The Cardinals come off the bye sitting at 5-2 and in second place in the NFC West. I had so many questions sent in the past week, I couldn't possibly get to them all but I appreciate it and have answered as many as I can. Keep them coming -- to send one in for a future mailbag, just go here.
From Mark Manthei via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, do the Cards have any plans for promoting Prince Amukamara to the active roster? Seems like a good way to get some talent and experience in a position where they could really use some. I was surprised to see they only signed him to the practice squad."
Well, given that he hadn't played all season and would need ramp up time, it helps a lot when a guy can be on the practice squad and not take up a roster spot. Vance Joseph said Amukamara was getting close, but we will see what exactly that means -- if he would actually be dropped into significant playing time or if he would just be depth/injury protection. I will not be surprised to see him on the 53-man roster, though.
From Martin K via azcardinals.com:
"It seems to me that Kyler has a weakness over the top on short and intermediate post routes. What I see is that opposing teams leave a linebacker in the gaps to prevent Kyler from taking off. Most passes go to the outside and Fitz and Isabella aren't targeted much. Carson Palmer could see Fitz all the way and could throw strikes over the middle in the red zone. Do you think Kliff uses VR camera footage from practice to analyze what Kyler actually sees? Will those cameras be allowed during the game at some point? Would be cool to see some footage in your video section."
The Cardinals don't use the virtual reality camera anymore, so no, it's not part of the Kyler coaching. And even if they did, it likely wouldn't be posted on the site.
From Domingo Castillo via azcardinals.com:
"My question concerns why blockers rarely cover a runner's 'six' when he is running. Most of the time, runner is caught from behind, as in Metcalf vs Budda Baker. When Andy Isabella caught a pass against 49ers, he had a few guys trailing him, but Kirk was way up front leading the way, instead of coming back and blocking the threat. It happens on returns, too. This doesn't just happen only with Cardinals. Is there a penalty rule against blocking the rear-threat?"
If you square up a guy face to face, no, there's no rule against blocking in that way. But you are right, there seem to be quite a few long plays where if a teammate just used some common sense, they could really spring a guy.
From Hank Portsman via azcardinals.com:
"Justin Murray has done such a good job filling in at RG for the injured Sweezy. Do you think Murray is our right guard of the future, considering we just extended him? It makes sense. Although I'm curious what that means for RT. Assuming Murray is a RG going forward, who is our long term RT? This is a weird place we're in. For the first time, maybe ever, the Cards are pretty darn secure at all 5 OL spots, RT being the only question."
Josh Jones, the 2020 third-round pick, is your right tackle of the future. Murray might be that guy, but they like depth too.
From Jayson Mills via azcardinals.com:
"Bro! Could you please explain the IR rules? For a long time when a guy was put on IR, he was done. But there was like one or two slots available where a certain dude could come back after a few weeks. So you had to choose wisely who you chose to bring back. Now it seems like we can throw anyone and everyone on a three-week IR. Jalen and Maxx and Rashard and Zack. Everybody is coming and going. So is it now unlimited?"
You are correct, bro. One of the 2020 rules, instituted because of COVID, is that IR is now a minimum of three weeks and you can bring back as many players as you want. The rules, right now, are scheduled to go back to normal next season, when it remains a year-long list with the exception of a couple guys coming back after a minimum of eight weeks on IR.
From Luis Delgado via azcardinals.com:
"Hi there Darren, thanks for doing the mailbag. I really enjoy your insights. Is there an alternative to Dre Kirkpatrick? Russell Wilson went after him all day and got everything against him. Also, did Budda Baker give up on the Tyler Lockett TD that occurred right before the half? It seemed as though he was in perfect coverage and then stopped on the play, perhaps thinking the ball went elsewhere."
Wilson did go after Kirkpatrick, in part because Kirkpatrick was on Tyler Lockett, who is a pretty good receiver. But Kirkpatrick has struggled much of the season. Does his spot change with either Prince Amukamara or now De'Vante Bausby? We will see. Without getting to see practice, it's hard to tell if a move is going to be made. As for Baker, something happened on that play, because he and Peterson were right there. Not sure why Budda stopped, but Peterson was still in a great spot -- I still don't know how Wilson dropped it in there.
From Dan Dare via azcardinals.com:
"Talk about 'too soon' but what do we do about Haason Reddick? In his final year, he suddenly becomes a crucial player on our defense. I don't know if you've noticed, but he is really good in flats-coverage. From the edge, to the sideline, he's so good. Is it more likely we keep him, or is he getting a payday elsewhere? In which case we hope for a comp pick. Also, Isaiah Simmons seems to be a similar body-type as Reddick. Is it possible that if Reddick does leave, Simmons could pick up the OLB job? Campbell and Hicks could be our long-term ILBs? Thanks."
