Kyler returns. The mailbag does too. As always, questions may be edited for clarity. And don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag.
From Jason B:
"From a fan's perspective I am questioning everything that is being done, even though I will still be there every week to support and cheer. I was very disappointed in the Cleveland game, why does our OC and HC not make adjustments during the game? A defense that is getting so much penetration can be slowed down with screens as an example. We just put Tune out there to not only get embarrassed, but we probably killed any confidence he had. We also showed that we have no clue on how to prep a rookie QB."
I'm not sure of the adjustments to which you refer. Most of the early passes were quick throws -- including a couple of screens -- and that didn't make much difference. There is no question the Cardinals should've been better. Jonathan Gannon took blame for preparation, but to say they have no clue implies that was the reason it came out like that. I'm going to disagree. It felt like a superior roster at home overwhelmed a team trying to play a fifth-round rookie. That kind of game for such a rookie QB is more par for the course than unusual.
From Ed Helinski:
"Hey Darren, greetings from New York's Finger Lakes region. Gaze into your crystal ball and tell us how you see the rest of the Cardinals season shaking out. Are you seeing good or not-so-good things?"
With the return of Kyler Murray (and hopefully James Conner and Michael Wilson) I do think the Cardinals will have a chance to make some big jumps offensively. Will that translate into a ton of wins? I don't know. I like that Gannon made the point Kyler might not quite be Kyler yet in his first games back. But there is little question his arrival into the lineup will make this team better immediately.
From Richard Wakefield:
"I was going to ask this before the Cleveland debacle so ignore what happened in that game. Why in the world would the Cards trade Dobbs before Kyler was ready? He played good enough to keep us in most games. Minnesota lost their starter and really needed him and we only got a sixth-round pick.The new Cards are making some pretty bad decisions. And you might as well record Gannon's answers after each loss. 'We as coaches have to do better.' Well of course!"
The Cardinals saw this: Dobbs was going to be a free agent after the season, they weren't going to need him much longer (one game, as it turned out) and they were going to start Tune in Cleveland even if Dobbs wasn't traded. The offense had been struggling in the last month with Dobbs. Why not try and get a pick back, essentially getting half a season from him for free?
From Austin Cole:
"Hey Darren. I've loved D.J. Humphries over the years but with his play this season do you think we will re-sign him or after this season let him go? Also do you think this next offseason Ossenfort might try to replace three or four of the offensive linemen?"
I think we're too early to know some of this. Humphries is already under contract so if they want to keep him around there is nothing they need to do. I do think Monti Ossenfort puts great emphasis on both the offense and defensive lines and that will be a focus over the near future.
From DB Chaddington:
"Hey Darren, do you think there's a chance we delayed Kyler's return so that he could play against the Falcons instead of the Browns for team morale reasons? Obviously there are other factors as well, but this seems to be worth considering in the mix. Cleveland's D is elite while Atlanta's defense is average at best. If I were making a grand return that will mean a ton towards the rest of my career, maybe I'd wait an extra week just to be safe."
Gannon said that wasn't the case, and truthfully, I think they had planned the whole time that they were going to use the entirety of the opened practice window -- which meant he wasn't going to play until the Falcons' game. Murray has wanted to play for a while. I think ultimately the reticence was from the coaches, who knew how much Murray had to take in once he was back on the field.
From C Second:
"Anyone still clamoring for Clayton Tune to start? Anyone still think they know more than the coaches who watch these guys play every day? How are fans freaking out when the JG doesn't start a rookie fifth-rounder when the team is 1-5 or 1-6, well y'all got your wish. Hope everyone remembers this a few years down the road when the starter plays a couple rough games and all the psychopaths start yelling that a rookie should take over midseason against an excellent defense and make his first start."
You obviously feel strong about this C. But no, I haven't heard many more requests for Tune -- although it was clear this was going to be Kyler time.
From Jon David Lair:
"With the Cardinals' dismal performance on Sunday, if there was any doubt in JG's mind if Murray wasn't going to play, wouldn't you say that would be erased?"
I would say it would've been erased but, as I noted earlier, I would also say I think the plan was to bring Murray back this week all along.
From Josea Gomez:
"Hi Darren, I know you love draft questions midseason, but I wanted to get your thoughts anyways. As surely you know, WR Marvin Harrison Jr tends to be target No. 1 if the fans were GM. Not a surprise, guy is a beast. But there are two elite OTs at the top of the draft. Fashanu from Penn St. and Alt from Notre Dame. Both appear more pro ready than even PJJ was (who has impressed thus far). Can't go wrong with either guy. Question is, can you see a scenario where we take the young, blue chip OT, and move on from Hump?"
I don't know what's going to happen with a high pick or what might happen with Hump, but I do think Ossenfort believes in building the lines and I will not be surprised if the Cardinals a) trades down from its first-round pick (depending who is there) and b) spends high picks on either an offensive or defensive lineman. A tackle isn't out of the question.
From jpr cards:
"Do we know the details of the conditional seventh-round pick that the Cardinals sent to the Vikings in the Josh Dobbs trade? Performance incentives I'm sure make up the conditions but specifically what has to happen for the pick to actually go to Minnesota as opposed to reverting back to Arizona?"
I have not seen any details. I do think the fact Dobbs is already in the starting lineup after one game is probably a good thing for the Cardinals having a chance to get that seventh-rounder back.
From Jamie Dunn:
"With the trade-deadline recently, I think its apropos to query your picks for the Cardinals.
- All-time best offseason trade?
- All-time best midseason trade?
Can be players, can be picks, dealers choice."
