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You've Got Mail: Bengals Week

Topics include Swearinger's release, tight end coverage and a 17th game


The Cardinals head to Cincinnati this week in search of their first win. In the meantime, here are some of your questions. As always, you can send questions in for next week's mailbag by clicking here.

Kliff Kingsbury said either one could replace Swearinger, although you'd have to wonder if it was Jalen Thompson if he would take free safety and Budda Baker would play the strong safety spot. Deionte Thompson has gotten more reps on defense, and has been ahead of Jalen, so for that reason alone I am guessing Deionte would get first crack. Either way, you don't release a vet like Swearinger without having some serious discussions about what would happen if you pulled the trigger.

(And also, very excited to see the "Thompson twins" moniker gaining some momentum. I feel like my work has meaning.)

From O-Lo via

"Any potential that with Kliff Kingsbury being a laid-back, easygoing rookie coach that he is not seen as an authoritative figure? Potentially, unable to hold players and coaches accountable? Won't get on defensive coordinator Vance Joseph because he is a seasoned coach, helping him navigate through the process? Won't challenge Keim on waiver signings or releases? Relies too much on other people because he doesn't know. Have you ever seen Kingsbury get upset?"

There are a lot of questions there and I don't know if they are all directly related. He gets intense. It's just not a loud intense. Also, he's a man, he's 40, and also has been a head coach for a number of years (yes, at the college level, but still) so I don't see him having an issue getting across what he wants. Now, is he going to suddenly start dictating a bunch of defensive stuff to Joseph? Probably not. Just like, for instance, Sean McVay isn't going to toward Wade Phillips even if the Rams are getting sideways against the Bucs. Kingsbury has points he'll make, but maybe not publicly -- he definitely believes keeping as much as humanly possible in-house. The idea he isn't being consulted on signings or cuts isn't right either. Does he have final say? No. But why would Keim, knowing he has something on the line here too, simply run roughshod over the roster against his coach's desires when he needs the coach to succeed?

From Duane Wisner via

"Hi Darren, with the hashmarks different in the NFL and college, how does this affect Kingsbury's schemes he runs now? Thank you for bringing back the NoteCards!"

Kingsbury said in the summer part of the work during the offseason was adjusting a lot of the plays to account for the change in hashmarks. Obviously, with the hashmarks much closer to the center of the field, it doesn't allow the offense to spread out the defense nearly as much as it can on the college level. Crossing routes and rub routes aren't quite as easy because there is less room on the wide side of the field. But I know Kingsbury has accounted for it.

From Millie Diskin via

"We need to talk about Kyler's biggest flaw by far. He holds onto the ball and takes 20-yard sacks. It's been four games of this. At what point do you bench him to send a message? And the answer of 'you never bench him' is not an answer. Otherwise he will continue to do this, until a message is sent. What he's doing is as bad as throwing multiple interceptions. You'd get benched for that, so why not the sacks? He must get rid of the ball. If he keeps doing that, put in Brett Hundley."

  1. He takes too many sacks that he could avoid. This is indisputable.
  2. "You never bench him" sure sounds like an answer. The right answer, in fact.
  3. He has yet to take a sack of 20 yards. I believe the worst one has lost 12 yards.
  4. I would argue that is isn't as bad as throwing multiple interceptions. Even after a sack, you still have the ball. I agree it needs to be cleaned up.
  5. I think to myself where the Seahawks would be if they had benched Russell Wilson for taking bad sacks over the years. The Cardinals would've loved that.
  6. The message is already sent. Murray understands he has to be better. I think, four games into his NFL career, he deserves to be allowed to make mistakes.

I am not a coach. I can't pretend to know exactly what it is. I agree that, at times, it looks like between the defenders -- especially in zone -- the communication is not on point. That doesn't help. But sometimes the guys who are covering just aren't winning one-on-one. I've seen Jordan Hicks in this situation, and Haason Reddick, and the now-departed D.J. Swearinger. I do think it might have something to do with how they are using their cornerbacks -- it'll be interesting to see how much it changes when Patrick Peterson returns.

From Jeshua Witt via

"In your opinion do the Cardinals have a more difficult time filling their stands with home fans than other teams? I mean no disrespect to our fans but it seems like away teams almost always show out very well in State Farm Stadium."

I have lived in Arizona most of my life. This area -- whether it's the Cardinals or any of the other teams -- tends to flock to winners, and fade a bit if a team isn't winning. I don't recall a big issue in 2015 when the team was going well. (That said, ticket brokers are a thing, as is the reality that if you're offered a mint for your tickets for a particular game, I can understand why it'd be hard to turn down.) Arizona is a good destination city too for opponent fans looking to make that one road trip a season.

From Sage Blackberry via

"A.Q. Shipley is currently on a one-year deal, and playing admirably. But we know the team has high hopes for both Mason Cole and Lamont Gaillard. Do you think we bring A.Q. back again next year, or do we start the transition?"

