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You've Got Mail: 49ers Week

AZC_CardinalsMailbag

The Cardinals remain winless heading into back-to-back road games, but as hard as the loss to the Seahawks turned out to be, there is the optimism provided by the starting debut of Josh Rosen. As always, if I didn't get to your question, check to see if I answered something similar. And with that, on to your questions (and as always, click here to send questions in for next week's mailbag):

Do I get the sense they are happy with the offense? No. But at this point, that's in regard to the production more than anything. It felt like they were buying into the staff/scheme heading into the season, and frankly, the issue right now is that, whatever you want to point at in terms of play calling and philosophy -- which is fair -- there are also many examples of missteps from the players too, whether it is missed blocks or dropped passes.

Running back David Johnson is a great example. He is the Cards' best offensive weapon, and everyone wants to know why he hasn't touched the ball more (although 26 touches against the Seahawks was a good start) or been out on certain plays. Those are all good questions. But unfortunately, the last few times Johnson has spoken to the media, he has pointed out on his own his mistakes, whether it is making pass protection mistakes or running the wrong way and ending up on the wrong hashmark before Phil Dawson's kick. This is all a long way of saying that it's going to be difficult for anyone involved to be upset at any one particular problem at this point.

From Jessica Liby via azcardinals.com:

"Do you think the drops could have something to do with the receivers not being used to how Josh Rosen throws the ball in live action? It seemed to have more zip than Sam. I feel like in the rare instances Fitz drops a ball it’s early with a QB change ."

I can't speak to Fitzgerald's rare drops and exactly when they have come over the years. There is little question Rosen has some heat on his passes, probably more than Bradford. That could be on Fitz's first drop. His second "drop" was impacted by Justin Coleman's arm grabbing Fitz's arm more than the speed of the ball. And let's face it, the drops by Nelson, Kirk and Seals-Jones can't be put on the power of the pass. Kirk and Nelson both had some air under the throws and it just went through their arms.

From Matthew Tucker via azcardinals.com:

"Do think McCoy will expand the playbook after Rosen's performance vs Seattle? Also do you think they will take more shots down the field?"

I think Rosen certainly has the capacity for more options on Sundays, but again, the playbook is as much about the rest of the offense as it is Rosen. So that has to be kept in mind. If everyone can't execute everything, it doesn't matter if the QB is OK with it. As for shots down the field, I do think they will slowly do that -- but I think that's less about the exact playcalling and more about Rosen's comfort level and aggressiveness in doing so. I thought the downfield action was automatically going to increase going from Bradford to Rosen just because of each player's personality.

From Danny Reese via azcardinals.com:

"Why does the defense struggle so badly stopping running plays and dumpoffs outside the numbers? All four games thus far its been a glaring problem, and I've seen no effort to adjust for it. Is it a matter of the wrong personnel for the scheme, or is it a matter of coaching and scheme?"

When the coaches and players talk, we keep hearing about communication and making the wrong "fits." No one is getting more detailed than that. If it's just those issues, then it's a matter of the players being good enough but being in the wrong spots. This week, apparently there was at least one time when an audible was called but not everyone got the message and it led to a touchdown run. That can't happen, obviously. Like the offense, it's clear the defense remains a work in progress as well. Statistically, they have gotten a little better. Giving up 16 and 20 points often wins you games in today's NFL.

From Rodley St. Remy via azcardinals.com:

"Now that Rosen has four-and-a-half quarters of NFL football under his belt, is it safe enough to say, this kid has what it takes to be the best QB taken from the draft?"

After a game-plus? No. I mean, you have to like what you see so far, but it's way way way too early to make any pronouncements.

From Doug Keller via azcardinals.com:

"What does Rosen need to improve on most? Something I'm noticing is he is not looking off any defenders and is staring down his receiver."

That's funny, because one of the things I thought Rosen did the best was go through progressions and see the whole field. As a rookie I'm sure there will be some times where he gets locked in, but frankly, they way he was threading throws into tight windows, you can't do that if you are staring down receivers. As for what he needs to improve on the most? It's hard after that first game. I thought he did things well. Ultimately, I'd guess -- as a rookie -- he will need to make sure he has a good sense of living to play the next play. In other words, throw the ball away rather than wait forever looking for a big play and taking a strip-sack instead. That will happen at some point -- it does with all QBs -- because that's what rookies do.

From David McCommack via azcardinals.com:

"With David Johnson’s skills at running the ball and receiver, why does this coaching staff continually take him out on third downs?"

