A fresh week, the first loss, questions about QB1's health. Lot of stuff we're dealing with here. As always, you can leave a question for a future mailbag here.
From Zach Tyr:
"Was that it? Gut punch loss to the Packers, loss of Watt and Kyler goes down with an ankle. Was that the turning point, and now it all falls apart? We started 5-2 last year. Note on the entire year we didn't have any blowout losses. A team can implode and lose close, as we witnessed. And I saw your tweet about 'If Green catches that TD, are we even talking about this?' No, we wouldn't be. But he didn't catch it. And that's how these downfalls start. A sickening loss that shakes a team's confidence."
Couple things here. One, my tweet about Green was about people saying Kyler is a bad quarterback. Second, I'll give you props for the harshest sky-is-falling reaction I've seen for a while -- while in fact confirming it is only because Kyler did not hook up with Green on one single play.
I once covered a different pro sport, and I will leave out the details, but the owner let it leak out that the coach would be fired if he didn't happen to win a particular regular-season game upcoming. The coach, not surprisingly, was ticked. He was ticked off at the leak, and he was ticked off at the concept. If I'm bad enough to be fired, he said, then I should be bad enough to be fired even if we win this game. And he's right. You need to make up your mind -- are the Cardinals a 7-1 good team going forward (I say yes), or are they apparently, what? Fraudulent (which would be your current take)? I don't think their confidence is shaken, not like that. Clearly, the same cannot be said for some fans.
From Brook Anealon:
"Do you think Corey Peters makes an impactful difference on the DL? Grasping at straws here but very worried about our run D going forward. Hoping Peters can be that guy who settles us down without Watt."
There are two points to make here, and these two things aren't mutually exclusive. Yes, I think Peters helps with the run defense. I think he remains their best run-defending defensive lineman. But Watt is good at it too, and losing him still means the Cards will be hurt by his absence.
From Mark AZ:
"I was just thinking its been awhile since our last true heartbreaker. I'm not talking about injuries. Losing Maxx hurt bad. I mean just a total end-of-game heartbreaker. It's funny, we get to see them on a weekly basis on twitter affecting OTHER teams. We just watched the Bills drop a heartbreaker on the 1-yard line vs the Titans. National TV. It was hilarious. And you know what? Sucks when it happens to us. But I've realized we are pretty darn fortunate in that regard, Cards rarely have heartbreakers like that. Can you think of the last one?"
The Cardinals had a couple games last year that hurt -- the Miami loss, the Lions loss -- but heartbreaking usually also means you have to be good in the first place. I'm looking back and thinking that season-opening loss against the Patriots in 2016, when Chandler Catanzaro missed a makeable field goal on the final play, is the one I'd say.
From D NJFootball Fan:
"More and more reports coming in that Andy Isabella will be traded - many teams seem interested although you never really know - anyone mentioning this to you and do you think this may happen - especially since D-Hop nursing a hammy and the general grind on the rest of the WR room? Noticed Antoine Wesley dressed last week - must be a sign Andy on way out?"
Wesley being dressed has no bearing on Isabella's status. Wesley has been ahead of him all along because Wesley makes more sense on special teams and he's a better outside receiver. This will post right before the trade deadline. But as I write this before that, I'm thinking Isabella isn't going anywhere.
From Harry Hed:
"Hi Darren. Seeing so many GB fans in the stands doesn't make any sense to me, we are at home, undefeated, it should be a big advantage, but yet it is not! This happened also against Vikings and 49ers. I personally think the main reason are the season-ticket holders, selling their tickets. Is there anything the Cards could do to avoid it? Like tracking down who is selling their tickets more than 1-2 times, and just removing them from the list and replacing them with fans who would go to the games, or maybe setting up a page list where the fans list their tickets, and only Cards fan can buy it. As a fan this is so frustrating to watch, and this team the way they played, they don't deserve this. The organization have to figure this out. Maybe if the stadium wasn't so loud, A.J. could've heard the audible, and the miscommunication would've never happened."
I'm going to start with the latter first -- I have heard speculation about the final play, but no one has said it was an audible and if it was, no one has said it was missed because of noise. So I'm not sure how you'd know that. As for the tickets, I appreciate the concern. I appreciate the fans who get frustrated. But if you put a limit on how often people can sell season tickets, I'm guessing a lot more people wouldn't buy season tickets, and like it or not, that's the business -- selling tickets. This is something that comes up often over the years, and I wish there was an easy answer.
I saw commenter Scott H note that, who knows -- maybe you are a superfan and your kids get sick going into the weekend or there is a personal thing that stops you from going. Why shouldn't you be able to recoup some money in that situation? I have heard all the suggestions, and I'm not sure any work for one reason or another. (I await the angry comments about my stance below.)
