The Cardinals go into a bye week -- with Thanksgiving, no less -- with the best record in the NFL. If that's not enough to give thanks for, I don't know what is. To send in a question for a future mailbag, go right here.
From Mike Jones:
"Assuming he can put together a strong final seven games, do you think Kyler is in the driver seat for MVP? His issue is obvious: he missed three games. That's a major negative, but if he finishes strong maybe voters will forget about it. Otherwise there is not much competition that I can see. Josh Allen and the Bills are spiraling. Dak's Cowboys have also fallen off a bit. Tom Brady is always an MVP threat. Do you think Kyler's three weeks off have killed his chances?"
Lot of football left, so it's hard to really know. Yes, I think Kyler gets hurt by missing games, and it also probably hurts at least some that the Cards won two of three in his absence. But I also do think that if Kyler plays lights out and they go 6-1 or 5-2, he'll be in the race. It'll be tough to ignore him if they win the conference.
From Hector Maricio:
"Going off the Rondale Moore route chart, does it surprise you we dont throw it to him deep? He runs a 4.3. If he's essentially the upgrade on Andy Isabella, whom we regularly tried to throw deep. Why never Rondale? I've noticed we don't throw deep all that often at all."
No, it doesn't surprise me. First, they aren't going to throw deep a lot with Colt McCoy at QB. We haven't seen Kyler in a game since the end of October. With Moore, his role isn't about going deep. I understand the questions, and I think as he grows into the offense it could happen sometimes. But I think their offense has been pretty effective at this point. If teams are playing two-high safeties, however, the smart play is not to force passes downfield.
From Hal Jordan:
"The Seattle stadium is cool man. I noticed it during the game but you posted a neat photo of Ertz after his TD, and the wall of the stadium is really low. You're essentially on the field and eye-to-eye with the players if they approach the wall. I like that. It's intimate. It brings the same energy as a basketball arena where the fans are right there and a part of the game."
I know you didn't have a question but I was just excited to get an email from the Green Lantern.
From Wyatt Johnson:
"Grrrrreat Win v Seattle! My question is in regards to the end of the game. Cards take two knees. Seattle calls timeouts. Lame. we then run a play. And then punt to Seattle. Here's why I'm mad: Seattle's play with five seconds left was some run. Not a pass to the end zone so they could pretend they were still trying to win. So what was the point of all that? Exposing players of both teams to needless injury. That really irritated me. Seattle should be punished in some way for that nonsense."
Well, that feels a little overboard there. They have timeouts and it's legal to call them. Seemed like a waste of time to me, mostly, but you never know why he called them. Maybe Pete Carroll was ticked off at his team and he wanted them to feel it a little bit. But no, there shouldn't be any punishment.
From Pistol Pete:
"The funniest statistic over this very successful season so far is that the Cardinals are the fumbliest team in the NFL. We average 1.8 fumbles per game, most in the NFL. You just don't notice because we are also the No. 1 fumble-recovery team in the NFL."
In 11 games, the Cardinals have actually been credited with fumbling the ball 22 times (yes, that includes the snaps that go awry.) Amazingly, the Cards have only lost three of those fumbles. (Opponents have fumbled 20 times, and the Cards have recovered 11 of them.)
From Raine Voights:
"Hey Darren, I understand that the Cardinals are in a good spot and that taking the time to recover from injuries is important, however is there a reason to be concerned especially since consistency and momentum are two important things in the NFL? What if when Kyler comes back from his injury it takes him a couple games to readjust and we have another let down in the second half of the season like last year?"
I mean, yes, they have to finish. That was going to be whether they had a bye or not, whether Kyler was injured or not. Yes, Kyler and/or Hop could be rusty. But I don't see this team as constructed having the same letdown as last year. Not if guys are healthy. Finally, don't forget -- what a person decides to be concerned about is a deeply personal choice. I can't decide that for you.
From Sean Cunningham:
"Was there an emphasis in practice of not fighting for unnecessary yards? There seemed a definite emphasis on protecting the ball this week (no surprise given last week!) and denying the defense the opportunity for stripping or punching the ball out."
