We have arrived at the home stretch -- of the year with Christmas and New Year's, and of the season, with four games left at home against the 49ers, at the Bears, at the Eagles, and home against the Seahawks. Not a lot of queries this week, understandable with the bye. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag.
From Richard Wakefield:
"I don't understand the Kyler Murray bashing. The guy is 2-2 since his return and would have been 3-1 if Gannon hadn't gone for a fourth-and-3 instead of kicking a field goal. Give Murray a break! We have a lot of people playing better with the new coaches and I wouldn't be surprised if we won a few more even with the tough schedule."
I mean, you can't be surprised there are those taking aim at Murray. Kyler had struggled at times prior to his injury -- and a little since returning -- and it is fair to have doubts still. Having doubts and bashing aren't the same thing IMO and there are definitely those who will bash, but I think it's safe to say there are going to be anti-Murray people regardless of what he does.
From Dwayne Creek:
"Hi Darren. Rapid fires!
- Despite our really good draft class, we notably didn't have any (or many I should say) UDFA pickups. Tony Jefferson is my all time favorite, and I just think there's lots of possible gems out there are essentially free real estate.
- Seeing the astounding success of Brock Purdy in San Francisco, part of me thinks we should start treating Murray as a 'game manager.' I don't feel that's a slight. Brock might lead SF to Super Bowl ring, winning is winning. Kyler may have superstar talent, but he's not consistently put it together in 5 years. I think if the pressure is taken off him to be 'the man' and his only responsibility is to be a dink and dunker (and occasional deep ball, just like Brock) we could really start stacking some wins.
- I miss our offense where the running back caught footballs. You remember David Johnson nearly catching 1,000 yards? Why can't we do that again?
- Is Jon Gaines due back this year? And do you expect him to be a possible long-term player?
- Another week, another Hollywood/Kyler non-connection. I read that they are working on an extension with him, and I gotta ask, why? Clearly they don't have chemistry. Being friends doesn't matter. Murray seems to connect GREAT with big target Trey McBride."
Hi, Dwayne. Rapid answers:
- They do have running back Emari Demercado and tight end Blake Whiteheart on the 53-man roster who were undrafted rookies, and on IR with a back issue is long snapper Matt Hembrough, whom the Cardinals believe could have a future. I'm not sure how many UFDAs you are expecting; and it's not like they don't look either.
- I'm going to disagree. You don't draft a player -- especially a QB -- first overall and expect him to just be a piece. You don't give any player -- but especially a QB -- a top-of-the-line contract to just be a piece. (By the way, we are another year or so away from it, but Purdy is eventually going to want a lot of money and isn't going to take less if the 49ers say, you're just a game manager.) If Murray was in that offense with weapons like McCaffery, Deebo, Aiyuk, Kittle, I'm guessing it would look pretty good. I'm guessing it would have an element Purdy doesn't provide. Besides, how about letting Murray get some time in this offense and let the Cardinals build the roster up?
- Why can't the Cardinals have a running back gain nearly 1,000 yards receiving? Most teams don't have that. What makes you think that's not an anomaly? To me, a running back catching the ball that much just means your receivers and tight ends aren't good enough.
- Gaines went on IR and was never on the 53-man roster and is ineligible to return. He had a season-ending ACL tear anyway. He is a guy they want to look at again next offseason as a possible future center, that is true.
- I get the thought that Kyler and Hollywood haven't had chemistry this season, although let's not go too overboard with a couple of overthrows/underthrows. I disagree that being friends doesn't matter. If a QB has trust in a pass catcher -- I was just having this conversation with veteran Geoff Swaim about how Romo and Witten always clicked in that way -- it goes a long way. I don't know what the future holds for Hollywood, but I'm sure Murray would like him around if it makes sense. The two looked pretty good together last year before Brown hurt his foot.
From Howard Lynn:
"Do you see the Cardinals drafting Cody Schrader out of Missouri? He's a carbon copy of the 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey. He runs downhill and gains positive yards for the most part. He has good hands and catches the ball well out of the backfield and can also be used as a slot receiver. I'm from MO and grew up a Cardinals fan. Thanks for any insights."
We are way too far from the draft to know what they might do with any pick, but I don't know if I would call this guy a carbon copy; McCaffery I and many others knew by this time in the process. From what I can gather about this Schrader kid, he might be one of those UDFAs that Dwayne above was talking about. Or a sixth- or seventh-rounder. I do think they will look at multiple running backs this offseason because that's what you need to do at the position every year.
From Ben F:
"What do you think the Cardinals will do at cornerback next season? Are all these rookies the future? Is that enough?"
Next season is a long way away, Ben. I don't think there is any question they want to vet these current rookies as much as possible, one of the reasons it makes sense to play Divaad Wilson once Starling Thomas V got hurt, and why Marco Wilson -- who got plenty of snaps most of the season to show what he can do -- remains only on special teams right now. I'd expect the trio to stay Clark/Wilson/Garrett Williams, and Thomas could get back into the mix when he returns from his ankle, which could be this week. Veteran Antonio Hamilton is also back from his injury, although again, I think they stay young with playing time. All that said, I would not be surprised if they used a first- or second-round pick on the position in April.
From Rob Ert:
"Darren, not a real Cardinals question, but a question of your team of journalists. Who works for who? Who has any say as to what happens? You seem to, but does Dani work for you, how about Craig, Paul? I know not a big thing to ask, but just kinda wondered. Thanks for all."
Technically, all of them (and Zach Gershman, don't forget about Zach) are my direct report, but much of that has to do more with the business aspect of our job rather than the journalism. We all report to Tim DeLaney, who is the VP of content and creative. But as the director of editorial content, I have a pretty decent voice on what makes sense for what we might do and what fits our brand and current culture in the building. Our whole C&C department works together well in discussion and ideas. That's why I believe we are one of the best content teams in the league.
From Sam Winston:
"Hey Darren, two quick questions. One, What is your take on the Suns right now? Yeah, the big three haven't played together, but man that team doesn't look right. Two, how do you think the Cards will handle the weather in Chicago and Philly?"
Couple of quick answers, Sam. It sounds like Bradley Beal is actually going to return and play Tuesday, although it's fair to wonder how long that lasts. I still very much like that roster against most teams, but if they are never together or only get 20-some games together, that's a concern. (Love to see a true backup PG, tbh.)
As far as the weather, there is always a chance it won't be too back, but to play in Chicago for a late afternoon kickoff on Christmas Eve (that's 4:25 p.m. in Illinois) means night football during an already cold time of year. Philly on New Year's Eve is a 1 p.m. kickoff, but it's Philly in December. Kyler mentioned before and after Pittsburgh never having really evern dealt with weather games ever -- save for his win in Chicago in the wind and nasty rain in 2021. I can only say I pray for our sideline reporters. They don't get to use the heaters.