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You've Got Mail: Constant Camp Evaluation

Topics include cornerbacks, vets in practice, and that tiny side field at training camp

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The Cardinals are down to a little more than a week left of training camp, with the season opener looming at San Francisco on Sept. 13. It doesn't feel this late in August, not with the annual markers of preseason games absent. In the meantime, here's another mailbag. It's a jumbo one this week. To leave a question for next week, go here.

From Robert Malicki via

"Hi, Darren. In this unique camp setting do the players feel more or less comfortable with remaining on the roster? A cut can come at any time and Steve Keim would need to decide on replacing the player. Do you think coaches are going to start focusing on the players in camp to advise on who is on a bubble for Keim? And, what are the cutdown dates, if any? I know the practice squad is expanding allowing young players a chance to stay with a team, but will the overall roster increase, too?"

I don't know why they'd feel less comfortable remaining on the roster, because otherwise you don't have a job. If you were that concerned about COVID, I'd have think you would've opted out. Camp is so short -- and padded practices so few -- I don't think they are that far yet down the road. This is a big week, as is next week, to sort through stuff. As for the cuts, as of now, they go on as planned, which is technically Sept. 5. The roster is still set for 53, with the ability to promote two off practice squad on game days, and the PS will be expanded to 16 this season.

From Alan N. via

"Mr. Urban, so there are reports that there is some early concern in the 49ers camp over Jimmy's tendency to overthrow. I guess my question is who did we pick up this offseason ... say in the free safety area ... that we could substitute in when it becomes apparent to us that our pass rush is tapping into this tendency and causing this overthrow to happen?"

I feel there is a subtext to your question and I don't know if it is a Earl Thomas reference or what. I have seen zero of 49ers stuff so I have no idea where Jimmy G might be with his mechanics, but whatever you think of him, he got the Niners to the Super Bowl and nearly won it. Obviously how they handle him in the opener will go a long way in how that game will be decided. The safeties, however, are Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson and I don't see that changing.

From Van Cards Fan via

"Are these veteran cornerbacks the team is signing going to be the No. 2 CB or the slot CB? I'm confused on what the plan is. I thought maybe Byron would play No. 2 again and these guys would play slot. But now, based on the players they are bringing in, it seems they are actually determined to move Byron to the slot and figure out a new No. 2."

That's all TBD. I think if they could find a way for Murphy to stay inside they'd like that -- it was the plan coming in. But I don't think anything is set in stone, and those other guys just got here. They need to show they deserve to stick around, much less start. There is a lot to figure out before Sept. 13, but for now, I think Vance Joseph is leaving his options open.

From Paulie Al via

"Hi Darren, I want to discuss practice. It's my belief that when guys reach a certain point in their careers, practice is more of a burden than it is a benefit. Larry Fitzgerald is the best example. At this point, what can he possibly get out of practice? Nothing. He's a master WR. He should be coaching his coaches. For him, practice is a somewhat needless thing that can only hurt you. Case in point, Robert Alford. Or Hopkins this week and his hammy. Young guys need to practice because they've never been in the NFL. But all the veterans have done this thing 1,000 times before. Vets should only do walkthoughs. We talking about practice man. Not the game. We talking about practice."

First, you can never go wrong with an A.I. reference. I think if you ask Fitz, though, he still gets a lot out of practice. The number of times he is asking questions, perfecting stuff, it's meaningful. Ask him, and he'll say he is still learning stuff. And yes, he sets an example for everyone else. I was just remarking to someone this week, Fitz is still one of the hardest-working guys at practice there is. Guys don't become great unless they have that attitude. I see what you are saying. But you're not getting in shape just doing walkthroughs either.

From @hamiasamia via Twitter:

"How is Isaiah Simmons looking at camp? Why don't we hear anything about his performance thus far?"