I don't know if it was brought up during practice. It might've been brought up in meetings. Although it feels like protecting the ball should be a given for pro players.
From Jetty Jackson:
"Hi Darren. So I've been noticing (hard to miss) that all our centers are snapping low. Doesn't matter who. Rodney Hudson, Max Garcia and Sean Harlow. And that's a problem when Colt McCoy has to scoop it off the ground. But then it occurred to me all three guys are used to snapping for Kyler. They aren't snapping low, they are snapping Kyler's snap. Just thought Id share because it made total sense when I thought of it."
I think you're overthinking it, to be honest. Kliff Kingsbury said Monday Hudson's issues has more to do with physical problems than the height of the quarterback. I know Kyler isn't the tallest, but that doesn't explain snaps at the ankles.
From Drew Mitchell:
"Another week, another kick returner taking it out of the end zone. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE DARREN! More often than not, you're stopped prior to the 25. More often than that, you start at the 10 because there's a holding call. I'm beyond flabbergasted at this point. Please ask Jeff Rodgers what the malfunction is. And don't let him say 'trying to make plays.' Taking it out of the end zone makes plays alright. It makes winning games much harder."
Obviously you're upset, Drew. I don't disagree that it doesn't make a lot of sense to take it out of the end zone on kickoffs these days. But it's not a hill I need to die on. Nor would it be a line of questioning where I'd go all Lt. Daniel Kaffee on Rodgers.
From Tom Rosenberg:
"Hiya Darren, not a football question, but youre a sports man, your insight is still valuable. We're all fans here. The Baseball Hall of Fame ballot just dropped. This is a huge year because a number of infamous dudes are in their final year of eligibility. Those being Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. Then we have A-Rod and David Ortiz added this year. Do the steroid guys like Bonds and Sosa get in? Do the bad guys off-the-field like Clemens and Schilling get in? All things equal, we're looking at maybe six of the best baseball players to ever live. So how can they be kept out? Well, that's where the perspective of the voters comes in, right? What's your philosophy Darren? It's a tough call. Doesn't matter what sport it is, there's plenty of cheaters and bad guys in every HOF. If it were up to me, id bite the bullet, and put all the steroid guys in at once. While we're on the subject, Pete Rose too. I mean there's a sports book INSIDE of the Diamondbacks stadium now for crying out loud. This is probably a meatier subject than a mailbag allows, but we'd like to hear your views. Thanks."
I'm not sure who "we" is, but, nevertheless. I'll be honest -- I haven't thought about this in a long time. I guess I would look at it this way -- I need some contrition. Acknowledge and apologize, and mean it. And I'd want it noted on their plaque. But to be truthful, if someone doesn't vote for them and they don't get in, it doesn't bother me.
From Harry Granger:
"Hey Darren. We've been spoiled for a long time with good players at the cornerstone positions of LT, pass rusher, CB and now QB (finally). But it seems the time has come that we re-enter the pool of teams in desperate need of a premier pass rusher. Regardless of whether or not Chandler is re-signed, he's 32 at the end of the year. It's time to find the next guy. Do you think that comes by way of the draft or free agency?"
Because free agency comes before the draft, we will know if Jones is staying or not. Good pass rushers don't usually hit free agency (although Haason Reddick will be hitting the market too, unless the Panthers tag him.) I think regardless of what happens in free agency, they need to look at the draft. The issue? The best pass rushers aren't going to be anywhere near where the Cardinals will be drafting in the first round, so there will always be a risk.
From Nick Ragusa:
"Does the head coach not like Andy Isabella, cause with exception of Hop, I never saw the other receivers have big plays last year like Andy. If I was Andy, I would want to be traded to the Saints or a team that need WR help and will use him. Interesting because I saw Andy have to wait for the ball from QB last year. Frankly, Kliff's offensive scheme does not utilize speed at WR. Tight end will do great, but not speed."
