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You've Got Mail: Bengals Preseason Week

Topics include cornerback depth, what to see in Cincy, and potential signings

Mailbag Kennard 0809

A game week has arrived. Friday night, the Cardinals will open the preseason in Cincinnati. Today, there is a mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Joshua Hall:

"Hey Darren! Always enjoy hearing your input on the Big Red Rage. There still seems to be a lot of questions at cornerback. I haven't heard much on Jace Whittaker. How's he doing in camp? Any way he makes it into the starting lineup? Thanks!"

Whittaker has done enough to last with the team this long despite being undrafted and smaller than you'd like. I could see him potentially on the practice squad or deep on the depth chart, but right now he's no better than the fifth cornerback and I still expect this team to sign a veteran at some point.

From Danny Easterman:

"Hollywood Brown going 126 mph. That infuriates me. Zero consideration for the safety of others. I don't care if he's a member of the football team I root for. Everyone reading this has gotten a speeding ticket for going 20 over. It happens. 126? That's a not a 'mistake.' What's wrong with him?"

Brown has not yet spoken out so I don't know what his mindset was. But yes, that's a scary speed if he was indeed going that fast (I'm not even sure how during rush hour on the freeway he could even get that fast.) You are right, that is a risk that no one should be taken. Thankfully, no one was hurt and I would hope that Brown will have been fortunate to learn such a lesson never to do it again.

From Chris Fernandez:

"With the first preseason game approaching, which player is on your list to watch that might be flying under the media/fans radar? My favorite part of the preseason is the previously unknown player who makes a name for themselves only to get cut then reading everyone complain to you on here asking why they got cut lol. Also, I am incredibly worried by how Isaiah Simmons is being used on defense. First, I hope he gets the new contract but with Vance Joseph is coming up on year three of figuring out how to use Simmons on defense, we could have another first-rounder walk out like Haason Reddick. Second, I believe Joseph's desperate repositioning of Simmons shows just how many holes the defense currently has."

A player to watch is a good question. One guy to me who has flashed a couple of times is tight end Chris Pierce Jr. He's a converted receiver, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that he has made some nice grabs. I don't know if he can block. But as an undrafted guy, I'e noticed. As far as the Simmons stuff, he sounds pretty happy with the spot he's in right now. We will see if that translates into a high level of play. For me, what happened before is moot at this point. But I agree this season is a very large one in Simmons' timeline.

From Michel Kenny:

"Hi Darren! As the sometimes amateur scout that I am, I wanted to provide my insights from practice:

  • Rashad Lawrence is looking good. He regularly gets penetration up the middle.
  • Myjai Sanders is quick. He has a nice jump-cut and spin move. I'd say he has the edge to make a real difference for us.
  • Keontay Ingram looks really good. Both as a runner and pass catcher. I think Williams will be the primary No. 2, but Ingram is making the team. Unfortunately I'm not sure how many touches there will be to go around for Eno. I'd say those four are the RB room.
  • Dortch looks great. I feel like thats 2 camps in a row. That's not to say he will contribute in season.
  • Not to end on a downer, but the offense isn't looking explosive. Lots of check downs. Couple picks. D is definitely ahead of the O no question. Could it be because Kyler hasn't been practicing? Yes. But the bigger issue is the wide receivers aren't getting open. Hop is doing Hop things, and Dortch has made big plays; but on a snap-by-snap basis, I'm seeing the QB struggling to find the open dude and sometimes there is none. Thanks."

Well, given that Kyler hasn't been around and Hollywood Brown has yet to take a snap in practice and Hop has done very little, I'm not all that concerned on that front. With the running backs, I think you are overlooking Jonathan Ward, especially since he brings big value on special teams.

From Kellen Hunt:

"Nothing like a salad for an upset stomach, and Hump got a healthy pile of green, eh?"

That seems a fair assessment.

From Matt from Mesa:

"I saw the comment from Kliff Kingsbury that he wanted to have Kyler call plays at that first Saturday practice because "that (expletive) ain't easy." A lot of people on Twitter were commenting on Kliff being negative to his QB. Is that what Kliff was doing, and if so, why would he do that?"

