The Cardinals were blindsided in Carolina, and now are trying to regroup -- again -- against the Jets in New York. I'm sure you can guess the flavor of this week's questions. As always, send a question for future mailbags by going here.
From Gerald Brown via azcardinals.com:
"Why hasn't Deonte Thompson been able to move up the depth chart? I remember that when he was drafted out of Alabama, he was described as a more athletic Rashad Johnson, which certainly sounds good. Has he had trouble learning the defense, or does he lack speed, or what?"
It's a good question. I think at that position, it probably has to do with his grasp of the defense. Technically he's behind Budda Baker, and he's not going to jump the Pro Bowler. But when you have a guy like Chris Banjo ahead -- a veteran who has played a lot of football -- I'm guessing it's the mental side more than anything. I'm thinking Deionte was one of those guys hurt by a lack of offseason. He's getting a chance now with the injuries.
From Bryce Plitcha via azcardinals.com:
"Why do the coaches make up excuses for Isaiah Simmons not playing? They always claim they want him to be out there as much as possible if the scheme is right. The score was 31-14 in the fourth game, and no one was playing well at all. I don't see what difference it would have made to put him in at multiple positions during the fourth quarter. They are pulling a Reddick on the poor guy."
In this context, the situation with Simmons and Reddick have little parallel. They are trying to bring Simmons along slowly, which Reddick never really did. In fact, Reddick ended up taking Markus Golden's OLB spot five games into his rookie season and struggled from there. I think it's kind of funny the idea of just randomly sticking Simmons at multiple positions; that would seem to me to disrupt his learning curve more than not playing him. Clearly there was a certain look that had him at deep safety, we didn't get a chance to see how that would play out because the Panthers false-started both snaps he would have been there. The game never quite got so far out of reach that the Cards threw in the towel, and in that case, you're not going to take out your better defenders (although perhaps more reps at OLB would have been something to consider.)
From Joe Cardea via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, it's been my belief the 2020 Cards were never making the Super Bowl and even the playoffs would have been (and may still be) a remarkable achievement. So I'm relatively happy. I definitely want better than the last two games but we're close. Who are earning contracts? Example, Reddick yes, smaller. Fitz yes, smaller. Peterson maybe smaller. Drake, maybe smaller. What's your take. Is anyone on the way to a large contract?"
Joe, it's only fair to point out this question came in before the Panthers game, so I don't know if the beginning part of it still stands. In terms of contracts, I believe in a world where there is so much uncertainty with next year's cap, the larger contracts are done until we get to the offseason. There will have to be a ton of evaluation across the league. All those instances are nuanced. Is Reddick going to want a fresh start? I don't know if Fitz is willing to play for less. Peterson, unless he gets what he asks for, would probably want to test the market. Drake too. What the market will bring, that's a totally different question.
From Jasper Wiese via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, thanks again for your great mailbag! I have a question concerning Kliff´s playcalling: He keeps repeating 'I've got to call better plays' after almost every game but he doesn´t seem to have any positive development in his playcalling compared to last season. Is this just another way of saying 'don't blame the players, I am standing in front of this team' or is he just being honest and really wants to improve himself? Thanks again and all the best from Germany. Go Cards!"
I think both things are a part of this. He definitely is a coach that wants to shoulder the burden of the pressure and take it from the players. But Kingsbury has been a guy who is willing to tamp down his ego for the good of the team, and I would be surprised if he doesn't adjust things again going forward. This past game was really the first where the offense went completed sideways. There had been plenty of good things the first three games.
From Hale Machman via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, I want to ask about the CB situation. We are now going into Week 5 of the season, and Dre Kirkpatrick is still essentially only playing 50 percent of snaps. Which is to say this can't be a conditioning thing anymore. Can you confirm that Byron Murphy is the starting No. 2 outside CB? What happened with the plan? It was supposed to be PP-1, Kirkpatrick-2 and Murphy in the slot. I have to imagine this terrible secondary is partially a result of this hackney arrangement that they weren't planning for."
I'm confused on your confusion. When there are three cornerbacks, Murphy is in the slot. When they have two cornerbacks on the field, Murphy and Peterson are your guys. That was the plan, to be able to use Murphy in the slot, but when there isn't someone in the slot, you're still going to want him out there. The secondary struggled Sunday in large part because of injuries, and a lack of pass rush pressure didn't help.
From Myron Hatfield via azcardinals.com:
"Thanks for taking my question. Larry Fitzgerald has a chance to end his career with more receptions than any receiver in NFL history. He will end his career with the second-most receiving yards in NFL history. He has a chance to finish in the top five in touchdowns in NFL history. In his last 2 games he was targeted three times in both games. Do you think the Cardinals intend to target him more in the future? I know he is not the Cardinals number 1 receiver any more even though he would be on many other NFL teams. It seems like Fitz is an afterthought in the game plan."
I am not sure why Fitz isn't getting at least a few more targets, but the passing game in general Sunday was no bueno. I think Fitz is still a solid receiver but I disagree that he would be the No. 1 on "many other NFL teams." I do think the Cardinals need to use him more, but I think the passing game overall must get better for the Cardinals to win. As for the records, Fitz says those don't matter to him and frankly, they aren't part of the equation when it comes to gameplanning.