The difference between Simmons and Reddick is that Reddick's background, yes, was as an edge rusher. Simmons doesn't have that kind of experience there. After the play he made -- as an inside linebacker -- against Seattle, that's why they like him at ILB. As far as Reddick's future, I don't know what that holds. The free-agent market, both in keeping your own guys and in signing others, is going to be fascinating, because of the drop in salary cap (and the continued unknown of what might happen in 2021 with crowds at games). If Reddick ends up with 10 sacks, what happens (Markus Golden had 10 sacks last year and never found the market he was looking for, and that was in a normal FA period.)
From Darren Porter-Phillips via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, thanks for taking time to answer my questions about our #BIRDGANGGG. In all reality after observing our team do you see a Super Bowl? I ask because I know it sounds far fetched but the young stunna man K1 (Kyler Murray) is playing better each week and so is everyone else SERIOUSLY! D-Hop is the top receiver in the league and Fitz is a legend I just don't see us getting stopped especially as we continue to get better each week."
Kudos to your unbridled enthusiasm, but they are 5-2 and have a long way to go. This next stretch will test them, because the Dolphins aren't an easy out, the Bills are leading the division and then you have a short week before a road trip to Seattle. The Cardinals haven't been to the playoffs since 2015. I'd think the postseason is the first goal, and then see where you are at that point.
From Mike In Gilbert via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, long-time reader, first-time questioner! I'm curious as to your opinion on the Seattle-Arizona game: which team do you think played closer to their ceiling? I feel Seattle played a great game, except for Wilson's interceptions. I feel the Cards still left a lot on the table -- they played well, but they're going to be much better with more untapped potential than Seattle has. (which is *not* a criticism -- I'm absolutely thrilled with the victory!) What's your assessment? Thanks for all the great information you provide us fans on a weekly basis."
I understand your perspective. The Cardinals are not capitalizing on everything they could. However, the question becomes, will they? We are almost halfway through the season. They, like any team, can get hot. I still think there are things they can improve. But that doesn't necessarily mean they will improve on those things. If they can, do they have a higher ceiling than the Seahawks? Maybe they do. But there is what a team should do and what they ultimately do. And only the latter counts.
From Mike Sasnett via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, what do players/coaches typically do on the bye week? Do they start watching film for the next game during the bye week or do they wait until the start of game week? How has the bye week changed with COVID protocols?"
Some of the talk about the bye week is here, but of course it changed with COVID. Players and staff have to be tested daily, so no one could leave town for an extended weekend this time around. Corey Peters was actually talking about how impressed he was with the number of guys working out on days when they weren't required to be in the building last week (of course, there wasn't much else to do. Winning also helps.) But usually, players are around for a day or two and then they take off for a few days out of town. Coaches are always looking ahead -- they not only started on the Dolphins film but also the Bills, who are up the week after this.
From BDUB Wooten via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I notice that when Kyler takes the field or anytime he puts on his helmet, all the straps are buckled and he just pops it on top of his head. I mean it's so loose it goes right on without even unbuckling any of the straps. Should I be concerned about this? Thanks for the mailbag!"
No, you should not be concerned. I've noticed Kyler's straps are a new version where they are easily loosened -- so instead of buckling them up every play, they stay buckled and then you just loosen the fit so you can get the helmet off. When it's time to play, you tighten it again. He's protected, and he's fine.
From Jay Ussep via azcardinals.com:
"Given our relative thin-ess at DL due to injuries, is it weird to we haven't promoted Michael Dogbe from the practice squad? I thought he was going to be a rotational player anyways. It was a surprise when he was cut. The fact we bring in Mauro, before bringing up Dogbe, is weird to me."
I think it says a lot to where they see Dogbe in his development. Not much more complicated than that.
From Dave Tank via azcardinals.com:
"Any chance we see Eno Benjamin pop up to the active roster while Kenyan's ankle heals? Neither Chase nor Eno are the prototypical every-down back, but sharing snaps could aide in keeping them both fresh and healthy."
I'm not 100 percent sure Edmonds can't do it every down, but regardless, sure there is a chance Benjamin could play (he's already been on the active roster, he's been on the 53 all season). Whether he does or not we'll have to see. I know people are anxious to see Eno play, but it's not a slam dunk he would be used ahead of Jonathan Ward or even D.J. Foster.
From Cy Fredrick via azcardinals.com:
"I noticed in the Sunday night game vs. Seattle in the numerous situations in which Kyler had to spike the ball to stop the clock, that he kind of opened to the side and spiked the ball as opposed to stepping straight back. If you go to the side like that, could that be construed as a fumble?"
No, that's fine. The only issue is if he were to drop the snap before spiking, or make any other throwing move first. But a slight opening to the side isn't going to be a problem.