I'm not sure Isabella's lone issue right now is because the coach doesn't like him. And I'm not sure there were a lot of non-Hop big plays last year from anyone -- Isabella had three catches of more than 20 yards in his limited playing time. I could see if Isabella is frustrated, but he's not gong anywhere after the trade deadline (and Steve Keim said no team was calling about him before the deadline.)
From Kasper Gade:
"Hey man! Huge Cardinals fan right here. Watching the Cards from Denmark every weekend. Have you received mail from Denmark before? I really started watching NFL in the Super Bowl XLIII season and fell completely in love with Larry and the Cardinals. I always tell that story when people ask me why I support Cards. Love at first sight. But my question: Can you tell me something very special about the Cardinals? Is there something very special that you think separates them from the other teams in the NFL? Something we can be really proud of which I can highlight when people ask me about my affiliation. Thanks for the help. All good from Denmark."
I don't know if I have gotten a question from Denmark before, but I'm glad to have you aboard, Kasper. As for telling you something special, the thing is, you are asking to justify your fandom. And my belief is, what makes your team special to you is your story -- not some random fact. Isn't the fact that you fell in love with the team watching Fitz good enough? When I was a young kid, it was watching Lynn Swann after my Mom had randomly found a jersey at a garage sale that got me into (at the time) the Steelers and the NFL. My life has changed a lot in the more than 40 years since then, but that's what makes a fan -- those memories, those origin stories. You don't need to convince other people.
From Mike Jones:
"Just watched the trailer for Money Mike's Redemption, it looks really good. I especially appreciate you including Karlos Dansby in there. Of the most underrated Cardinals ever, in my opinion, Karlos has to be near the top. I know he left a couple times, but he also came back a couple times and his best career performances were always here in AZ. That's a guy I wish was in the ROH. And I know you can't put everyone up there. But him and Q are the two alumni I think are most deserving. Fitz & P2 are givens."
You should watch the whole episode. It is good. As for the Ring of Honor, I think Boldin definitely needs to be in the discussion. There are a few -- including still some older guys that pre-date the Whisenhunt-until-now era.
From Bob W:
"Hi Darren. I've been living in Mesa since 1990 and have been a Cards fan from the day I moved here. With that said, this team has really struggled over the years with road games. Even in the Super Bowl season I believe they tried staying on the East coast one time rather than return home when they had consecutive road games to try to play better. But that didn't seem to work. Since Kingsbury came here though, this team doesn't seem to have those issues. Are you aware of anything different Kingsbury does to prepare these players differently than from what was done in the past? GO CARDS!"
Yes, I was on that trip the Super Bowl year, when the Cards lost back-to-back at Washington and at the Jets and Anquan got his face broken. You don't have to tell me about road woes -- I've told this story before, but I came on to the beat covering this team in 2000 and of the first 50 road trips I took, I covered a Cardinals' win on exactly nine of them. But they are so much better now. First of all, home-field advantage across the league is not nearly as pronounced. Second., the Cardinals have gotten a better team -- that's the No. 1 factor. I will say Kingsbury is big into doing research to improve such things, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was some research done to tweak some travel habits. (But again, best way to compete on the road? Get good players.)
From Brad Cain:
"Hi Darren, my question is do you know if Chandler Jones was fined for wearing the Pat Tillman cleats, and if so, how does the NFL justify penalizing him for showing tribute to two amazing players, more than penalizing a player for lying about being immunized and not following protocol? Thanks for your time and go Cardinals."
I don't know if Jones was fined -- was he wearing them in-game? Because if he just wears them for pre-game it's OK. He definitely got fined for the Nunn T-shirt. As for your question, it's an easy answer -- that's what the CBA calls for. The league and the players have agreed to this fine system, however wonky it seems at times.
From Greg Danielson:
"Hi Darren. You took my question last week concerning J.J. Watt having shoulder surgery (thank you). You mentioned that coach Kingsbury said he was going to have it sometime next week, which would mean the surgery would have been done by now, but it couldn't be confirmed. Has it been confirmed yet, and if not, why not? I would think something like this (Watt's surgery) would be known throughout the organization, no?"
