The Cardinals are back to .500 at 2-2, and face a very much not .500 club at home this week when the undefeated Eagles visit. Well then it's time for a mailbag, isn't it. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Glenn Mayweather:
"Like everyone else I was surprised to hear the story about J.J.'s cardiac event. Happy he's OK. That said, it could not have had worse timing with the Tua situation. Ultimately he played (and played extremely well) but the optics are atrocious. I guess we'll see in the coming days or weeks, but is there a chance this could be really bad for the Cardinals as an organization if they get wrapped up in this Tua/NFLPA/handling of players health situation by allowing Watt to play 72 hours after essentially having a heart attack?"
Whoa, there. I am not a doctor, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But nowhere have I seen A-Fib described as "essentially having a heart attack" so I'm not sure why you would. I understand the concern (?) but to say the optics are atrocious is a little much. If the info hadn't been leaked, the optics wouldn't have been anything. I get how the Tua stuff is on everyone's mind, but if the guy says he's talked to multiple doctors and they all said the same thing -- that he could play -- it feels like an overreach to say you shouldn't play because it looks bad.
From Phillip Gillam:
"Darren. I was at the game, sitting a few rows behind the Cardinals bench. It appears we don't understand the late substitution rules and it cost us two timeouts. Kyler got a little animated with Kliff on the second one. Do you think we were trying to fool the Panthers? Under 10 seconds was a recipe for a timeout disaster and the refs simply aren't allowing it without the other team being able to substitute."
Kingsbury acknowledged the Panthers were good about stalling their matching subs enough to help cause problems (in fact, Rhule did it so late on one play the ref allowed the play to start and it was the Panthers who were forced to burn a timeout). But yes, the Cardinals know the sub rule -- if the offense makes any subs, the defense gets a chance to sub, as the playclock rolls -- so no, I think it's more of a question of being on top of the package you want out there faster rather than trying to "trick" anyone.
From Dan Linggi:
"Hi Darren. It feels like Kyler Murray is being utilized like Tomlin used Ben Roethlisberger. Low-risk, high-percentage passes that result in long grinding drives. Kyler Murray is a uniquely talented dual threat QB. If teams are committed to outside contain and spy defensive tactics, does this not allow options for a QB with elite throwing accuracy? Do you think there is a lack of offensive creativity? Poor pre-snap awareness by the QB? It just feels like I'm watching some twisted version of who they should be."
I don't know. Obviously if I did I could make a lot more money. I disagree about the Ben parallel. Ben was playing that way at the end because he didn't have the arm to do anything different. There are times when I do think there is an opportunity for more creativity with some players. That said, I don't know what Kyler is truly comfortable with and if he does indeed have as much freedom on the field as he says he does, I don't know how often what he is doing is his choice or Kliff's. I will agree to the last part: What it feels this should be and what it is definitely do not link up.
From Matt H:
"Hey Darren! This last win over the Panthers was the sweetest victory of the Kliff Kingsbury era. I'm a Cardinals fan living in North Carolina and I despise the Panthers. I still suffer from PTSD thinking about how Cam Newton ran down Patrick Peterson after the interception in the 2015 NFC Championship. I guess my question is are the Cardinals set up to finish strong this year?"
It was always going to be prove-it-to-me on the field. If they don't start playing better, the end of the season will be a moot point (although with so many mediocre teams, the playoff race will last a long time for most.) Getting Hop back will help. But at this stage, I can't say if they are set up that way.
From Manuel Manezes:
"What's going on with Budda? He's out there and playing well I guess, but it aint 'Budda,' ya know? The playmaker. The splash dude. It know it's dumb but I care about getting dudes into the Pro Bowl, and I'm not sure if that streak continues at this pace. A lot of good safeties in the NFL right now and he's getting outpaced on the picks and forced fumbles. I worry he's falling behind. Even if he doesn't make the Pro Bowl, that's fine, but we do need him to be more of a star for us."
I'm not a worry guy when it comes to the Pro Bowl. Your record is going to determine some of that stuff. I guess I understand your thoughts on Baker and the splashy stuff, but I think Budda has been solid and the bigger issue is the defense as a whole.
"What is wrong with Rodney Hudson? I understand he was contemplating retirement this offseason, but he's playing like he's got half a foot out the door already."
There have been some moments when Hudson has struggled for sure -- some errant shotgun snaps, some lost one-on-one battles. His overall PFF grades have not been the same since coming to Arizona either. But I think he's definitely important to be out there. Kyler trusts him. Not sure if he's around beyond this season, but I don't think his hiccups are any more than most of the offense.
From Riley Poots:
"Hiya Darren, I don't know why but the postgame presser was weird to me, with Watt and Murray both walking up in full uniform. In all your years, have you noticed a protocol when it comes to that stuff? Like sometimes they walk straight up in full pads, other times they make you wait four hours and walk up in a three-piece suit. Did they have a flight so they just wanted to hurry up and knock it out? Bonus question: Who is the all-time best postgame speaker you've seen. *NOT interview. I think that's different. I mean a guy who talks Ws and Ls whos especially informative with answers. Bonus question part deux - longest you've ever had to wait for a postgame presser, and why did it take so long?"