As you have heard from this coaching staff continually, they want to be able to trust players in the situations they are in. As you have heard a lot from Johnson -- and as I mentioned above -- he has made multiple mental errors. That's a bad combo. You can argue the risk-reward of Johnson being on the field -- and I am someone who does think Johnson needs to be on the field, to at least be a threat if not the top option -- but I think it's pretty clear you can draw a straight line to the third downs Johnson has not played and the trust they have in him to either pass protect or run the right route. Perhaps this is a reason Johnson hasn't been split out wide as much. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy prefers not to get into details about things, so he hasn't explained Johnson's evolution in this offense, but again, with as many times as Johnson has (to his credit) fessed up to mistakes, that makes the most sense.

From Rob Langeland via azcardinals.com:

"Why didn’t we take a time out with over 30 seconds on the clock in Q4? Not sure about the rules, but wouldn’t that have given us time to score after a possible Seattle field goal? Would like to hear!"

That is a fair question. I would think in that time frame, with the Seahawks left with no timeouts, the Cards didn't want to give them a chance to regroup.

From Rod Meager via azcardinals.com:

"Do you think the change in scheme is effecting Chandler Jones? Haven’t really seen him be a menace yet this season like we have all seen in years past."

It does feel like Jones isn't quite in the same place he was last season. I don't know if that is playing with more weight as a 4-3 DE, or if it is the scheme, or what it might be. He does have three sacks and tipped away a key pass against the Bears, so he's quietly done some things. But like a lot of guys on defense, I still think they are still getting comfortable.

From Josh Hartman via azcardinals.com:

"Do you see T.J. Logan having any effect on the team this year? It seems like he would be good for a few gadget plays at least a game to get him in space and see if his speed could bring another element to the offense."

I think it's clear at this point that, barring injury, Logan isn't going to have much of a role. Not unless Chase Edmonds falls out of favor.

From Cory Moser via azcardinals.com:

"I know you sports writers are the calm counterbalance to us reactionary fans. But is it fair to say the clock has started ticking on Wilks? McCoy?"

Guess it depends on the definition of the clock ticking. This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and results-based. But Wilks is four games into his tenure here, as is McCoy. They've already changed quarterbacks. Maybe things will be different from my perspective in December, but -- in terms of the clock ticking the way you are asking -- I'd say, no. Not like that. Not a month in.

1) I'm not sure where you are finding a "top tier WR" in October.

2) Please don't tell me Dez Bryant is that guy -- I'm not saying Bryant can't help a team -- because I would think multiple teams would've signed any top tier receiver at this point.

3) I think with Rosen, this team has the potential to be much more effective through the air. But I also think that to get away from the run, especially when you have a back like Johnson, would be a mistake.

From Dennis Kerry via azcardinals.com:

"After another critical drop by J.J. Nelson is there any chance the Cards bring in other receivers to try out and replace him?"

At this point, I think they will stick with Nelson given the speed he provides. The drops are an issue. Can't argue that. And the Cardinals will still look at receivers, I'd think. But unless someone comes along with significant speed, Nelson figures to be around.

From Lewis Backer via azcardinals.com:

"Coming out of training camp I thought releasing Matt McCrane in favor of Dawson was a huge mistake given the way McCrane performed and his leg strength. I was convinced sticking with the youth movement was the way to go. McCrane is now kicking for Oakland. What do you think?"

I think, yes, McCrane is kicking for Oakland, and yes, he kicked a game-winner Sunday, but he also missed two field goals. It was pretty clear for a good chunk of camp the Cardinals were going to stick with Dawson for another season. Now, where are we at this point? Obviously, Dawson needs to come through in clutch situations. That's why you stick with a vet in the first place, is for those very situations. I know people ask if there will be a change, and at this point, I don't see it. But I could understand if the leash were to be short.

From Jason Rodriguez via azcardinals.com:

"It is of my belief that we have had O-line struggles for at least 2-plus seasons now. For the most part, Mr. Keim's O-line draft picks have not panned out to say the least. How does the organization go forward in evaluating talent on the offensive line in terms of drafting new linemen? One could argue that the spread offense in college makes the learning curve more difficult for draftees to transition into a more pro-style scheme in the NFL. So how would our front office evaluate going forward? We cannot afford to keep missing on these linemen picks."

The Cards know evaluating offensive linemen isn't easy with the college game (I have written on the subject before), but in terms of massive changes in evaluation, I do not know. Having a new coaching staff and inevitably a new way of looking at linemen, there will have to be some change. Early on it looks like the Cards might have done OK with center Mason Cole. Perhaps that's a harbinger of things to come.

As always, Cap, your input is appreciated. But unfortunately, you fail to provide enough details. What kind of TV is it? What shoes are you wearing? Because if you just have on flip-flops, I mean, it is what it is. If you've got on some running shoes, OK, there's more concern. If it's a pair of Cole Haan's, my first question would be, why would you be wearing Cole Haan's to watch a football game? And -- I apologize if I make too many avatar assumptions -- isn't Cyndi Lauper there to hold you back?

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