WESTFIELD, Ind. — John Simon isn't the type of player you can really define and put into a box.
Something of a "tweener" player, his size and athletic profile doesn't point to any one position.
Last year in the Indianapolis Colts' 3-4 defense, Simon was primarily the 3-4 SAM outside linebacker, focused on dropping into coverage, setting the edge and getting after the quarterback.
Standing up at linebacker and playing out in space gave Simon the freedom to use his instincts to make plays, and he did just that. Including the preseason, in the first 10 games of the 2017 season Simon had 40 tackles (three for loss), four sacks, one forced fumble, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two pass breakups.
After that, injuries limited Simon to just three more games the rest of the season, and he seemed to be hampered in those three contests.
Moving forward to 2018, a new coaching staff brought about a different scheme, switching to a 4-3 defense from the 3-4. From the outside, Simon appeared to be a natural fit to remain the SAM linebacker, standing up and making plays.
However, all offseason the team declared Simon a defensive end. It was met with plenty of skepticism considering Simon's assumed fit as an off-ball linebacker and the fact that he doesn't have the prototypical — or even typical — defensive end build.
Yes, Simon played defensive end at Ohio State, but he has also shown his chops as a linebacker in his five NFL seasons.
Well, here we are two weeks through training camp and Simon has made a rather seamless transition back into life as a defensive end.
Once the pads came on, so did Simon.
Recently, Colts head coach Frank Reich mentioned to the media that some players just take it to the next level once the pads go on and football can actually be played. Simon spoke with the media after Monday's practice and was asked if he fits that narrative.
"I think pads definitely help me," he said. "With my style of play, I try and be a physical presence out there and any time I'm able to do that I think I'm more productive on the field.
"I don't want to say the pads are the only reason, but I think pads definitely help my style of gameplay and we've got a lot of physical guys this year and we've brought in some new physical guys that are definitely gonna help us out."
When you have the motor, hustle and dedication to film study that Simon has, you find a way to stick around — and more importantly, stick out. He did just that again on Thursday in the Colts' preseason opener, logging 1.5 sacks in just nine total snaps against the Seattle Seahawks.
Simon's focus now is primarily on being disruptive and getting into the offense's backfield, a role that he said requires a lot less thinking than at linebacker. However, he is blending that mentality with the freedom that linebacker gave him to get to the ball.
During a live drill in Sunday's practice, speedster running back Nyheim Hines went in motion before the snap and continued into the flat as the ball was snapped. These plays are typically gimmes for a couple of yards as the quarterback gets the ball out immediately. However, Simon stepped up and batted the ball down — something you can't always do if your sole focus is feverishly running to the quarterback.
Plays like that, and the fact that Simon has consistently been able to get into the quarterback's pocket throughout camp, has been reassuring that regardless of what position in which he lines up Simon is going to find a way to succeed.
He was asked specifically about that play and if he's still able to approach defensive end with his instincts and playmaking ability rather than just charging right at the quarterback.
"I think I need to catch that ball, first off," Simon sort-of joked. "But I think it helps me looking at formations before the snap. I still try to be aware because a lot of people have tendencies, and that's what you study film for, so I'm trying to be as aware as possible while I'm still trying to be disruptive at the same time."