After the mini-bye, the Cardinals returned this week with the last of their cross-country road trips upcoming -- the matchup in Tampa against former coach Bruce Arians. As always, you can leave a question for next week's mailbag by going here, and in the meantime, here are this week's questions:
Offensively, I think this group clicked a lot sooner. A lot of that had to do with the fact the quarterback was already well acquainted with what the coach wanted to do, as opposed to Carson Palmer coming in having to learn B.A.'s system. The receivers as well. I also think that this offense has fewer decisions receivers have to make on the fly than the Arians' offense. Now, defensively, that 2013 team I think had better personnel than this one.
From Nicholas Reif via azcardinals.com:
"Kingsbury has found a great running back in Kenyan Drake, who had an awesome game against the 49ers defense. When Chase Edmonds comes back what will happen to Drake? And will Kingsbury be starting Isabella?"
Let me take the second one first and say that, no, I don't expect Isabella to be starting anytime soon. As far as Edmonds, I want to see first how Kingsbury decides to work Drake and David Johnson together. As good as Edmonds has looked this season, they did trade a pick for Drake and Drake has proven to be a better pass-catcher. There are only going to be so many snaps to go around, and I'd think Edmonds would be the one to lose out if everyone is healthy and playing as capable. But we will see.
From Oscar Reed via azcardinals.com:
"With Joe Walker being promoted to starter at ILB, it's time to talk about Haason Reddick. It seems he's going the way of Deone Bucannon on this team. One thing that I've been thinking about it the possibility of moving him to OLB? Use him as a pass rusher, similar to his DE days at Temple?"
You are not the first one to suggest such a thing. I do think Reddick's best talent is as a pass rusher. But at his size, I'm not sure he works as an every-down 3-4 OLB in this league (or a DE in a 4-3.) It's definitely disappointing that they've decided to cut down on Reddick's snaps; clearly, what they thought they had in him has not proved to be the case.
From Tom Johnson via azcardinals.com:
Hey Mr.Urban I wanted to ask your thoughts on Terrell Suggs so far this season. He's 7th (tied) in sacks, about what you'd hope for, I think. Do you think he returns next season (if he chooses)? Also what are your thoughts on Cassius Marsh? I feel hes been a bright spot. Very solid pickup who I'd like to see around long-term."
I think it's been nice to have Suggs get a few sacks but I don't think there's any question the Cardinals could use more production from the position. Honestly, I don't know what his plans might be but my guess is the Cardinals will try to upgrade at that spot in the offseason. As far as Marsh, he's made some good plays but he doesn't look comfortable in coverage and I'd think that will limit him in what Vance Joseph has liked to do so far with his OLBs. But I do think he has helped as depth.
From Jasper Wiese via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, I am a big fan of the Cards over here in Germany! I always love to read your mailbags because it allows to read a lot between the lines - so thank you very much for that and please continue with your mailbags! After all the changes between 2018 and 2019 there was one thing I didn´t understand. Even though some veteran help on the safety position is needed (desperately), they did let go of Tre Boston. I always enjoyed his physical, fast and tough style of play. Do you know why the decided to let him go back to the Panthers (where he continues to play on a high level as you could see yesterday)? Thank you very much and best regards from Munich."
Hey Jasper, I appreciate the kind words. As for Boston, the situation was this -- they had Budda Baker and they had D.J. Swearinger. Those were the starters. They weren't going to play a lot of money for a third safety; I think they had looked at the draft as the place to get depth (and they eventually took the Thompson twins, Deionte and Jalen.) The problem was that Swearinger played poorly and they decided they needed to move on. In hindsight, having Boston for another year instead of Swearinger would've made sense, but at the time, they had no way of knowing Swearinger's play would drop off like it did.
From Raine Voigts via azcardinals.com:
"When is enough enough? When are we going to come to the conclusion that the David Johnson of 2016 is not coming back. He doesn’t run as hard as he used to and he seems scared to get hurt. I loved watching him when he did his famous jump cut and broke tackles and was the best player on the field, but I fear those days are over. With that being said are the Cardinals even close to thinking about moving on from him?"
I don't know if the "old" Johnson is coming back or not, but he's still an important player who has provided a bunch of key plays this season. Whether that changes or not now that Drake is here remains to be seen, but even if Johnson isn't doing some of the things he did before, it's not like he doesn't make sense to put out there. As for moving on, according to overthecap.com, he has more than a $16M cap hit for 2020, so it doesn't make much sense (especially at this point, because Drake is scheduled to be a free agent after the season.) This offense needs playmakers, and even if Johnson doesn't look exactly the same as he once did, he's still one of the top playmakers this team has.