From James Mertaugh:
"Not trying to kick a guy while he's down, just want what's best for the team, but Josh Jones is really struggling at right guard. Any chance a change is made? Justin Murray is coming off IR soon. I thought Harlow did a very good job at center. He had one bad snap but Garcia does that too. Maybe Harlow gets looks at starting RG?"
Steve Keim said he actually thought Jones played better against the Packers after an early bad pressure allowed. The way the Cardinals are talking about it, I don't expect a change. I definitely don't see it happening with anyone besides Murray, and he would have to come off IR.
From Jesse Gnomes:
"Hiya Big D. I won't hate on Rondale Moore too much. He played like a rookie for the first time all year after heavily contributing to a 7-0 start. My question is aimed at all kick returners, past/present/future, and maybe if you get a chance with Jeff Rodgers you can get his thoughts: Why would we ever take the ball out of the end zone? Statistically it's a terrible choice. The data overwhelmingly says take a knee, you start on the 25. I don't get it man, and you know Rondale (or whichever returner) and Jeff talk about it on the sideline. Do you understand it? There's almost no upside to ever taking it out."
You are correct in that statistically, it's hard to build any kind of case to bring a kickoff out of the end zone. The one he brought out after the muff could've been predicted -- he was trying to make up for his turnover, no matter how ill-advised. I can ask Rodgers what the plan is usually, if Moore has full control on the decision or not.
From Myron Hatfield:
"One question, then some observations. What is the status of Murray, Hopkins, and Hudson? We need them all to be healthy. Now for the observations. We shouldn't overreact after one loss in eight games. But we did learn three things in the loss to the Packers. 1, Green Bay is better than the Cardinals. According to Colin Cowherd, the Packers were without 11 starters. Eleven! And they manhandled the Cards for most of the game. 2. Without Watt the defense needs help. I'm going to see a Packer running back get hit behind the line of scrimmage only to spin to his right and gain another 3 or 4 yards in my sleep. 3. Without Hopkins the offense needs help. To have one of the other receivers not ready is one thing. But when all of them except Ertz is not ready, that's a problem. The Cards are very good. But without Watts and Hopkins, Green Bay is better than them (eleven starters out), Tampa Bay is probably better than them, and even though they beat the Rams earlier this year, the Rams are probably better. It's early, things can change, but there is serious work to be done."
I gotta say, I appreciate the chuckle here. You say don't overreact -- and then you proceed to completely overreact based on one loss that came within one A.J. Green turnaround of a win. Yes, the Packers were beat up. Sure seemed like the Cards were pretty beat up too. Not 11 starters -- and I'd have to check, but I don't know if it was 11 starters -- but that's the NFL. The Packers were better that night. Am I sure, after a three-point loss, the Cards are definitely an inferior team? If we aren't overreacting and judging by body of work, not sure how you can say for sure. Mostly it feels like you don't want to give much credit to the Cardinals for what they have done this season. As far as the injuries, we will see at the end of the week.
From Lo Vox:
"Do you think Rondale's muffed punt had anything to do with the roof being open? Think about the fact we haven't played an outside night game all year, and catching a punt up against the night sky is a new visual Moore is not dealt with here yet. Just a thought."
He caught punts in pregame with the roof open. I think it had to do with the way the ball was kicked, and maybe the pressure of the moment.
From Peter Kacmar:
"Hello Darren. What a painful way to lose after being so surprisingly (based on the whole game) close to victory. Based on your knowledge of the team chemistry, do you think such a loss is tougher to accept than, for example, a 10-14 points loss without any real chance to win? Also, additional time to heal injuries aside, do you think the 10 days to next game is an advantage or not? Personally I would be eager to play ASAP to get another win. Another question - is your weekend by any means free when the Cards play on Thursday?"
I think a loss is a loss. That one sucks, but by next week, it won't matter how it happened. And it wouldn't have mattered if it was a win or loss by then. I think the 10 days advantage is all about the rest and healing. That's enough. I don't think it makes a big difference in terms of planning, really. But rest means a lot at this point. Look at Kyler. Finally, I am actually writing this answer watching Red Zone on Sunday, because I need to get ahead. And I wrote the Kyler story this morning. So there's that.
From Sarah from Germany:
"Hi Darren and greetings from Germany! A big thing in German football shows and news at the moment is hosting an NFL game in Germany. My question: What do you think of the chance that the Cards will play one of their games here? I'd love to watch a game live 😀"
I personally would love to make a road trip to Germany. Do I think the Cardinals will be one of the first to play there? Not sure about that. I would think the first international game coming for the Cards would be a make-up for the Mexico game they lost in 2020.