I've been doing this a long time. I've seen plenty of postgame pressers with guys in uniform. Usually, yeah, the jersey comes off because they want their shoulder pads off. But there were circumstances this week. I think Watt was anxious to talk about his situation and be done with it, knowing his news had been out for almost seven hours already. With Kyler, he's a guy you either get early, or you're gonna be waiting a long time. I appreciate the fact he's been more willing to come in quickly. It helps me a ton in road games. Early in his career, Fitz didn't want to stay in the locker room at all and then often quickly would talk; eventually his look became important and we had to wait until he was fully decked out in whatever expensive suit he had at the time. In road games, there is always a flight waiting; the team always flies back after the game (and I have to get my stuff done quickly to be on the same flight.)
As for the bonus questions, it's tough to find good postgame much anymore. Lot of cliches, especially after losses. But usually the best postgame people are the ones who are willing to be brutally honest. Bruce Arians a lot of the time. Adrian Wilson was pretty good like that. Back in the day, when reporters were allowed to linger in the locker room for everyone, I remember multiple good conversations with Frank Sanders after most had left. As for the longest? Kyler took nearly an hour once or twice. That seems to be in the past though.
From Sebas Quiros:
"Do you think Kliff is in a hot seat? I know they extended him, but you have to wonder, even with the extension, is his job really that safe if the Cardinals hand in another underachieving season? Always a pleasure submitting in the mailbag!"
No I do not.
From Kenyon Carlson:
"A friend of mine is convinced that Kliff doesn't script the first 10-15 offensive plays, in large because none of the players in postgame interviews have ever definitively confirmed that he does. I thought scripting plays was a strategy virtually every HC practiced in the modern NFL. But I see no conceivable advantage to not having any scripted plays. Does Kliff really not script any plays?"
That's an odd way to ask. It feels like you are basing a question on what your friend thinks like it's fact. My first thought would be "How would my friend know?" Yes, Kliff scripts plays.
From Jeff S:
"Do you have any insight on which of the following players may be ready for the Eagles game: McCoy, Wesley, Ford, and Hamilton. On an unrelated item I know that No. 8 is retired for Larry Wilson, No. 40 for Pat Tillman and No. 88 for JV Cain. For whom are numbers 77 and 99 retired for? I know that JJ Watt received permission from the family to wear 99."
From Peter Kacmar:
"Hi Darren. Glad for the win. One thing I noted -- Mr.Bidwill on the sideline. Can't recall seeing him there during the match. Or am I wrong and he goes there more often?"
Michael Bidwill goes down to the sideline every game. It's always near the end of the game, but he is down there every week.
From Collin M:
"Hi Darren, thanks in advance. My question has to do with the term 'execution' -- we hear frequently that the team 'just needs to execute better.' But is execution a symptom or a cause? I was wondering if you wouldn't mind discussing it during one of the podcasts, or asking Drew/KVB on the subject. How much of our inability to execute is because we're not running the routes with the right timing, vs the other team disrupting things better? Next question: what can be done to make the offense more resilient to this sort of pressure?"
We will talk about this in the next podcast we are recording today. I think, short answer, it's possible to be either. And it isn't just the defense. It could be because the plays don't work in real time. Or you are trying to run them with the wrong personnel. But it could also be basic. A common refrain from players and coaches often is about how "it's not just one guy, it's a different guy every time." And in football, that's true, one mistake can jack something up. No question it often is a complicated answer.
From Robin Hayes:
"As a loyal fan of 23 straight years, I am wondering when Kyler Murray is going to start playing like a decisive team player and not try to give us a one-man show as in the losses? I am telling you as an adult fan, his looks, body language, and facial expressions caught on camera are telling to the opponent and to the rest of the team. It's heart-stopping when he handles the ball and directs a team effort like he's capable of. It's magic. Too bad and painful to see and hear him frustrated with the whole team when he's the one with three fingers pointing back at himself when he points one finger at others. The Cardinals are a phenomenal team. Positive energy, winning, and team recognition as team effort will send them thru the playoffs more than negative energy. Thanks for the opportunity to provide loving input. I've never felt compelled to do so before."
I have not seen those things this season, to be honest. I'm not sure what "as an adult fan" means, because it comes across as a "get off my lawn" kind of vibe. I think there has been a maturation process Murray is still undergoing. There are times Murray gets pissed off. Yes. Just like Brady or Rodgers or any other quarterback. Right now, I think Murray's body language is nowhere near any of the things this offense should be concerned about.
From Ryan Sherman:
"After reading everyone's responses (after the Rams loss) these people seem to think the Cardinals before the season were the defending Super Bowl champions. No we are not. People need to learn to temper their expectations and become a true fan expecting a few losses here and there. Before the season without D.Hop, and the injuries that piled up I had us 0-3 to start the season. Not because we couldn't win those three games but because we aren't at full strength against teams that are perennially better than us barring the Raiders, of course. My only question is why is everyone of our fans (In the mailbag) dogging on our team/coaches already? We could have Steve Wilks back ooof. Go Cards.Thank you Darren."