From Jack Rostene via azcardinals.com:
"I saw your article about Pugh holding up reasonably well at right tackle for the 9ers game. But still, that's an unsustainable situation. What is our future at RT? When you think about it, our RT position has been more in flux over its history than even our LT position has been. I understand Gilbert got injured, but all the same, he's an older guy with injury history. He can't be viewed as the long-term option. Do you think 1) The LT position is locked down long term by D.J. Humphries; and 2) What do we do at RT? Steve Keim always talks about fixing the offensive line, but here we are again scrambling to figure out who our five starters are Sunday. Its unacceptable."
You ask a few questions here. Actually, they are not scrambling to find the starters. They know the starters and they knew the starters last week as soon as Justin Murray got hurt (they just didn't say anything definitive.) This season, Gilbert was supposed to be the starter, and they brought in Murray and Jordan Mills as reinforcements, and they've all gotten hurt. It's not like there wasn't a plan (and with any team, if you have the top two guys get hurt, there's going to be an issue.) Korey Cunningham was supposed to be the long-term plan there, but his play dropped off so much they traded him away (and Cunningham has been inactive most weeks in New England even with them having injury issues themselves.)
As for long-term, I think the Humphries situation is still TBD. His new contract demands figure to play a role, but I think they want to see his whole body of work in 2019. As for right tackle, it's a position they absolutely need to address. There's always a chance they have new guys in both spots, or use a draft pick to fill one, and free agency is always an option. You aren't wrong -- you want stability on the line. But look around the league. Very few teams have the OL stability that every franchise craves. It's about supply and demand.
B.A. and Kliff are more hands-on on offense than Wilks was on defense -- Wilks believed in the coach-as-CEO model. B.A., as you can well imagine, tended to use a few more choice phrases than Kliff ever would. And Kingsbury will play things much closer to the vest when it comes to talking to the media, about players, about injuries, about everything.
From HK Dubois via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. I know you don't like draft question this early in the season. I just wanted to ask when do you start researching draft prospects? I see you do those draft profiles in February, so you do know who guys are. When does that process start for you? As a draft nut myself, I've already been watching them. And the top 10 or so is looking pretty fleshed out at this point. (Early sneak peak) but FYI, the guys most likely to be the best players available for the Cardinals are WR Ceedee Lamb, LB Isiah Simmons (who looks like D-Wash out there), DE A.J Epenesa (a Calais Campbell clone), and S Grant Delpit (similar to the Jets Jamal Adams.) So we have four good options."
I will say I'm impressed with your work thus far. But there are reasons why I don't get into the draft this early (and truth be told, I'm not a huge draft guy -- let me know who the Cardinals take and we can go from there, although I understand why it's so popular). To begin with, while you note those guys above, why do you think they will be among those who will be around when the Cardinals pick? If the Cards pick 6th or 7th, or 13th or 14th, there is a big difference. You also don't know who will be in front of them to draft (including any potential trades.) I will say I will be shocked if the Cardinals don't at least consider a tackle. Don't know if there will be one worth taking when the Cards are on the clock, but it has to be an option.
From Michael Avila via azcardinals.com:
"Is it me or was Patrick Peterson playing like Justin Bethel back in the day in the 49er game? Everywhere the ball went with Peterson in coverage he got burnt with no effort! So sad. What was he trying to say to us?"
See, I don't understand that comment. What was he trying to say in what way? I mean, you aren't the only one to suggest such a thing, I guess with the thought he's mad he wasn't traded? Except then, how do you explain him playing well in New York? And while he wasn't perfect in New Orleans, he had his moments, including an interception. So he just decided to start mailing it in? That makes zero sense. I think there is something to the idea he didn't play all those weeks and had a very bad game. I also think (we have not yet had a chance to talk to Patrick) that he let it affect him mentally. It was not a good game, nor a good look. But I just can't get into the conspiracy theories. What would be the point of him doing that?
From Halee Kleo Coffee via azcardinals.com:
"Hiya D. I have a chicken-egg question for you. For the 2020 draft, there are a couple OL and a couple WRs. Both are really good. Do you think we need a top tier WR (future Fitz replacement as our #1) or do you think our current WRs are good enough, and we just need some OL upgrades to give Kyler more time to work?"
Not sure why it would need to be either-or. I think this team could use another playmaker at wide receiver. I think this team definitely needs some young talent on the offensive line. Both positions need to be addressed and I think both will be addressed (unless there is a free agent that pops.) What the first-round pick would be would be determined by who is on the board and also how deep the position might be in subsequent rounds.
From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:
"What is your personal opinion regarding the status of our secondary, especially cornerback, and will management correct it this year? Same with linebackers. Thanks."
I think, assuming Peterson bounces back and I don't have any reason to think he would not, you are OK at cornerback. You'd need depth there going into next season. The safety position is young and the hope is that the Thompson twins develop. There aren't reinforcements coming, not until free agency at the earliest. You're not adding difference-makers at this point. Same goes for linebackers, although I think there will be more urgency there, to find another pass rusher and to find an inside linebacker.