From Raine Voights:
"Hey Darren. Hear me out. Do you think it is possible that Kliff said that Zaven Collins would be a starter from day one just to fire Jordan Hicks up and make him improve his game? I know Jordan has been a leader and racked up a lot of tackles the past two seasons; however why would we have drafted a LB in the first round if we didn't have our doubts about him. Just my thoughts and would like your thoughts on this."
I do not think they said Collins would be starter if they didn't plan on making him the starter. Heck, I think they would've potentially traded Hicks if the right deal had come along. I am sure they glad they did not; Hicks has been a big reason this defense has played so well. But what if you were right and that's why you name Collins starter -- how do you know Hicks reacts the right way?
From Sonny AZCards:
"Hi Darren, the antihero. Have you talked to Ertz? In your view do you think he could be Cards for long time? He seems to be very good teammate to be around, already glued with his new team, building positive energy, and fast learning Kliff's schemes, bringing extra value outside his excellent field performance. Other question, is about the Covid, KM is too valuable, is the team take extra precaution on him, like when meeting with coach Kliff, Chandler, Zach, those who got exposed lately?"
Ertz by all accounts is a great guy. I have not had a chance to talk one on one with him but he's the kind of guy you want around. We'll see what kind of contract he wants. It's a hard question. At his age, any next contract will have to take the future into account, but I wouldn't doubt the Cardinals would want to keep him at all possible.
From Dann Oyama:
"Darren, so far the Cardinals have been able to replace injured or Covid restricted players with very good backup personnel. I understand that our second center has an Achilles injury. How many position replacements does a team typically have available? The center position is so critical to the team. Thanx, DannO"
I mean, you get 53 players on the active roster, and have 16 on the practice squad. There is no set number. On the offensive line, Sean Kugler tries hard to have versatility from the reserves; the good thing about center is that Rodney Hudson should be back soon and Max Garcia may be as well.
From Matt Henderson:
"Hi, Darren. I have to say, when I read your posts, like watching players like Tom Brady do their thing every week, you guys make me feel young. Years and years of consistency! In a rapidly changing world, it's good to see some things stay the same. Keep up the good work and thank you. I've been a Cards fan since the Jake Plummer days and have loved the Folktales that you all have been doing. Is there a time in Cardinals history that has been your favorite? I even think about seasons with QB John Skelton - aka the 'Cardiac Cards' - and how those games were never dull. What we remember most is what was going on in our own lives during those times. Thanks Darren for all you do."
My favorite time in Cardinals' history? Obviously, I needed to be involved. There was nothing more exhilarating than covering from the inside that crazy January of 2009 on the Super Bowl run. I had covered the team for almost a decade for nothing close to that success, and to be around the team as that played out, with practice much later in the season, or going to the Super Bowl knowing you are covering one of only two teams left, that's pretty cool. Hope to do it again sometime, in fact.
From Drew Majors:
"Hi Darren, it's been spoken about on the fan forums, but after that GB game it seems clearer than ever: Kennard should start over Chandler. Kennard is just a better-rounded player. He offers OK pass rush, but his run defense is significantly better than Chandler. So just on a down-to-down basis, he offers more in a base package. Chandler is absolutely still our best pass rusher, but he should be better utilized as a situational pass rusher rather than three-down LB. This is not an attack on Chandler, it's a compliment of Kennard."
As with most of suggestions like this, I find it hard to believe Vance Joseph is going to stick with a player who would be lesser in the position just because -- see Hicks, Jordan. Is Kennard better against the run? PFF definitely thinks so. Could Kennard earn more snaps in run down situations? Maybe. But I don't see Jones going to the bench a lot more, especially with Watt now out.
From Hayden J:
"Hey Darren. My question is regarding the J.J. Watt injury. So apparently the injury happened in the second quarter and he continued to play the rest of the game. After the game, he was seen smiling like normal (like in the pic with D-Hop on his Instagram) and he even did a '7-0' Instagram post as well that seemed in good spirit. I am confused, did J.J. underestimate the significance of his injury? Did he try and hide it? It's just confusing/puzzling he could still play the entire game and be in such high and good spirits after the game, but sustained a potentially season-ending injury during it. Any insight is appreciated, thanks!"
It would be easy for a player to underestimate an injury. Just a few weeks ago Max Garcia was telling the story about tearing his ACL in a practice, and yet he practiced the rest of the way and thought it was a normal tweak, and when the doctor called him when he was on his way home to tell him he it was torn he was stunned. Watt has been through a lot; my guess is his pain tolerance is high. There's also the chance he knew he was in trouble and chose to ignore it the best he could the rest of the game because he knew he might not play for a while. There was a lot of adrenaline, he was playing against his former team, he was going to have to lose a limb to come out of that game.
