TEMPE – Expectations outpaced then-rising linebacker Zaven Collins to play in 2021.
After being named MIKE’s primary defense supporter last season, Collins fell to the ground hard, ending the year near the back of the depth chart and seeing a higher percentage of the team’s own shots (35%) than defensive (20%).
However, you want to take a look at it, Collins’ first season in the NFL was frustrating to say the least.
He will be the first to throw his name into the fire. He admitted how poor practices led to fewer shots and how a pair of shoulder problems, on top of him trying to push through the second stage, played a big role in the downward spiral.
Collins hopes the knowledge gained from his failures last season will turn into successes this year. It’s all about taking the good, the bad and the ugly in stride.
“It’s not always going to be a Cinderella story,” Collins said Thursday. “It’s life, that’s what it is. If it were all easy, it would be too good to believe. You have to go through something. And if that’s the hardest thing I have to do in my NFL career, I think we’ll be fine.
“I’m happy and not happy that it happened because you learn what it’s like to be a professional from Jordan (Hicks), from Bodda (Baker), from JJ (Watt) and from DJ (Humphries), I just talked to these guys. …even when I didn’t get On the actors I wanted or wanted to play more, I’d still go in, I’d still keep the same routine, and fight through it. This carried over to now where I still have the same study routine, which is talking to guys about certain things and it has helped.”
This Offison is very different for Collins, who is now without the veteran captain and former captain of the Hicks to lean on as he tries to take over as the defensive midfielder.
But from the voices in that, the workload of calling the defense and making plays may not be just for sophomores as the defense continues to work through off-season things.
– Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) June 9, 2022
In addition to adding another voice with great experience to former Minnesota Vikings LB Nick Vigil, Collins said the in-house supporter room is focused on staying versatile in the position.
“The thing we’re doing right now in the inner room is we can all play,” Collins said. “We’re interchangeable in what we can do. So if we get a call that has three different parts, one of us can take the main part of the role and the other person kind of looks for where we’re going to put that blitzkrieg, and where that’s what he’s doing and I try to set up the D-men lin…or covers and things like that…that’s kind of helping us out now instead of just having one guy do it all.
“I could be the guy in the middle, I could be somewhere in the middle but maybe not call (defense),” Collins added. “We don’t know what that is yet, so we’ll take that as we go into training camp. But obviously I feel comfortable now that I’ve had a year under my belt going through all the rules of the game and clearly learning other positions.”
Collins’ honesty and self-awareness are refreshing after a grueling rookie season.
While he says all the right things, the only real test is when the pads appear and when there is an opponent to play.
But for now, it’s about reducing mental errors and doing the little things right before the boot camp starts and taking things to another level in the coaching business.
“Hopefully he’s just making big strides,” Collins said when asked how much improvement he could have had last season. “As you go through the steps to success, it gets shorter and shorter because it’s hard to take those big steps.
“I’ve taken a big step and I hope to take another big step and every time you take these steps it gets shorter and shorter because the tuning of your craft gets smaller and smaller.”