The reality of camp is that everything after stretch and individual drills is closed to reporting, so anything of substance is off the record unless coaches and players talk about it. Simmons' mental acuity has been praised -- this week, Jordan Hicks was saying how impressed he was with how Simmons is absorbing the knowledge. But no rookie will truly know the speed of the game until there are games, and there won't be any until they count. I am guessing Simmons will have some ups and downs as he learns the game but I am also guessing they will have a role right away for their first-round pick.

From Quint White via

"I was just watching a Cards camp video from last year and was reminded they use to have a little snack cart at practice. It was cool. Do they still have that? If not ,why?"

They still have a smaller version of it that is more safe for these coronavirus times. But as with every and all changes this year, COVID has made an impact.

From @Balliwood784 via Twitter:

"Why in the world we keep bringing in ASU players to the Cards? I don't like that. It has some sort of stigma. Why is Mike Bercovici on the Cardinals staff? What does he do?"

Am I correct that you are not a Sun Devil? I mean, they only sign the Sun Devils they think can play. I don't see how that has a stigma. As far as Bercovici, he's a coaching assistant, getting some experience on the field in practice but basically starting at the bottom as he tries to build a coaching career.

From @houtyb24 via Twitter:

"Do the Cardinals have any plans for more of a scrimmage-type practice? Something like the Red and White scrimmage? Or is Kliff taking the play-it-safe route to keep players healthy?"

As a matter of fact there will be a Red-and-White practice Friday. There will obviously be no fans, but part will be recorded and broadcast Saturday night on Ch. 12 in a two-hour show. I don't know exactly how it will play out or who will play the biggest roles.

From Tom Cowley via

"Hey Darren, do you feel that we might pick a good pass rusher as cuts begin later? Really like Dre Kirkpatrick and what he brings to the secondary. I hope he will stay healthy and fit in with Pat. What is your take on that relationship?"

I don't know if there is a relationship per se, although I am sure the two know each other. We'll see how it plays out; Kirkpatrick is older and coming off an injury. In a perfect world, he could pair with P2 -- Kirkpatrick absolutely looks the part at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds -- and then Byron Murphy would be inside. But Kirkpatrick just got here and has to show coaches what he can do. As for the pass rusher, I don't know if they will sign anyone or not. With Haason Reddick working out there among others, they might feel like they have options. Isaiah Simmons could do that once in a while. You can blitz Budda. You can use Zach Allen on the edge sometimes.

From Fletcher Battles via

"Why is there no talk about Hakeem Butler, Michael Dogbe, or Miles Brown? These were guys who played last year and were supposed to be key depth guys going forwards, yet the media is silent on them and nobody is saying anything. Hakeem Butler especially. Is he not getting along with teammates as nobody has dropped his name or said he is a friend. He is not working out with the likes of Sherfield, Kirk, and Edmonds. Where is he? How does he look? Can we please get some info on our draft guys rather than the likes of Ken Crawley and B.W. Webb who nobody cares about. P.S. this may sound like a rant, but it's not, I am hyped about Hakeem Butler, but it seems we have forgotten him."

If it walks like a rant and talks like a rant ... From afar, I am guessing Butler is getting along with everyone just fine. I've seen Fitz go up to him to give some advice a time or two. He's out here every day working, but when your top three receivers are all but set in concrete, there is going to be less buzz (there is also going to be less buzz when no one can report on practice.) As for Dogbe and Brown, they also continue to work, but there are veterans ahead of them that will likely eat up most of the snaps.

From @cardsfanjoanna via Twitter:

"We have had both local sports reporters as well as national ones claiming that the entire DeAndre Hopkins hamstring injury story is a cover for a contract hold out (or 'hold in.') Are there any legs to this? I am aware that Hopkins and Kingsbury have publicly denied the claims. But some of the writers are pressing the story in spite of these claims."

It'd be one thing for the coach to come out and say it's an injury (and not anything else.) But why would a player, who is trying to create leverage, come out and deny it as strongly as D-Hop did if he didn't mean the denial? That makes no sense. The player might not confirm it, but he certainly wouldn't deny it. And the agent hadn't leaked it either? I understand why some people wondered when he was first out, given the Melvin Ingram situation. But once Hopkins talked about it, I thought it was a moot point. I understand the topic is click-baity, though.

