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You've Got Mail: Bengals Week

Topics include Dobbs speed, Kyler comeback and spreading the ball around

Mailbag Kyzir 100323

The Cardinals come home this week, against a struggling Bengals team, and the Cards have looked solid at home. Although you know what is never struggling? The mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. You can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Luke Strauss:

"Hey Darren. It was looking ugly, but I feel proud of the team this week. They didn't fold considering the difference in talent level compared to the 49ers, coupled with the fact we're missing our two best players on offense and defense (K1 & Budda). It's a team that is fighting for their coaches, which is refreshing to see. As someone who is around the team, how do you compare the atmosphere in the current set up with years past? The saying 'the strength of a team is each individual member and the strength of each member is in the team' seems pretty apt."

There is a reason Jonathan Gannon pushes so hard the concept of "1. The Team 2. You." That has been drilled into their heads since jump, and you can even remember Monti Ossenfort saying at his intro press conference that there would be no room for egos. This is what those mindsets look like on the field. I do think players are buying in. I do think this roster is talent-deficient to do exactly what they need to do to win a lot, but they are moving in the right direction. I caught some heat on Sunday from fans waving off the idea of making strides in a 19-point loss, and I understand what they are saying. But at my age, if I have learned anything, it's that there is a lot more gray in the world and not as much black and white, and that includes the path of building a football team.

From Jimmy Anderson:

"Was it well-known that Josh Dobbs was that fast? Other than Taysom Hill (if you count him as a QB), no other QBs have made the top-20 on the fastest ball carriers at least through Week 3 this year. Not sure how many years the NFL has been publishing those stats, but curious to know how many times Kyler Murray made that list."

I don't really have an easy avenue to track down Kyler's individual totals, but I found this tweet about how often he gets going when he runs at 15 miles an hour a couple of seasons ago. I know Dobbs was at 19.8 mph against the Cowboys; in any case, having a QB who can scoot can only help.

From Gerry Miller:

"If you would have asked me before game one, I would've told you Zach Ertz is a top five tight end and one of the better clutch receivers. Now I'm wondering if he's lost a step or maybe not fully recovered from injury. I am unaccustomed to seeing him miss so many balls and not being productive after the catch. Is there anything physically wrong with him?"

No, Ertz is healthy. I get that he missed the touchdown catch in the waning seconds, and there is no one more frustrated than Ertz about not bringing in that pass, or the one the first week in Washington. It's not like Ertz is in his fourth year either, so there is going to be natural wear-and-tear beyond his injury.

From Todd Ringsmuth:

"How will your season with Dobbs go?"

From Jim Dobyluck:

"Is Josh Dobbs going to start all season?"

From Joseph Vasquez:

"Why would we go back to Kyler Murray if all I see is Dobbs leading and with every game IMPROVING?"

From Arthur Renois:

"I noticed how Dobbs is getting better each and every game. Do you think Kyler Murray will have a problem competing for the starting position?"

A lot of similar questions this week about Dobbs and Kyler's return. Dobbs is improving and playing excellent football at the moment. And we don't know when Kyler will be back nor what Dobbs' season will look like when he is ready. My thoughts have not changed on Murray -- I think, for both his sake and the organization's, that he needs to play this season so everyone gets an idea what the post-injury Kyler looks like and how he fits in this (trending upward) offense. I think this coaching staff would like to know what they have in Kyler compared to Dobbs, too.

In the end, I think I like how Dobbs answered the question about when Kyler returns : "It'll be OK. I'll manage it, he'll manage it, we'll be fine."

From Jon David Lair:

"Christian McCaffrey clearly was unstoppable on Sunday. I couldn't help but think this is where you would put, as Paul says, 'HY-saiah' Simmons to try to contain CMC. Someone with speed and size to try to contain him when he wheels out of the backfield and gets open with one of his spontaneous routes. Would you agree?"


(Of the things I thought Simmons did well, he tended to struggle in coverage.)

From Oscar G:

"Are we ever going to see the transition to Trey McBride as the No. 1 TE? Love Ertz. Guy may or may not be a fringe Hall of Famer. But we are building for the future at this point. McBride can run every route that Ertz can, if given the opportunity. I've already been impressed by McBride's blocking prowess, but you do not spend a 2nd rounder on a blocking specialist. We are clearly using this as a rebuilding year. What's the plan?"

Ever is a very long timeframe, Oscar. I mean, "are we ever" could be 2025. That would still be ever. Fortunately for you, I do not think it would be that long. That said, you have a staff full of coaches looking at and evaluating these players every day. This staff wasn't the one which traded for Ertz not drafted McBride. I think McBride has flashed as a receiver, certainly. But I also believe the staff has a reason why the tight end depth chart is how it is currently, and for now, I don't see Ertz as anything but TE1.

From Anthony R:

"Why is the offense playing so conservative? It also looks like they target Marquise Brown and Zach Ertz so much they don't give the other wide receivers more touches. They definitely need to throw it to Michael Wilson more. What is your opinion on the passing game?"

