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You've Got Mail: Falcons Week

Topics include fourth-down risks, Kingsbury's evolution and the defense's issues


The Cardinals no longer are seeking their first win, after beating the Bengals Sunday. Now comes a home game against the Falcons. First, your questions. As always, you can leave a question for next week's mailbag by clicking here.

From Robert Malicki via

"The Bengals 'went for it' on 4th in a high risk part of the field in the first half. That I get, kind of. They were stuffed and paid the price. We did the same thing later in the game and won the roll. During the Sunday night game the talk was about Colts coach Frank Reich and his analytics. Is there a developing trend in how head coaches are viewing field position? Since the owners have deep-sixed the kicking return game maybe this will compensate? What's your view on this?"

I do believe there is a trend for teams -- slowly -- to take greater risks, and it is because of analytics. The numbers say, in many situations where teams punt, statistically they are better off and/or have a better chance than not to convert on fourth down. Honestly, it wasn't that the Bengals went for it to me, it was the terrible play call. Joe Mixon might have been stuffed at the line, but a handoff to your best back has a better chance to work than a shotgun draw QB sneak. It doesn't have anything to do with the kicking game, in my opinion. It's the stats -- the ones that say in the long run, you are better off. Here's one simple way to look at it near the goal line -- if you twice go for it on fourth down inside the 5, for instance, you only have to make it once and you'll get seven points -- better than if you kick field goals twice. It's that kind of thinking that has definitely trended up.

There are caveats that came with what happened Sunday, not the least of which being a) the Bengals do not have a good run defense; b) the Cardinals were without arguably their best wide receiver in Christian Kirk; and c) the Cardinals finally played with a lead. That said, David Johnson is one of their best offensive weapons and Chase Edmonds, I think, can make a difference. So yes, it behooves Kliff to involve them. The Falcons don't have a great defense either. Now, can they run as much on, say, the 49ers? We will see. But again, it is easier to involve running backs -- running and receiving -- if they are among your top playmakers.

From Troy Ezeh via

"So far now that we are a quarter into the season, what is your overall assessment of DJ Humphries at left tackle. To you has he been playing like a franchise left tackle now that he's been healthy?"

For the most part, Humphries has been OK. I don't think anyone -- and I'd dare say Humphries himself -- would declare he's playing at a franchise left tackle level. I do think the offensive line has been better then most people think. I think, assuming Kyler Murray plays smart as he did Sunday, the sacks are going to start going down. I saw a stat Sunday that had the Cardinals behind only the Colts on the percentage of passing snaps that gave the QB at least 3 seconds to throw the ball. As for Humphries, I think he's better in run blocking, so if this new version of Kingsbury's offense holds, maybe that will help Humphries trend upward.

From Matthew Walsh via

"I'm curious what your thoughts are about the Cardinals' personnel moves so far this season. The Cardinals had the top waiver position for the first few weeks, recently they restructured a contract to free up some money this season, yet overall they appear to have been somewhat quiet in the waiver/trade/signing department. Question 1: Are you surprised by this or have thoughts on the matter? Obviously most people will argue for Jalen Ramsey but with Pat P and Alford coming back I'd be surprised if they went there. Question 2: Given the struggles for a consistent pass rush, and injuries on the offensive line, do you see the Cardinals looking for DL/OL help prior to the NFL trading deadline? Or possibly another position?"

  1. No I am not surprised. Once you get into the season, there are few players floating out there that will make a huge difference. That's why you have to build in the offseason. And it's become clear the Cardinals want to develop young players at this point.
  2. With the reasons I stated in No. 1, I don't expect any big trade to come down for this team. To get a player that matters, teams are going to want draft picks and I just don't see what would be out there that would make the Cardinals want to send those picks away.

From Tzur Perets via

"Hi Darren, it seems like Budda Baker's play is little bit off right now. I really like him and think he is great talent. Is this a scheme-related or something else?"

I don't know if I'd say his play is off. To me, it's tougher to make plays when the overall talent level dips. Baker has also been playing in a different spot, mostly, than he did a year ago. I'm sure Baker would like to make more impact plays. But now, depending on Tramaine Brock's shoulder, he's the only experienced guy in the secondary. It'll be even easier for teams to avoid him.