I think there is a long way to go this season and that can have an impact. But I would agree that they like Gaillard and Cole a lot. Shipley is older. If you are transitioning to the future, it makes a lot of sense to move to Cole at center next season (I think they'll see Gaillard as a guard, although I suppose Gaillard could play center and Cole guard.) As young as the Cards are getting, that'd be my guess -- although I never count out A.Q.

From Jerry Brown via

"I'm worried that Kliff Kingsbury has a Steve Wilks problem, i.e. he says one thing but does another. Preseason he said David Johnson would play a significant role in the offense, that he would utilize the players' strengths, etc. But we have almost no running game (other than Kyler). Do you think he is learning or just reciting phrases? Of course, if we were winning, none of this would matter."

The Cardinals actually ran the ball fine against the Seahawks when they did run it, and David Johnson actually played the biggest role in the offense. In terms of "saying one thing and doing another," I learned a long time ago to be cautious with what a coach says. Besides, it doesn't mean they aren't trying to do those things. Executing them might be something else entirely. And you're right -- winning changes everything.

First of all, the Falcons game is in Arizona. Peterson is eligible to return the following week in New York against the Giants. Alford has to miss at least 8 weeks on IR -- which means the first game he would be eligible to play would be Halloween night against the 49ers. He can't start practicing even until after the Falcons game. Sunday, you could see Alford walking around with a limp; there is no announced timetable of his return and I wouldn't think he's even running yet in rehab much less close to practicing.

No, I don't see Kingsbury going anywhere after this season.

From Juan Martinez via

"Hey Darren. I'm not a ranting fan. But I can see this season isnt trending great. Statistically we are pretty much out of the playoffs already.
So with that said, this has always been a rebuild. At what point do we start getting game reps for the Thompson twins? More reps for Andy? More reps for Brett Toth and Lamont Gaillard? This is NOT throwing in the towel. This is making sure 2020 is successful by figuring out what we have now. Thank you."

Well, since you sent this in the Cards released Swearinger, so you'll get your wish with a Thompson or two. And with the Christian Kirk injury, that might speed up Andy Isabella's use in the slot. On the offensive line, I don't know if much will change there anytime soon. I think they like having vets in front of Murray. I understand your point and as the season goes on, I think we'll see more and more of that mindset.

(And also, did I mention I'm low-key proud that the "Thompson twins" moniker is catching on?)

Since becoming GM in 2013, Steve Keim has been in charge of seven drafts. Of those 54 players (including a supplemental pick for S Jalen Thompson this season), 19 are on the Cardinals' roster/IR and one on the practice squad. Of the other 34, 19 are on NFL rosters or an IR list, and one is in the CFL.

From Sidney Sexson via

"When I talk to other fans of our team, or read the mailbag questions/comments, I understand we are starved for wins after last season, but this was always going to be a rebuilding year. I am encouraged by the progress on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense would be much better if we had P2 and Alford in the backfield. It would definitely allow us more options in putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Even with P2's suspension I think if we had had a healthy Alford we would have at least 1 win out of the first 3 games. Darren, what are your thoughts?"

I've said a few times I believe having Alford would've helped. Having both he and Peterson would've helped a ton. Once both those guys were sidelined, and after Philon was released, my expectations for the defense weren't very high. I understand the frustrations in certain aspects -- at some point, you have to be better against tight ends than you are right now -- but my thought was if this defense allowed 20 or 23 points a game, that's probably a good thing. Then you had to hope the Cardinals could outscore some teams.

From Ron Mix via

"Sorry for the random question, but why did we cut Josh Bynes? Do you have any insider information? He was a solid player. At the beginning of the season when we were rotating in Gardek and Walker at ILB, I just kept thinking about how clearly Bynes was better than both these guys. So what happened?"

The injury to Reddick was an issue early. But they felt like Bynes just didn't have the speed or athletic ability to do what they wanted at linebacker. At his age, they just decided to move on. They signed Hicks to be a "better" Bynes, and Reddick was always penciled in to be the other inside linebacker.

He got more touches last week, and I thought he made the most of them. He isn't the pass catcher David Johnson is, but I would agree that having a package for him each week makes sense. We'll see what happens -- Kingsbury made it sound like it'd be based on the opponent how much work Edmonds would get.

From 11 Numero Uno via

"Hey Darren, when Steve Keim first took office he said, almost verbatim, 'My top priority is rebuilding the offensive line.' Seven years later our offensive line is as bad as its ever been. What does that say about Keim's job performance, if he's failed to accomplish his top priority in seven years? And if you cant talk about Keim because he's your boss, I understand. But it's a very fair question."

It is a fair question. And I'd disagree that it was never addressed (seven years is a long time in NFL years.) I've heard people say Keim has never made splash signings, but the signings of both T Jared Veldheer and G Mike Iupati were splash signings -- I believe both were the biggest FA deals for OL those particular offseasons, and there was a time in which they paid off. Their line was pretty good in 2015. Now, other moves have not been good -- first-round picks Jonathan Cooper and D.J. Humphries have not really worked out, mid-round offensive line picks like Evan Boehm, Earl Watford, Will Holden and Dorian Johnson have mostly fizzled. What they do next year on the line -- especially with how they go about finding tackles for both sides, if Humphries isn't re-signed, are crucial decisions to make.

