With preseason football opening for the Cardinals on Friday, it is sink or swim time for rookie linebacker Zaven Collins who was thrust into the starting spot at inside linebacker and in charge of the defense.
"Guys are running like their hair's on fire, and everyone's looking at you to get that call out to them," said Collins of calling the defense. "There have been issues and you just gotta roll through, but it is day and night between what it was when we first got here. It's something that I love, and you know, I love having that weight on my shoulders. I think it's going good so far."
There will be growing pains, but Budda Baker said with young players, they just don't want to see them make the same mistake twice.
"He's out there making the calls, I hear him. That's about all I can tell you," said offensive lineman Justin Pugh. "When the bullets are firing for real, we will really know after the game this week. I've seen a lot of guys look good in OTA's, and I'm not saying that's the case with Zaven by any means, I'm just saying we've got to get to real football games."
Collins won’t have much experience to lean on next to him with Isaiah Simmons, the other starter inside, having just one year of NFL experience himself.
"Even though we've had different years, I just emphasized to him how important it is just to know the ins-and-outs of the defense," said Simmons. "Not only his position, but other positions."
"Of course being the young guy on the team, guys have been on me before," said Collins. "Guys have come up to me, yelled at me, done stuff like that because they have a passion for the game. I have a passion for a game as well. I have no experience right now, but pretty soon it's do-or-die, you have to do it. And those guys are pushing me every day to be in that position."
Cornerback Robert Alford was the guy Collins said yelled at him for the miscommunication on defense that led to a receiver being wide open.
"After the practice, he was like, 'Hey man, I apologize. I shouldn't act like that,'" Collins said of Alford. "It's okay, it's fine, because I know he was just trying to get me better, and we fixed it. It hasn't happened again."
Friday night under the lights is when the trial by fire begins for the 16th overall pick out of Tulsa.
"I'm very excited for Friday," Collins said. "Being able to go out there with the team, that'll be my first professional game. I'm excited for not only the Arizona Cardinal fans and organization, but my family back home and all the people in Tulsa. I know they're excited to watch that.
The Red Sea will have a keen eye on #25 as well.