People are upset because the team has underperformed in areas. That is undeniable and completely fair from fans who feel burned with how last season finished up. I'm not into defining what makes a "true fan" because in all honesty, it differs for people. When you are not playing well, there is going to be criticism. Whether they can turn their play into some consistency and fend that criticism off is the next step.
From Dan Williams:
"Hey Darren, long time fan here. I haven't submitted anything in years, but I have been biting my tongue since January hoping to see some positive results with the team. Before I get into my questions, I would like to say that I appreciate your work and the amount of patience it takes to deal with all the negative comments, rants and just all out anger that you do on a daily basis. I listen to all the podcasts on the azcardinals app, read the majority of your articles and try to follow your mailbag as much as possible. So with that being said I will try to make these informed questions.
- As a football coach in high school and college, I can appreciate the onus Kingsbury takes on, however, willingness to take responsibility becomes meaningless if you don't truly attempt to change. When is he going to realize his air-raid style isn't working and maybe it's time to go a little more traditional (21, 11, 12 personnel with more power running, PA and mid-to-long passes)?
- Do you think that Mr. Bidwill is second guessing those long term contract extensions to Keim and Kingsbury?
- When are they gonna just switch Simmons to DB? It seems to me that he struggles more not really having a definitive role than being this made up position with too many different responsibilities.
- Has the coaching staff thought about moving Kennard inside and letting the Sanders and Thomas rotate with Gardeck and Golden? You can't afford to sit those guys when you have little to no real pass rush on the edge."
Thanks for the kind words. Here are some answers.
- I think Kliff is fully aware of what is working and what isn't and why it is or isn't. I don't see a guy who has built his whole career on an offense -- and there was a lot of two-tight end last week -- going to philosophically overhaul. It doesn't happen.
- I do not.
- I don't see Simmons becoming a full-time DB, in part because he'd be a safety and they are already set there. At best, he'll be a hybrid.
- I don't get to see Sanders and Thomas every day. But I know the coaches went to bat to make sure Kennard stuck around even if he was released, and your notion of "you can't afford" implies you know they will be an upgrade.
From Paula Gallo:
"My favorite player is James Conner. How many yards did he made in a single game?"
I assume you are asking what his highest total has been. Conner had 146 yards against the Browns for the Steelers in 2018. His best game for the Cardinals was 96 yards gained in a game against the 49ers last season.
From Go Suns:
"Hey Darren, about how much cap space do the Cardinals currently have?"
According to overthecap.com, they have a little more than $6 million in cap space.
From Greg Painter:
"Hi Darren. Love the mailbag and the job you do. Thank you. Okie Greg here. What in the heck is up with Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons? Neither one seems to be living up to hype or draft position, i know the draft is a bit of a crap shoot, and I know they had other needs, but don't you think they had an idea that maybe these may not be the guys they thought they were and should have addressed the situation in draft? On the needs they did address edge rusher, where are those guys (Thomas and Sanders)? I'm a member of the Birdgang for life so give me something to feel good about. Thank you again for all your hard work."
I think Collins is improving. Simmons got more work last week and the coaches insist he is practicing better. The idea that they were going to already close the door on either -- Collins is only in his second season, for goodness sake -- and draft replacements is folly. No, I don't think they should already give up on them. As far as the third-round edge guys, again, clearly the coaches aren't comfortable with them yet.
From Jordan Burns:
"On the radio this morning was a poll on "The most disappointing Cardinal player" and the results were predictable. The leader was Simmons. Followed by Green and then Golden. But for my money, the best answer isn't even on the list: Rondale Moore. As a guy who has back and wrist issues myself, I get it. Injuries happen. But availability is the best ability. If we had Moore, would we be 4-0? Probably not. But a part of me thinks we could very well be 3-1. Therefore Moore not staying healthy is directly costing us games."
I don't disagree that availability is crucial. It doesn't matter if you are greatest player ever if you can't play. If Moore stays healthy this season and plays 14 games, that's a good season and this start will be forgotten. I get frustration with injured guys, but Moore isn't trying to be on the sideline. In reality, if he is that good in your opinion, you certainly want to give him as many chances as you can to play.
From Kevin Parham:
"I know it's typical for players from different teams to work out together during the offseason. During these sessions, I'm sure they also share tips for improvement and maybe even how they work against a common opponent. Have you ever heard of head coaches whether former or current helping to school other coaches about strategy, game planning, sharing intel on particular coaches?"
Coaches, especially college to pro and vise versa, chat quite a bit. So yes, these conversations happen often and they trade info. Now, is Kliff Kingsbury and Sean McVay going to do it? No. They are trying to beat each other.
From Mike in Gilbert:
"Hey Darren. Please rename your mailbag. While 'You've Got Mail" is my wife's favorite movie (insert shoutout to Michelle here), I think "The Voice of Reason" is far more accurate. Thanks for considering, however brief that consideration might've been. And for bringing us sanity and sarcasm packaged so nicely each week."
My friend Darin Gantt at the Panthers (whose mailbag is named "Ask The Old Guy") wants me to call it "Urban Scrawl." It is kind of catchy I'd admit.