My opinion is that it's been pretty darn good the last three games. It would look better if Ertz or Zach Pascal could've made a TD catch in the final minute Sunday, but I'm not sure what you're looking for. Dobbs isn't throwing interceptions, they are getting chunk plays. Michael Wilson had seven catches on Sunday and seven targets. That's not much different than Hollywood (10 targets, 7 catches). They are running the ball really well. And not for nothing, it behooves this team to have long drives on offense to keep the defense off the field.

From Nicko East:

"Hi Darren. Maybe it's just me (and your welcome to check me if I'm wrong), but I've felt like Jalen Thompson's performance has been lacking lately -- like the last two years. When he first came on, he was absolutely a difference maker. He reminded me a little bit of Tony Jefferson, who to this day is one of my all-time favorite and underrated Cardinals. I feel like with Jalen, lately, we only hear his name after he gives up a completion or misses a tackle."

I don't know if I'd go that far. I don't think he played well against the 49ers -- I'm not sure anyone on defense did -- and, while Pro Football Focus grades are what they are, his PFF mark was the lowest for a game in his career. But they thought he played above average against the Giants and Cowboys. This staff uses him in nickel more than safety (174 out of 273 defensive snaps have been at nickel) and I know this -- if he doesn't play well, this defense is going to struggle.

From Robert Malicki:

"The photo for last week's 'Mailbag' gave us fans an inside look of the post-game locker room after the Cowboys win. Were you there and did it feel like the 'cork in the bottle' is now popped for this team? Viewing postgame press conferences of coach Gannon and Josh Dobbs and Kyzir White was informative. The head coach seems to be a work in progress for feeling at ease with the media, finally smiling a couple of times. Josh is a hoot remarking on hoping his being mic'd-up was clean for his mother, and teasing rookie Michael Wilson. Kyzir, starting his talk with the media with a big smile revealing how aware he was about catching that end-zone interception. How do you view them as to their personality reveals over time? A head coach will be a head coach but he shows promise. They, afterall, are human beings and we fans have to remember that."

I was not in the locker room -- I have been in a locker room once or twice, but usually that is not my domain. In terms of press conferences, it takes a special person to really be themselves in that setting. I am much more of a fan of doing one-on-one interviews, although that doesn't happen as much as it used to. As a coach, no one will ever beat Bruce Arians in a press conference -- at least for those of us who need the quotes for our work.

From Alan McQuarrie:

"Hello Darren. This year's team is very scrappy with a lot of no names I do not recognize. This team reminds me of the first-year Bill Belichick as the head coach for the Patriots and the following year winning a Super Bowl with Tom Brady. Can this team duplicate that with how it is performing now and if it keeps improving, to be that team of surprise next year?"

While I appreciate the attempt at finding the parallel, such things can only be truly seen with hindsight. To draw a straight line between the budding dynasty Patriots with the greatest coach and greatest QB of all time after four games (and not knowing what QB is going to look like) is probably a little premature.

From HH_AZCards

"Hi Darren. What we are seeing from the officials are major mistakes that can change the outcome of a close game. I know it is a game, but fans are deeply invested, and it is just very frustrating for the fans of the victim teams to watch their teams lose in this fashion. Watching the Jets game, that hold on Jermaine Johnson was going on for a few seconds, how can the referee miss such an obvious hold? And the line judge threw the flag on Sauce after the Jets interception, if it is a flag, shouldn't they throw it right away? I am not saying these were intentional, but Refs are humans, and they make mistakes. NFL has to clean up this mess, Football is defined by the rules, line by line, and that makes the refs too powerful and their mistakes are too costly. We have the technology to do VAR and have fast processing of all plays real time, not sure why NFL doesn't act on it."

HH, I gotta say, you're complaining to the wrong person. I don't love ref mistakes. I don't love player mistakes. Both are part of this. I disagree VAR would fix things; what you want is to be able to look at almost every single play (which is much different than soccer). I don't think there is a fix. Some of these things are subjective. Take the Johnson hold. I saw on social media both a former NFL defensive lineman (Gerald McCoy) and an NFL offensive line guru who talked to multiple NFL officials, and all of them said that shouldn't draw a flag.

Trust me, I know fans are deeply invested. I don't think there is an easy fix. I don't think full-time officials makes it much better.

From Dylan McGrath:

"Hi Darren. I'd like some clarification on this IR-window please. I'm going to fail miserably at communicating my question but I'll do my best. If you open the three-week window and the player is not ready by the end of it, does that mean the player must go on season ending IR? And does the team or does the NFL decide when the window opens? Meaning (if we decide) we could wait until week 10, open it, and then have three weeks?"

Here's the deal. The rules are essentially the same for IR and PUP and NFI at this point. The team makes the decision when the practice window opens. Once it is opened, a player has to be moved to the active roster within those three weeks. If a team doesn't want to move him to the active roster, he would simply remain on his list for the balance of the season. In every case, the player can be there for as long as the team wants. The four players in play this week (Murray, Williams, Daley, Sanders) could have a window open this week, or four weeks from now, or 10 weeks from now. Finally, even if a player isn't quite ready to play in a game after three weeks, it doesn't stop a team from activating a player to the roster and then just keeping him inactive on game days.