From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:
"Reading some stuff from national media makes me question their understanding of local teams. For instance, they often bring up how many time Kyler Murray has been sacked and comment on a porous offensive line. But if you've watched the games you know that Murray held on the to ball a bit too much at the beginning but has cleaned that up a lot and the line has played pretty well this year. How much game film to national media folks actually get to watch? Are there some national football experts that you respect and trust?"
I don't know if I'll get into the grading of national experts, but there are guys who are good at it. But it's like anything else -- the closer you are to a situation, the better you'll truly understand it. I personally do think the line has been better this season. It is certainly not perfect, and I don't think anyone claims that. But when you are further from a situation, it's almost impossible to know details. I'm sure I miss nuances about other teams, or that fans in Arizona, for instance, are off-base in some circumstances when talking about the, say, Seahawks or 49ers. As for the film, though, anyone who ponies up for NFL GamePass can watch every game with the coaches film. That won't let you know exactly what the team is intending to do, but it's better than it was 15 years ago.
As I noted earlier, there are not going to be any significant changes coming this year. There just isn't anyone out there that's going to make that kind of impact. Will the Cardinals look at secondary help in the offseason, whether it be free agency or the draft? Yes, I could see that. We'd have to see first how they evaluate the Thompson twins at safety. But, assuming everyone is healthy (and no changes are made), I'm thinking the Cardinals would be willing to roll with a top three CB trio of Patrick Peterson, Byron Murphy and Robert Alford.
Nothing has changed. As soon as he's able to practice -- if he is able to practice -- I'll let everyone know.
From Ryan Fuller via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. I live in Philadelphia and I've been a Cardinals fan for 16 years. With all the discussions of the offense being pass-first, why are we running more than passing now? Why aren't we seeing any deep passes anymore. It worked vs the Falcons and Bengals. Why not against a team like the Seahawks, who the Cards can beat with their speed they have?"
The Seahawks very deliberately played with a couple of high safeties, essentially daring the Cardinals to run/throw short and not give up many chances at deeper passes. I do think, as the Cardinals evolve offensively, they will need to take more shots downfield. And if Todd Bowles cranks up the blitz in Tampa this weekend, there might be some openings against the Bucs. But there are a lot of things that go into throwing down the field -- not the least of which is protection, to give the receivers time to get down there, as well as the coverage. You make it sound like running more -- and the Cardinals have mostly been running effectively over the last month -- is a bad thing. It is a good thing.
From Lorna Green via azcardinals.com:
"This may be a stupid question but why don't ex-football players become refs after retirement?"
Lorna, as you know there are no stupid questions (that I would ever put in the mailbag). There are a few ex-players that become officials, but you'd actually have to want to become an official. It can be a thankless job. The other factor -- to be an official, you have to train for it, and that means starting at the bottom. You're not going to take an ex-player and make him an NFL official immediately, or even work on the major college level. You have to start in high schools or junior colleges and work your way up. You've really got to have a desire to do it in order to want to have such a life -- and remember, football officials are all part-time. You also normally work a "regular" job.
From Tom Ward via azcardinals.com:
"Getting close to the holidays so let me ask a holiday question. Is it ever possible to have one of the players sign a jersey and have it mailed to you so that you could give it as a gift for Christmas?"
I guess I'd never say never, but I don't see a path where you, for instance, send one to the facility and hope it gets done. That'd be a pretty big risk for a jersey.
From Jeshua Witt via azcardinals.com:
"Despite not having any interceptions in his career, what do you think about Budda Baker's performance? Seems like he's always around the football and making plays."
I thought Budda had one of his better games against the 49ers last week. I would agree he seems to be around the football most of the time. As you mentioned, you'd like for him to get a few picks, although to be fair, the Cards only have two anyway and I'm not sure their pass rush is in a place to help with that process. But Baker has been mostly solid.
From 11 4Ever via azcardinals.com:
"Mornin' Darren! Thanks for the mailbag. I know I'm asking for the impossible, but if today were Week 18 and all the players were leaving for the offseason, do you think we are doing a Humphries extension? I think we all agree he's a good LT, not great. But given the porous O-line history of this team, is 'good' good enough for us long-term? It's going to be a lot of money."
Again, I think there are still a lot of factors at play for Humphries when it comes to the Cardinals, his potential free agency, and 2020. How he plays the balance of the season. What kind of market might develop from teams searching for a left tackle. What Humphries' expectations might be in that regard. I just don't know what will happen with him, or what he will even want.
I mean, the best interactions were the ones that most people know about -- like the "Cool Uncle" comment. But one of the things that was always fun -- and I know not everyone loved it, especially outside of the team -- was his bravado. Like when he came into the Rams game with a broken team in 2014 (and got more broken when Drew Stanton went down) and, following the 12-6 slugfest win, said “I love it when nobody says you’re going to have a chance to win. There’s an 11-3 team and a team that is always 8-8. You figure it out.”
And I had to smile after his final game (which he knew but the media didn't) and the Cards upset the Seahawks in Seattle and he opened his presser with, "Thanks for coming to my house."