I saw the outsized outcry about that comment, and to be honest, I didn't understand it. This idea that Kyler and Kliff have a bad relationship and it is somehow leaking out through what Kingsbury said is funny to me. That is Kliff's sense of humor, and yes, there was some truth to wanting to get Kyler to understand how that process of calling plays can be difficult. But everything he said Kingsbury was doing with a chuckle -- I was in the room, I know the vibe -- and I guarantee Kyler would take it that way.

From Jason B:

"Hi Darren. Two years in a row we have had top players arrested for speeding (Collins and Brown), we have a coach who has been charged for domestic battery. D-Hop is suspended for the most idiotic reason. Do you expect the NFL to suspend Brown for criminal speeding? With everything going on and high optimism for the season should there be any concern?"

I do not expect Brown to be suspended. Collins wasn't. As for "concern," I'm not sure for what you are asking. Big picture is there concern with everything going on? I don't know. We still have a long time before games count.

From Brandon Miller:

"First of all I'm amazed at how well you answer crazy questions like ones about the colors of the helmet and win/loss predictions. Well done. I personally feel the offense will have no problem moving the ball and scoring this year, too many weapons, but I do have concerns on the defensive side. Do you foresee some Keim Time signings coming during camp or more likely after final cuts around the league?"

You say signings like plural. As I continue to say, I do think there will be a veteran cornerback signed. When, I am not sure. This could even go all the way into the regular season -- vets signed after Week 1 don't have guaranteed deals, and teams sometimes want to hedge against veterans who may or may not still have something in the tank. But if you are expecting some influx of difference-makers at some point, I mean, that's not going to happen. Daryl Washington is not walking through that door.

From Bo Harshbarger:

"Have you heard anything about Jalen Thompson getting a contract extension? I feel he is gonna have a monster season! Giving us the best safety tandem for the money?"

I have not heard anything, but I do think he would be one of the guys who has to be under serious consideration to get one sooner rather than later.

From Jasper W:

"Hi Darren, thanks a lot for your mailbag. The article about Darrel Williams contains also a part about the search for punt and kick returners. Could you please explain what is the main difference between a punt and a kick returner in terms of skillset, athleticism and size? Or is there anything else that makes the difference? To me the requirements for both positions seem quite the same. Thanks a lot and and best regards to AZ from Germany!"

We appreciate you following from Germany, Jasper. Basically, a kickoff return man is about straight-line speed more than anything and a fearlessness that allows you to pick a lane and hit it as fast as you can hoping that it stays open long enough for you to get through, and knowing that it usually won't. Still, you have time to catch the ball without much fear of defenders. That can't be said about punt returners, who also must have a fearlessness -- except their version is about staring into the sky, waiting for the punt to come down, not knowing for sure how far away a defender is to drill them. Ball security is crucial, and if you are good, you also have to have the quickness to make the first guy (or a couple guys) to miss and then acceleration to get yards out of it. Some guys can do both. Others struggle with one or the other.

From Jade Hartley:

"Hiya Durbz, I'm a little bit worried about Zach Allen. We've heard the tale about how his ankle was just held together by duct tape last year. The normal living person part of me says 'Hey, injuries don't evaporate just because it's a new season.' That's not how time works. I sprained the heck out of my shoulder when I was 17 and eight years later to this day it flares up sometimes. That's what injuries do. So while I'm happy Zach is feeling better, isn't it probably likely the ankle will be a problem again?"

Well, the question in part is, did you ever have surgery to fix the shoulder? Because Zach had surgery to repair the damage in his ankle. Does that mean his ankle won't get hurt again? No. But having a highly paid surgeon fix it up, assuming it was done right, goes a long way to make sure the past injury isn't a problem. This isn't a case of a degenerative knee or something.

From Chitown Flyer:

"Hey Darren. What's the general opinion of Hop's suspension? Because everytime a guy gets popped, he says he didn't know, his drink was spiked, the roads were slick and he didn't know how to drive a stick, etc. But every once in awhile, it's true. A guy did take a tainted supplement, not knowing it had banned agents. He got flagged for trace elements of something exotic. I usually don't believe these guys when they deny it. But I'm in the rare camp of believing Hop on this one."