From Ted Beck:

"Following Denver's historic loss to Miami, most of the online comments were directed at Vance Joseph, and how terrible of a coordinator he is (and was with the Cardinals). I thought he did a decent job when he was at Arizona. What is your opinion of his performance with the Cardinals? I don't think that Miami game was a true measure, sometimes things happen and Miami just got on a roll."

I thought Vance did a solid job with the defense in Arizona most of the time. They were missing some pieces at times, and it's clear that while he was with the Cards he struggled to find the right place for some guys (like Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons). But he also smartly figured out Haason Reddick needed to be an OLB.

From Lane Kidd:

"Do you think when Kyler Murray returns, Josh Dobbs could fit as a valuable mix in the Cardinals offensive scheme as a role player, like Taysom Hill has with the Saints?"

No. Dobbs is a QB, not a gadget-B.

From Dhruvraj Parmar:

"One of the biggest question in my mind watching the game on Sunday was 'adjustments.' I think up until the third quarter other than CMC, Aiyuk and Brock Purdy no one even touched the ball. How do you not make adjustments on the fly as a team in the National Football League to cover those two on defense and let someone else try and score."

The 49ers have a pretty good offense. Do you really think they weren't trying what they could to slow those guys? I mean, we can assume that every single player who has a big game in the NFL only does it because the other team doesn't adjust, but I am guessing that's not true.

From Ted Hunter:

"I am a longtime Cardinals football fan (I even remember the horrific Thanksgiving game in 1977), and wish for a simple answer to my dilemma. I generally watch some football every weekend, but living in New England means I don't often see the Cardinals play except for short clips on the general coverage websites. I have zero desire to pay for the "full access" coverage offered by the NFL but would gladly pay if I could watch every Cardinal game live. Because I have a full 4K setup in my home (and I am a computer person), my connection is hard wired for optimal quality. I have zero desire to stream on cellular or WiFi connections. How am I able to watch all Cardinal contests live?"

There is one way, and that would be getting the Sunday Ticket package on YouTube. Yes, it is a stream, although you should be able to get it on your TV. But that's what the NFL decided to do with that package. Otherwise, I'm afraid you are out of luck.

From Will Stone:

"Hey Darren. What's the latest on Garrett Williams, the cornerback we drafted with the torn ACL? The original guess was he'd be back about halfway through 2023, but I think he's pretty overshadowed by K1's recovery. How's he doing?"

He says he's doing fine, but not surprisingly, he doesn't give a timeline and it's hard to know when he might return.

From Don Patterson:

"What are the chances of putting up a gameday comments thread before each game? I know there is a site that does it but I don't care for them and there are so many comments that you can't watch the game and share thoughts. I have noticed that there are a few other commenters here that do as I do and use whatever the last posted story was to comment on the game."

I appreciate the suggestion but that would create the need for moderation for which we do not have the bandwidth. I can barely keep up with the comments on the stories.

From Brian Council:

"Hi Darren, Paul, and Dani. I'm the person who wrote the question this past week about how many draft picks we gave the Cowboys for Dani. Living in the Dallas area, I'm a long-time reader of the Mailbag / listener to Underground. I haven't missed an episode of either in *years* (literally). I can't tell you in how many different foreign countries I've read/listened to, just to stay caught up. So, just want to say what a hoot it was to hear you three discussing my question at the end of Underground this week. What a treat! I had a huge smile on my face. I have tickets to Cards-Texans in November, which will be my annual Cards game with my son. Anyway thanks for the great content, week in and week out."

Thanks for sticking with us, Brian.

From Sander Propitius:

"Hi Darren, fan from the Netherlands here. How likely is it that the Cardinals will have a game in Europe in the next few seasons? I saw them live in 2017 in London (I'm still being teased by my mates about that game), but would love to go see another game of them. I went to the Munich game last year and will go to the Frankfurt game this year, but nothing beats a Cardinals game (wherever in Europe that might be)."

That's a good question. I mean, if you are asking in the next, say, three years, I think there would be an outside chance. What is interesting is the report that the NFL is thinking about moving to a time when every team has one international game a year -- which would certainly up the possibility. But the fact they were just in Mexico might tamp down the international possibility right now.

From Jason W:

"Hello sir. I had noticed that the Cardinals had hired a new COO and it got me thinking of something that is as important as what that job consist of, it's about the uniform usage. We could call it maybe the UOO, Uniform Operating Officer. It could be somebody that can tell them it's OK to wear the red jerseys with the white pants and vice versa. I know they are new and they truly look much better than the old ones but man, mix it up a little bit. Thank you for reading my nonsensical rant about really nothing, that's what makes the mailbag a fun read. Have a great day!"

Yeah, I get the point about mixing and matching. You are not the first to suggest. Maybe, Jason, you could apply for UOO. If it existed. Which it will not.

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