From Kevin from Germany:
"Hi Darren - first of all thank you for the weekly mailbag and the respective insights! I do have a question unrelated to the team and more about the content on the website: Up until I guess the 2019 season you had 1-2 Cardinals players that went over a special play from the prior week. Of course most of the time it was one of the plays with major impact on the outcome of the game. The players described their assignments and what they were thinking etc. Where did that go and do you think it might be possible to reinstate that segment? Thanks as always and best wishes!"
Hey there Kevin. Do you know Sarah? Anyway, the series to which you refer was called Film Room, and unfortunately, it was a casualty of the pandemic. It was impossible to put together given the locker room restrictions under which we must now work. It was also Kyle Odegard's baby, conceived by him and executed by him, and with Kyle gone, I am not sure if it would ever come back.
From Michael Liddick:
"Why haven't the television broadcasts this year used Ron Wolfley and Dave Pasch for the play-by-play and color commentary? I miss their chemistry!"
Wolf and Pasch only do TV for the preseason games. Regular-season and postseason games are broadcast by national networks, and they employ their own announcers. But Pasch and Wolf can be heard doing every game on 98.7, Arizona's Sports Station or other affiliates.
From Rob Bates:
"I know its early and you don't have the answer, but do you feel they'll extend Jordan Hicks? He's been quit an addition in his time here and think he was handed a bad deal early on. He seems to be a great piece of this puzzle."
They don't have to extend him. He is under contract for 2022.
From Stacy Wright:
"Darren, can NFL teams trade cap money and/or draft picks without a current player being named at the time of the transaction? Essentially an early paid marker for a future player acquisition later in a current season or for a future year. For instance, a team might have an over abundance of talented players at a particular position, but don't want to deal them away at the moment, yet another team wants any one of those players enough to trade for in the future, can that happen within the rules?"
No. This isn't baseball, where you can trade for future considerations or a player to be named later. For one, it would be too easy to circumvent salary cap rules. Any trade has to happen in the moment. Besides, if I am a team, I'm not trading for a guy who would continue to play for another team and have a chance to get hurt. That's why the Zach Ertz deal -- where the sides knew they would pull off the trade Friday but held off so Ertz could play a final time with the Eagles -- was so crazy. What if he had a serious injury? Or even a sprained ankle keeping him out a month?
From Jack Murphy:
"I know you mocked fan suggestions of who the cards can bring in, but could you please humor me for a second? I thought about this really hard. So at least respect the effort and thought process. Quinnen Williams. My pitch: A star IDL is a luxury on a rebuilding team like the Jets. Yes he's fantastic. And they don't need him right now (or years to come). They need a QB and WRs and OL and CBs. They need our first-round pick to help with the rebuild more than they need him. We need him more than we need our first-round pick. That's my offer - first round pick (+ a midround pick) to the Jets for Quinnen Williams. At least pick up the phone Keim."
I'm not going to mock, but if you are going to put thought into this, you need to put all the thought into this. For that kind of draft capital, you have to commit to giving that guy a contract extension, and he will be looking for it sooner rather than later (like Kyler, he is eligible for an extension after this season.) The Jets would also have to eat at least $10M in dead cap space. With the draft capital they have invested in the defensive line, and knowing they have other areas for which I think they'd like to consider with a first-round pick (pass rusher, offensive line, maybe cornerback) I just don't know if it is necessary.
From Julian Moorefield:
"I know Fitz gets brought up a lot in your mailbag, but I promise this mention is only for reference. We all know Fitz loved to prank the staff/players/practically everyone, but now that he is gone, have any of the players stepped in to be the new 'class clown' so to speak? I always found it hilarious when Fitz would sneak tackle someone or put smelling salts under an unsuspecting reporter's nose; so if there is a new kid on the block could we please see some highlights?"
With the pandemic, I haven't been able to see how the locker room operate in a long time. I don't know if there will be anyone in the Fitz realm anyway. Hopefully, at some point, we will get back into the locker room.
From Robert Campos:
"Darren, can you confirm if Steve Keim wears socks with his suits? On game days, I have noticed that he is lacking socks. He might just start a trend. Thanks."
I do not believe he wears socks. There are a handful of higher-ups with the Cardinals that do that when dressing up, I have noticed.
From GG Thompson:
"Darren, please assign some intern to determine the Cardinals' W/L record when wearing the color rush uniforms. I know you think 'it doesn't matter' but it's weird we seem to only lose when we wear them, so it matters."
Incorrect. That's not how it works. Not at all. It might matter to you, but it doesn't matter in terms of the Cardinals winning or losing. That's a coincidence, nothing more.
(The Cards started wearing the color rush in 2017 -- yes, they have have lost every time, but Thursday night was the first time they were actually favored to win in a game in which they wore them, and it's not like the Packers are trash.)