I can't tell you what the "general" opinion is. For me, I can't even go by anything but what's been done since I don't have access to all the facts It does seem like a harsh penalty if Hop indeed had such a small amount in the system. I think there are definitely people in the organization who feel Hop was wronged. But I don't see anything changing suspension-wise, so it's something the Cardinals and Hop have to deal with.

From Sonny AZCards:

"Hi Darren, how is your summer? I hope all is good. What is your opinion on game suspensions that NFL apply on players who 'break the rules? I am reading Watson for all his issues that involves two dozen of women suing him he got a six-game suspension, no fine. Hopkins took a trace amount of PEDs, also got six games. In my opinion those two players are on two different level of violations. If Watson got six games, D-Hop should get one hour. Is this subjective to someone?"

Suspensions for PEDs and substances of abuse are set in the CBA. Suspensions for other violations, including those of a potentially criminal nature, or in this case, sexual assault, are at the discretion of who is handing down the punishment. I do believe Watson should have more than six games.

From Paddy Scunci:

"I don't really want to hear about keeping the wide receiving corps happy, considering they were wholly ineffectual after Hopkins went down last season. They had all the targets their little stone hands could hold, but they did next to nothing with those opportunities. I'm happy we got Hollywood, but my memory isn't so short that I don't remember the fact our WR corps disappeared. They need to step up big-time, and they needs to be the energy towards them."

OK. So no question, just an airing of grievances.

From Don P:

"Appreciate what you do Darren. Trying to find out how to watch the Cincinnati preseason. Can you give us the options?"

Channel 12 will have the game on locally in the Valley live. If you are out of state, there is always the NFL+ package. NFL Network will also show replays of the game at midnight Eastern on Friday (game night) Aug. 12 and Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. Eastern.

From English Ian:

"I guess I'm asking on behalf of all our United Kingdom's Cardinals fan base. When will the Stadium tours be starting up again?"

Tours of State Farm Stadium I assume you are asking? Those are still available. If you are asking about this team playing overseas, that I don't know.

From J Merenda:

"Why don't we see more of Cardinals camp? The NFL Network seems very thin in their coverage. They put more coverage time for the Rams, Colts, Eagles, and Steelers, etc. The rest of the NFC west is quiet."

I mean, at the Red and White Practice, the NFL Network was here for a third time already in camp. Not sure if you are going to get a lot more than that.

From Rob Ert:

"I know this is outside your area of expertise. Why is there such an effort for the release over Brittany Griner, who confessed to breaking the law. Unless I'm wrong hash oil is illegal here, also. With all the problems going on, I just am having a hard time with the people involved, including the President. Like I said I know it's out of your ballpark, but I had to ask a sports reporter that seems to be pretty in tune with situations. If you don't answer I'll live. I really would appreciate your feedback. Thanks and keep going."

I definitely have some thoughts, although I don't know -- based on the question -- if you will like it. I understand she broke a law, but for less than a gram, no one should be in prison (in Russia or elsewhere) for nine years. I don't believe Russia has done this to Griner purely because she broke a law, and for anyone who does, I think you are being willfully disingenuous. I believe this was a political play from the start -- Griner has been playing in Russia for years, my guess is she's been doing what she does for much of that time -- and for people to think it's OK she is thrown away in a Russian prison is sad to me.

From Stevie Henderson:

"Not really a question, Darren, but since you've been inundated with questions/comments about new uniforms, I wanted to let you know what Michael Bidwill told the club seat holders on Saturday after practice. He asked us how we liked the new black helmets and of course, there was rousing approval. Then with a big smile he said fans have been asking about new uniforms and he said to stay tuned. I hope that means we will hear something soon. I just think it is probably too late this year."

I appreciate the heads-up. It wouldn't be this year, correct, because these things have to be approved a year in advance and teams are going to want to hype up this sort of thing before the season -- like the alternate helmets. But my guess is, fans were already going to stay tuned because they aren't letting this go. I am quite sure of that.

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