Well, both those coaches might've stayed a little more with their mindset, but at the same time, both those coaches had their greatest success when they first arrived -- the first three seasons for both Whiz and Arians were their best years, comparatively. Kingsbury has not had that same fast start. That said, there is little question Kingsbury understands the need to morph. What will be interesting to see is how much Kingsbury continues to evolve. He says it's about week-to-week matchups, but it wasn't hard to see how much more, for instance, tight ends were used in Cincy.

From Ben Quesada via

"With all the focus being put on the players and coach, when is the attention going to shift to the GM for all the misses this guy has in free agency and the draft since Bruce Arians left. How much more can this franchise afford to wait to see if he can get back to the Warner and Palmer years?"

Did I miss something? Have people been ignoring Steve Keim? I feel like I am asked about it every week, and you clearly don't pay attention to my Twitter mentions. Even Keim talks about it. As for what the franchise can afford to do, that's going to come down to Michael Bidwill.

A good question. Even without Tramaine Brock dealing with a shoulder injury, this secondary is going to have a hard time with the Falcons' passing game. And we don't know if Brock will be able to play. A lot figures to be on the shoulders of Byron Murphy, who should end up being a very good cornerback but who is going through the normal rookie ups and downs.

From Bob Polk via

"I'm from Massachusetts and wanting more out of Andy Isabella. Why is he not playing much?"

The simple answer? He's not good enough yet. His snaps are increasing -- he had 10 offensive snaps on Sunday -- but right now they see him, clearly, as a weapon best deployed as a runner and/or decoy rather than a receiver. I expect his snaps to climb as the season goes on.

As I noted in last week's mailbag, when I have seen Robert Alford walking around there is still a limp. I'd think it'll be smarter to ask about him around midseason, but at this point, I'm not sure he's close to running around, much less practicing and/or playing.

From Jerry Brown via

"How much and how well did the Thompson twins play versus the Bengals?"

Jalen Thompson played 45 snaps (out of 67) and Deionte Thompson played 43. Kingsbury said each had some decent plays and they both showed the effort, but they also made some mistakes. They will continue to get the playing time. I'd guess whoever plays better faster has a chance to play more (Jalen officially got the start Sunday.)

How about we don't get too far ahead here. I think Kliff Kingsbury has done a nice job so far and I do think what he has done offensively looks promising. He is also a head coach, so at some point, the defense will matter. He needs better personnel on the roster. I like what he and Kyler can build, but Murray too still has to prove himself. I don't know if I'm willing to say this is set for a decade. Let's see how this plays out for a couple of years first.

From Valorie V via

"This may have nothing to do with our losing record or it just might. I've noticed numerous times that Kliff Kingsbury does not pull the play card up to cover his mouth. Is it possible someone is reading his lips and passing along info to the opposing team?"

I do not think that is a problem, nor are people reading his lips.

The back is enough of an issue for Kingsbury to say it's an issue. As I write this, I have a feeling Johnson will be able to play this week. But backs can be tricky. As someone who has intermittent back issues, I speak from experience. (Although I am much older than Johnson.)

I can't give you specifics because they aren't going to be announcing specifics. I can tell you there isn't going to be any coaching changes, and personnel changes aren't coming either, given injuries and who is on the depth chart, unless you want to count Patrick Peterson's return next week. Will they try to tweak the scheme? Yes. It's not like they aren't looking for answers. But there is only so much to do when you secondary is potentially three rookies, Budda Baker and Kevin Peterson. There will be some growing pains, and at times the pain is going to be emphasized.

Does Adrian Wilson count? I actually got a chance to talk to Steve Breaston (The Miracle Baby!) a couple years ago for my Fitz oral history. Jerheme Urban too. Obviously I speak to Kurt Warner every so often when his NFL Network duties cross with the Cardinals. I have some Twitter conversations with Tony Jefferson. As for Breaston, I'm sure he's still writing. It was a passion of his.