From Jeff Wallace via azcardinals.com:
"Why not use Isaiah Simmons as an occasional tight end, given his size, speed, athleticism. We saw against the Seahawks he can catch the football. I know it's rare for teams to do that but seems an interesting possibility. Signed, a huge fan from Franklin Tennessee."
Yeah, they are working hard enough to get Simmons comfortable with inside linebacker, with the hope he can potentially move around to a couple other defensive spots at some point. A role on offense isn't going to happen. (Also, he weighs about 30 pounds less than most tight ends.)
From Phillip Gilliam via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, 56-year Cards fan here. How far do you think this particular edition of Cardinals football can go? Playoffs? NFC Champs? Super Bowl? I need one Super Bowl win before I leave the planet. Thought I had it in 2008."
First of all, don't start talking about leaving the planet. That can't help things. As I noted earlier, they are in a good place. Having been around the 2008 team, I never rule anything out. But after this start, if they don't reach the postseason, I think it will be disappointing, knowing how they are built. Beyond that? I just don't know at this point.
From Joe Mooney via azcardinals.com:
"Any reason some pre-Arizona-era Cardinals make our Ring of Honor and others don't? Dick Lane and Jim Thorpe are both good examples. Lane is in our ROH, but not Thorpe. Both are Hall of Famers. I would think with our Native American community here in AZ, it would be nice to honor Thorpe as a trailblazer in our sport, and athletics in general. Did you know he was an Olympian?"
I am very familiar with the story and legend of Jim Thorpe. Read about him countless times when I was a kid. That said, Thorpe played in exactly one game for this franchise, when he was 41 years old. He is one of the greatest athletes ever. But I understand why he would not be in this team's Ring of Honor. Lane played 6 years for the Cardinals with 30 interceptions. Not exactly apples and oranges.
From Gary Gammiero via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren. Watching Isaiah Simmons make that interception Sunday night made me think of Karlos Dansby because they are both tall and athletic. I know it's early for Isaiah but do you think he has the tools to be like Karlos? Thank you for having this mailbag because I have cheered for the Cardinals since 1966 and it's great to follow them with your stories."
Los was thicker than Simmons, but yes, I think if Simmons could develop into a Dansby-type the Cards would be thrilled. I do think as we go Simmons has the ability to branch out beyond what Dansby ever did, though.
From Kenyon Carlson via azcardinals.com:
"During the Cardinals-Seahawks game on Sunday night, I thought I heard Cris Collinsworth state that mathematically all four NFC West teams could make the playoffs! Is that possible?"
Yes. The NFL has added a seventh playoff team to each conference. So in theory, you'd have a division winner and then the other three teams could all secure the now-three wild card spots. It will be difficult with teams beating up on each other in the division, but not impossible. However, with the injuries the 49ers have incurred, including now George Kittle, I don't see them holding up any kind of playoff push.
From Don from AZ:
"Darren, I heard Kyler say that for him there is no bye week, he will keep working. Are there any rules that prohibit players from coming in on their own to practice?"
There are no rules stopping a player from working out, but no, they can't go out on the field and throw the football around or run plays, even if there are not coaches around.
From Ian McMechan via azcardinals.com:
"Hello from the shiny new UA of E. In your opinion is it better to fit the players to the system or the system to the players? Does adopting one approach or the other make more of a difference on offense or defense, if at all?"
The best coaches are the ones that can tailor the system to fit what the players do the best. Usually, the team will build a roster so you have players that can run the system you want -- if you have a 4-3 scheme and a bunch of 3-4 OLBs that are undersized to be a 4-3 DE, you're usually changing personnel over time to get those 4-3 DEs -- but once you have those basic things in place, you need to understand as a coach what your guys do well and what they do not and make it work. Square pegs, round holes and all that.
From James Savage via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren! Love the column. Glad everyone is buzzing off a couple prime time wins. Now with the trade deadline looming, and quite a few tough matchups left, should the Cardinals be buying players for a playoff run? What's their cap situation looking like? And what positions do they need the most depth at? I think the secondary is playing well but could certainly use some depth."
They've been adding players. They traded for Golden. They signed Bausby, Mauro and even Amukamara. There probably wasn't going to be a sexy trade, but they've added. The cap is something to consider -- especially next year.
From Brad Cain via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, not a question, but a statement to go with my previous statement before the season started. Halfway through the season ( minus 1 game) we're 5-2, 2-0 in the west coming off the great win over Seattle, yet we're still fourth in the division on the power rankings, WAKE UP PEOPLE, THIS TEAM ISNT GOING AWAY. Not to take anything away from the rams or 9ers, but I truly believe we are the better team and will be representing the NFC WEST in the Superbowl. Go Cardinals. Thanks for the time you do every week for us fans with your mailbag Darren, dropping the mic now. Signed, biggest Cardinals fan in northern California."
Appreciate the excitement. A piece of advice: Never ever get caught up in power rankings.