I'll admit I'm surprised the snaps are being shared -- this past game, Justin Murray got 41 snaps, Jordan Mills 22 -- but they clearly don't see one head and shoulder above the other. Another potential issue: Since both arrived after the preseason, they both might still be getting into shape to keep up with the offensive tempo.

From L McCall via

"Hearken back to your early journalism days, what goes into "breaking a story"? I ask in regards to our very own ASU school paper breaking national headlines. That's cool stuff. But I'm just wondering what goes into it. And how does one lone investigator with a notepad go about discovering stuff before any other?"

I'm not sure this is the time and place to go into a journalism dissertation, but 1) props to the State Press, for which I worked and wrote for many, many years ago, and 2) it's not always one lone reporter. Sometimes, it's a group. Sometimes, as it sounded like in the State Press situation, a name came up where the reporter realized that person had a tie to ASU, and he made a couple of phone calls -- just to localize what was a national story. In the course of that effort, he actually got a national story.

In terms of the NFL, breaking news is often about relationships. With all due respect to guys like Adam Schefter and Ian Rapoport, both of whom I know and like, much of their breaking news comes straight from an agent or team source, who know those guys have the biggest audience for whatever news might go down. Sometimes, that's how political news is broken too, with people reaching out to reporters. But often, it's about a reporter just finding something out -- or getting a tip that something should be looked into -- and then just being dogged in finding out the information.

From Chad Johnson via

"In your experience covering teams, have you ever known of a comment from a fan to illuminate something that 'fixes' the problem that the coaching staff had not thought to yet?"

I am not on the coaching staffs of the many teams I have covered so I guess there is always a possibility something happened along the way I don't know about. But no, I am not aware of any fan comment that has solved a problem.

From Kyler QB1 via

"In your mind was DJ Swearinger a scapegoat? Yes, he played poorly, but so did everyone else. Is Swearinger any more responsible for our failures than Hicks? Big money free agent. I've not seen the impact expected from him."

Couple things. I would disagree -- I think Hicks has been solid. There are plays he's wanted back, and he hasn't done everything right, but I think he's helped at linebacker. As far as Swearinger goes, he struggled. And I do think he struggled more than most. As I noted on Twitter, I was surprised he was released. But if you, for instance, wanted to bench Swearinger -- who was headed into free agency after the season -- for a rookie, I can see the potential of that being a rocky road. Swearinger was going to want to play, I'd think.

From Loose End via

"Darren, as players and coaches discussed the issues covering tight ends last week they seemed to point to winning one-on-one matchups as the culprit. However, from my vantage point on numerous plays it looks like the opposing tight ends are simply ignored or assumed to be blocking. At this point you would think players would be hyperaware of where the tight end is, but it's like we don't even see them. Could this be partially due to rarely having to cover tight ends in practice?"

Here's the thing about practice. The first-unit defense most of the week goes against the scout team offense, which is running plays that the upcoming opponent likes to use. They aren't defending the Cardinals' offense. That happened in training camp. So they work on seeing the tight end all week.

From Toby Jacobson via

"Hey Darren. Are you for or against the expanded season? Now they are saying 17 games, 2 preseason. And also expanded rosters. Why or why not?"

We'll see how this discussion goes in the new CBA. I don't think an expanded season is a lock. Personally, while I think an extra neutral site game is intriguing -- a few years ago, an NFL official said one idea would be (with 16 total neutral site games) would be eight out of the country (London, Mexico, etc.) and eight in cities around the country that don't usually get the NFL (Can you imagine Browns-Cardinals in Norman, Oklahoma?) Generally, I am against any extra games. Players get hurt enough as it is. And in terms of two preseason games -- and this is purely selfish -- does it cut down training camp? Because if not, I like having games, meaningless as they are, to break up camp. I can't imagine camp still five weeks long with just two games. Another possibility is expanded playoffs. That might be more likely.

From Jamal Reed via

"What's the temperature of the fanbase right now? I know you're getting those messages. You've seen it all. What's the absolute worst meltdown you can remember (FIRE EVERYONE!!) and where are we currently on the fan thermometer?"

If the team is doing poorly, the meltdown happens in real time, thanks to social media. I don't know if now is any worse than this time last year than it was during the 1-11 finish in 2012. Fans were calling for Carson Palmer to be benched for Drew Stanton two games into 2013. Kurt Warner got booed off the State Farm Stadium field in 2006 because fans wanted Matt Leinart. Heck, I got tweets that Kyler Murray should be benched during the Lions game, and the kid hadn't even played a half. When a team is losing, the defensive coordinator should be fired, the GM should be fired, the head coach should be fired, according to some fans. Someone said to me last year I should be fired because the team was losing, although I'm fairly sure I do not impact the product on the field. I guess that's a long way of saying the Cards are winless, so there is some melting, and it'll be like that until they win. I don't know if it's ever worse or better.

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