From Justine Murray via

"You guys need to do more articles and interviews with Justin Murray. I don't think I've ever heard the man speak. It gets to the point where this guy is a full two-year starter, and yet is still treated like a donut tire. He's not really a backup anymore. He is our starting right tackle, as important and relevant as D.J. Humphries at left tackle, who gets plenty of mic time. Go welcome the guy into a fray as a full-time starter and interview him, introduce him to the fans."

Couple things here: Murray did a nice job in his 12 starts last year. That doesn't make him a two-year starter. I did talk to Justin a couple times last year -- he is a very nice guy but he does not strike me as the type seeking out attention. He could start at right tackle. But no one has said that. Kingsbury has said a few times that position remains a battle. I'm sure it'll be a big story when the starter is announced (if it is announced.) We also are at the mercy of the team's media relations staff, during this pandemic, of who we are talking to. It's not like normal when we can just approach whomever we want. Finally, I have to admit I googled donut tire, because I didn't know that term.

From Joe Cardea via

"Darren, I recall hearing De'Vondre Campbell's contract was really a one-year deal. Can you explain with cap implications as well? What would it take to extend him now that Simmons is in the fold? Has the league talked about creativity with cap implications for 2021 and beyond due to COVID?"

I know I've talked about this before, but essentially, it's a $1 million salary with a $5 million signing bonus and a deal that automatically voids. That gives Campbell the ability to get $6M for one season and the Cards to spread that hit over two years -- $2M this year, "dead" cap of $4M next year. His future in Arizona beyond 2020 would seem to me based on his market going forward and how he would be used with Hicks and Simmons. As far as the league's cap work, that's still up in the air, other than a cap floor -- which is below what the cap is this year -- being set. There is still a good chance the cap will make for some tough decisions all the way around for all teams next season.

From Michael Travers via

"Hello Darren, been enjoying all the Cardinal news and information from training camp. Last year Lisa Matthews was also reporting during training camp. Is she still part of your team and if so will she be doing some Cardinal reports?"

Lisa is indeed still part of the team. She had a beautiful baby boy this offseason and she remains on maternity leave, but I can promise you she misses being part of this and interacting with the fans, and she will be back sooner rather than later.

From Larry Legend via

"Hi Darren, have you had a chance to watch Chris Streveler in camp? How does he look? Do you think he'll be used at all in the offense each week?"

I have watched him. He looks like a third-string quarterback trying to find a role. I wouldn't be able to say if he'll be used in the offense each week given that scheme is closed to reporting, but in truth, I don't know and I don't know if the Cards know yet either. We know he could have a special teams spot, but with the loss of the offseason and preseason games, a guy like Streveler -- and the role(s) he might play -- is one of the players most deeply impacted.

From @Weixler15 via Twitter:

"How good has Dan Arnold been during camp? The Arizona Cardinals subreddit has been flooding the page with memes about him since the Peter Schrager segment and I want to know how well he's been playing from people close to the team."

I can tell you Arnold is somewhat aware of all the attention. He's getting a ton of reps in part because Maxx Williams hasn't been out there. I think he looks pretty good. I know they have some high hopes for him after how he looked late in the season. But I can also tell you that in my 20-plus years covering this team, I haven't seen a tight end break out even when there have been high hopes. I like the kid and I can see why Kingsbury does. We will see, when there are so many mouths to feed on offense, where he might fit.

From Goose Johnson via

"Hey Darren. I've been going to camp practices at the stadium for several years now, and I was always curious why the defensive line and pass rushers go off the field, down those little stairs, and practice with the sleds in that little nook. I'm trying to describe it for readers, but you know what I'm talking about. The main field and the north end where the D-line practices are totally separated, and you can't even see that little area when you're in the stands. Why do they do that? Is it a secretive thing? Is it a safety thing? Is it to protect the field?"