I never said no one knows. I just said they haven't confirmed anything, and that could be for a number of reasons. In case you haven't noticed, Kliff Kingsbury is not a fan of saying much about injuries, and the team has followed suit. So they want to keep it quiet. I suppose there is a chance Watt skipped surgery to hold out hope he can shorten a timeline for a return this season with rehab. Even if that didn't work, he'd have time to get surgery after the season and still be ready for 2022. Or he has had surgery and they just don't want to say. I'm not sure why it would be such a secret, but that's how they've approached it.
From Matt Hendricks:
"Darren, you said it best in your recent blog, 'Cam Newton. The Cardinals can't get away from that guy.' Did you too have that feeling of 'Oh no' earlier in the week when the Panthers signed Cam Newton right before the Cardinals game? All of the trauma that man Cam has caused to us Cardinals fans! So badly I want the Cardinals to have another chance and finally win against a Cam-led team, but then again I'm terrified we will have to face him again! Especially if it's in the playoffs! In Carolina! Help a traumatized fan!"
No, I didn't think Newton would do what he did. Not that he did a lot. Newton was the face of that bad loss, but it was the turnovers and the Panthers' defense that did the Cardinals in. We will see what happens. Newton didn't even win his first start. And don't forget back i 2008, the Panthers beat the Cards in the regular season, but the Cards won the playoff game.
From Kevin D:
"Huge fan of the mailbag Darren. Thanks for keeping this a weekly discussion. It's been a bit since we had a question on this but I know this is one of your favorite topics - that said I think context is important so bare with me. They say ILB is essentially the QB of the defense. Given Kyler's speed and playmaking ability are what really make our offense run when he's available - if the ankle injury continues to persist... Daryl Washington never officially retired - what do you think the chance is we'd look at bringing him back to try transitioning from QB of the Defense to QB of the Offense?
"On a more serious note - Are offenses scheming differently to take him out of the game? Last year Keim said our stars need to play like stars, I think they have for the most part this year but I'm a little surprised Chandler hasn't had as much production in a contract year given how talented and athletic he is. I'm a big fan of Chan but I'm genuinely curious where he's been."
To be fair, Kevin sent this in before the Seahawks game, and Chandler was excellent in Seattle. Jones is a big fan of saying sacks come in bunches. I do think he was hurt when Watt went out of the lineup. But there are still seven games to go and a lot of time for Jones to get nuts. And no, I'm not even addressing the D-Wash thing.
From Brandon Butterfield:
"Darren, am I in your top five least favorite Twitter followers?"
Brandon, what makes you think I only have five top least favorite Twitter followers? There's a fine line there -- technically, I guess, if I have blocked you you are no longer a Twitter follower. So if you aren't blocked, you can still reach your goal. Then again, on that platform, mute is a wonderful thing. There are more than a few who fall into that category.
From Jeremy Stephens:
"I never get tired of talking about how beloved Markus Golden is. That dude is a top-shelf teammate. The type where dudes are legit sad when he leaves the team. Then on the recent Money Mike episode, he seemed like a super good dude too. With that in mind, this will be tough, name the top three locker room guys you've seen pass through in your time with the team."
Yeah, that's difficult for a couple of reasons. One, 20-plus years is a long time covering the team and, two, I'm not in the locker room enough. I can name good locker room guys but not necessarily in any order. Adams was one. Tony Jefferson. Calais Campbell. D.J. Humphries. Terrelle Smith. Markus. I know I'm forgetting lots and lots of guys but I do need to get this mailbag done.
By Bob Carder:
"What is the kicker sniffing before he kicks a field goal? He did it every time he kicked Sunday."
I'm sure it was an ammonia capsule, or smelling salts. Lots of players use them on game days. Fitz used to a lot. And he'd share sometimes.
From Nel Dansen:
"J.J. Watt posted 'Maybe.' What the heck does that mean?"
He actually posted "maybe ..." and, well, IYKYK.