially when you draft them in the first round,” said Davis. “The NFL game is hard, and it’s a grind. You’ve got to learn how to take care of your body, how to study, how to take notes, how to prepare each day. And that’s why you put somebody with a mentor and say, ‘Okay, just do what he does,’ and he’ll slowly figure it out. You’ve got to grow the confidence and the skill set.”

“A lot of people say, ‘Just put him in and let him make the mistake,’” Davis added. “You make mistakes and lose games for us, you’re not liked in the locker room. You’re not. You don’t like yourself, and you’re not liked. It’s a society of productivity.”

Rams

Rams WR Van Jefferson opened his second year as the team’s No. 3 receiver, but the torn ACL to Robert Woods pushed him into a much larger role, perhaps before he was ready. He leaned on Woods a lot before the injury as a mentor and has continued to do so. Woods also has kept involved. He called each receiver personally to give them the news of his torn ACL and has worked closely with Jefferson, including going over film which led directly to one big catch a couple of weeks ago against the 49ers. 

“He asked me what position I was playing, I said, ‘I’m the Z.’ And he said, ‘OK, well, on this play, you’re going to get the high cross,’” Jefferson said via the Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. … I think that Josh Norman is going to bite on a double-move and Odell is going to get over the top.’ And he said, ‘I’m telling you, the way I watched the film, you’re going to be over the top.’ And sure enough, it was there. Me and him talking, him seeing things from a totally different perspective, I call him every game just to ask him what he thinks, what techniques he’s used. … He’s been helping me in that way.”

Jefferson has struggled with drops all season and that’s only been magnified with his increased role. But he’s also continued to show flashes as a deep threat, with a long touchdown against the Packers and another score in Week 13’s win against the Jaguars. In addition to Woods, Jefferson says new addition Odell Beckham has been a valuable mentorship presence in the receiver room. 

“I didn’t play my best ball at all,” he said. “I was really down after the (San Francisco) game. Odell sent me this long list of people just talking bad about him, and how he can be better, and he said, ‘Look, bro, I’ve been there, I’ve been through it before. Don’t dwell on this.’ So that encouraged me a lot, for him to do that.”

Seahawks

  • The Athletic’s Jeff Howe mentions Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is due a $5 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2022 league year, so if Seattle decides to trade him, it probably would be before then. 
  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes there’s often a surprise head coaching opening each year and this year some league insiders are keeping an eye on the Seahawks and HC Pete Carroll. Seattle is 4-8 and the 70-year-old Carroll might not be up for a rebuild if Wilson wants out due to philosophical differences with him. 

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