Basically, it's a space thing. In training camp, when you have 80 guys (or 90 in a normal season) and all the positions break up for individual drills, there just isn't enough room for everyone on a single field. Plus you can keep the giant blocking sleds down there on the turf -- the O-line works down there too -- and it doesn't mess up the grass or have those things in the way when the team work starts. Mostly it's about space.

From @KendrickOldham via Twitter:

"Kind of an odd question but is the number 24 retired? I've noticed that nobody since Adrian Wilson has worn it. Just curious. Thank you!"

It is not retired. But yes, it is not used much at all in deference to A-Dub.

From Q Jones via

"Hi Darren, have you watched practice in person yet? Any initial impressions? Also, I may be reading into it too much, but Byron Murphy was asked who's ahead right now, offense or defense, and he said definitely defense. Now that can mean two things. Most likely he's just repping his D. Or it could mean the offense legitimately sucks right now. Can you confirm?"

I can confirm I asked Murphy the question. But I'd lean toward repping the defense. Each side has made their plays (this was also a week ago or so now, a lifetime in camp practices.) As far as practice overall, I can't get specific, as I have mentioned before. But I've been here for every practice so far. It looks like ... camp. I don't know if I would read too far into anything, especially since there have been so few padded practices and vets are getting days off.

From Matthew Stroh via

"Hey Darren, I'm a OTR Truck driver and I have my phone read me your mailbag every week. Love it. I just think it's funny that some reporters ask for coaches to tell their plans and schemes when interviewed for all the other teams to hear. I understand having to ask question. And I loved Jeff Rodgers' response and I loved the D.J. Humphries' response of 'run it to the left and to the right.' I feel like football is like chess and having to plan for what the other team is doing. You don't tell your opponent what your future moves are going to be, right? Why do reporters ask questions that we shouldn't want the world to know the answers to?"

Matthew, I appreciate this question, because this gets at the heart of my first love, which is journalism. Big picture, there are always things out there where you can find someone who wouldn't want the world to know. Without those questions, or reporting, you'd never uncover corruption. Now, football doesn't carry those stakes, and I'm not saying this is as important to cover. But like you say, you understand having to ask the question. The person being interviewed needs to understand the question can and should be asked. You can answer any way you want (like Humphries or Rodgers). I also think there is a way to answer questions like that where you give some information that is worthwhile without giving away your secrets to the opponent. Going all Bill Belichick isn't necessary.

From Paul Hitch via

"With no preseason games, how will end of roster guys make the team? I feel like we are headed towards a season with the least amount of turnover we've ever seen, because the staff will roll with guys they had on the roster last year. It's so sad. I wish they'd expand the practice squads, just so some of these UDFA guys get a better chance of sticking. Tony Jefferson was an UDFA. Imagine if he never got a chance."

They actually are expanding the practice squads to 16. But you are right, it's a difficult year to be an UDFA. Losing preseason games is a killer for guys like that.

From Maddy Santeria via

"I had a politico-global security class at ASU where they talked about how there is a problem in the intelligence community where the big agencies (FBI, NSA, CIA, etc) don't talk to or share intel information with the other agencies, because every agency wants to be the one that lands the big event. 'We found bin Laden! Give us all the funding, not them'- type stuff. That was a long-winded way of asking if you and Kyle fight over who gets to cover what story, and if you are secretive about info."

Lol. I just got through saying how our coverage doesn't rank with uncovering corruption, and here we are being compared to the CIA. Nice. Clearly, Kyle and I have a no-holds-barred cage match anytime there is that situation. Adrian Wilson is the guest referee. ... No, we don't really fight. We have a pretty good relationship, and you're not going to find many people more chill than Kyle.

From @doctor_bigs via Twitter:

"Who has the best team reporter in the NFL and why is it you?"

Hmmm. Should I put this in the mailbag? I mean, I'm above that sort of thing.

No I'm not.

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