I'm going to stick with a timeframe since the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988, and I'm also working off the top of my head -- oddly, I couldn't track down an all-time list. In-season, I think I will go with running back Kenyan Drake, who had an immediate impact in 2019 when he showed up and gave the Cardinals something good into 2020. For the offseason, there were several choices IMO. Getting Carson Palmer for a sixth-round pick. The D-Hop trade was excellent, not only in getting Hopkins but also offloading the David Johnson contract. But I'll go with the Chandler Jones trade, because Jones was so good for so long.
From John Turilli:
"Now that we have seen both Clayton Tune's poor start and Houston kneel on an extra point only up by two. I have to know how sports betting has taken over the Professional sporting world. I am an electrical engineer and very very math conscious. The Cardinals were +12.5 and Tampa Bay was -2.5. To call the game Tune played and for Houston to take a knee on an extra point concerns me. No conspiracies here just the math."
Well, the Texans had only a few seconds left on the clock, they were using a running back as kicker because of injury and the chances were much greater -- however slim -- that the Bucs could return either a blocked kick or a 2-point conversion try turnover into two points of their own rather than do anything on the ensuing kickoff, so the Texans just did the safest thing to win the game. As for the Cardinals, they had a lot of issues going into that game. They aren't thinking about point spreads.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren, thanks again for the mailbag. Here's my perspective as a fan. Getting something for a QB that was not going to be here long-term, awesome. Seeing almost to maybe this weekend all rookies make a contribution to the team, awesome. Seeing an owner who realizes that a change of how he does things was important, awesome. Bottom line yes we are 1-6 but if your a fan out there I would say look around the league. My question: Do you think Ossenfort didn't activate Kyler Murray last week because he didn't want Dani Sureck to be right? Can you please now give us your opinion on the new GM and coach. Thank you for everything you do. P.S. I love the articles from Kent Somers."
I think Murray's return was long aimed for this week. I'll leave it at that. As for Ossenfort and Gannon, it's so early in their tenures. This was always a situation that was going to take time to get to where both men want it to be. In some ways, it feels like you'd look at a draft class -- let's see where it is in 2025, IMO.
From Joe Rubino:
"Hi Darren, I've been a Cardinals fan since 1969, I'm not from St. Louis, in fact born, raised and still living in New Jersey. I was a big Charley Johnson fan as a kid. He had some terrific years with the Cardinals and was considered one of the better NFL quarterbacks during the 1960's. The Cardinals were somewhat successful during his tenure in terms of wins if not playoff appearances. I feel he should be considered for the Ring of Honor. What's your view on him?"
To be honest, while I know of him I don't know if I know enough about him to make that call. I do think it's a name that could be debated, but as I have mentioned before, there are a bunch of names out there that could/should be considered by Michael Bidwill and the Bidwill family.
From Carlo Staffa:
"I was hoping you could tell me what is happening with James Conner? Not much in the way of info on his knee injury has surfaced."
There really hasn't been much out there said, but it looks like it wasn't so serious that he can't return after his four-week IR stint. I expect him to practice this week and have a chance to play against Atlanta.
From Anthony P:
"Hey Darren, what have you seen from Kyler Murray thus far that is different from last year? Has he grown into a more nuanced and capable leader off the field?"
Here's the deal. I'm not going to see that even in normal times; with Kyler in the background much of the time because of his health status I'm going to be around even less. Leadership questions can only really be answered by his teammates, and truthfully, it'd be hard for him to operate in that orbit before this week, since this is the first week he is practicing fully with the starters.
From Cynthia Dobbins:
"Darren, we love the mailbag. Been ticket holders since 1988 and have seen a lot, good and bad. It defies logic, to me, that Marco Wilson is still on the roster. I would think CB would be priority in free agency/draft. What say you?"
I do think cornerback will be a position Monti Ossenfort will focus on in the offseason; I think they like Garrett Williams and we will see what happens with rookies like Kei'Trel Clark and Starling Thomas. Finding a top cover guy would be important, but I think you can go position-by-position on this team and hope for offseason upgrades in a lot of spots.
From Ian McMechan:
"Hello from the Middle East. Caleb Williams or Michael Penix Jr., if you were forced to choose? Thanks."
That's an interesting question, because I am not sure Penix is getting the kind of run he should (or maybe that will be reserved for the draft process.) Williams is obviously good, but it looks like the quarterback draft class, depending on who comes out, could be very deep for the NFL in 2024.
From Jim Mcmahon:
"Hi Darren. Non-sports-related question and more of a philosophical discussion of journalism since I know you started as a newspaper man. Which do you think is superior, and why: newspaper news or online news? There seems to be pros/cons to each. While there seems to be a higher degree of journalistic integrity to paper news, there are also no opportunity for immediate public corrections if something said is false (whereas online you'll have a thousand people commenting about the 'fake news'). Online news may be more up-to-date real time, but has a propensity of falsehoods; often with no sources at all."
So this is a trick question, right? Because there isn't any newspaper that doesn't come online anymore, so I'm unsure of this "immediate correction" issue. Besides, unfortunately, whatever happens online and goes viral has little chance of being "corrected" once so many people have seen it. The correction isn't going viral too -- and that's assuming the person that did it *wants* to correct it. I'll say this: our culture is what it is now. Good newspapering takes money and decently paid reporters, and few are willing to pay for that information now. So you have much more bad info, by people who are motivated by things other than money (and which oft influences the info.) Much of what people want to rip into from a journalism standpoint isn't even journalism. And too many people only are interested in a single version of something that comes from their own perspective.
OK, I'm off the soap box now.