From Troy Ezeh via azcardinals.com:
"The number of missed tackles against the Panthers was so alarming! It seemed like so many missed tackles just kept the Panther offense on the field, draining the clock. I know with the pandemic there are probably reduced padded practices where we actually tackle. Do you think this is affecting us in actual games?"
Tackling in practice is rare even without a pandemic. So I'm not sure that is a reason. I don't think the tackling was poor previous to Sunday, and linebacker Jordan Hicks said after the game he disagreed with the assessment that the tackling was one of the problems against the Panthers.
From Stuart Masse via azcardinals.com:
"I've noticed that Kyler thinks he's really good. A good quarterback looks to his coaches, looks at pictures from previous plays or checks a iPad/tablet to see what he could do to improve his play like the other good quarterbacks out there. No, nobody is perfect and as I see it he is far from so why doesn't he use these tools that are available to him."
I'm confused -- why would you think he does not do those things? It can't be first-hand knowledge, because you are not at the games. (Also, there isn't a quarterback in the NFL who doesn't think he's really good.)
From Raine Voights via azcardinals.com:
"I thought the most disappointing thing about our loss to the Panthers was the pass rush! Where was it? Where is Chandler Jones? Where is Jordan Phillips, Zach Allen, Corey Peters?"
A chunk of the time the Panthers did a nice job moving Teddy Bridgewater in the pocket and getting passes off quickly. But yes, they needed more pressure Sunday. On a few of those long-developing plays where they would bring a receiver all the way across the field, the QB has to be made to be uncomfortable.
From Zach Maus via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, longtime fan from Youngstown OH! Two things, first is about Kyler's performance (against the Lions). I think it's obvious K1 is special and is our guy for the next decade. But some of Kyler's picks last week were alarming. How much of this would you put on Kyler's development as to Kliff's playcall and positions he's put Kyler in? Second, I saw you mentioned that Michael Bidwill makes the final decision on uniforms each week. Is the red pants thing here to stay? Red on red and white on red both look sharp! Thanks for the mailbag as always!"
I think Kyler's preferences and his strengths are always on Kliff's mind when it comes to the calls and positions Kyler is in, so I that should not be an issue. I think Murray is going to have a bad game from time to time with turnovers, like most quarterbacks not named Russell Wilson. As for the uniforms, I don't know about the pants -- I usually don't know the uniform combos much before the public does.
From Blaine Pierce via azcardinals.com:
"Hello. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems of the top 15 picks in this year's draft only two players are not starters: Tua and Isaiah. To me, the 8th pick overall must be a player that starts. Instead what we have is a 'best player available' on draft day for whom we are now trying to find a position. After the signings of Kennard and Campbell the two positions of need (that I saw) were cornerback and offensive line. Tristan Wirfs and/or CJ Henderson would have been my pick. Move over Steve Keim."
The years the Cardinals do draft for need, it usually doesn't work out well. And what if Campbell leaves after one year, and that becomes a need? As for the other rookies, I'd have to look that up.
From Mark Jantz via azcardinals.com:
"Don't you think it's about time Patrick Peterson starts playing some football? Most players want to hit somebody and tattoo the opponent's chest! He just sits back and lets his teammates make the tackle or stays just close enough so he can maybe push them out of bounds. He also seems to give receiver a lot of cushion. As for his interception, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, it was an overthrown ball. Hope he gets more intense."
Criticisms are fine, but I'll never understand the idea that someone rip parts of a player's game but then if they do something right/well, it's luck. Can't have it both ways. It's incredibly unlikely you can be in the right place at the right time unless you know what you're doing out there. As for heavy hitting, that's never been P2's forte. If you are expecting him to be Budda Baker, that's not going to happen.
From Oscar N. via azcardinals.com:
"Could you please explain our defensive alignment please. On the broadcast Dave Pasch and Wolf regularly were commenting on how far off our secondary plays. It's as if we are in prevent all game. I know it's to not give up the big play downfield. But it seems we are dying via papercuts. What happened to our press man defense?"
I think there was trepidation once all the safeties were hurt to use too much press man -- which would need safety help over the top at times. It wasn't hard to figure out that the missing safeties impacted how the Cards played defense. It doesn't explain or excuse their overall woes, but it made a difference.
From James Tessas via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren! My question is not related to our current safety depth issues. That's temporary. Budda, Jalen and Banjo will all return. My question is in regards to Patrick Peterson's long-term future and if a move to safety might be part of it. Throughout NFL history that's a fairly common move for cornerbacks. Once they lose a step, they move to safety and can actually be very good for several more years. Of course, all of this is dependent on P2 and his desires, but just from your point of view, what do you think about re-signing P2 to be a safety going forward?"
I do not know what Peterson is thinking for the future -- it's a good question to ask him. I guess it'll depend on the money. I am guessing Peterson is going to want to be paid like an elite cornerback, and that's usually more than a safety. His contract situation will be an interesting one to see play out.
From Chris Stone via azcardinals.com
"Long-time reader, first-time inquirer. Thank you for always bridging the gap between the fans and the team. This question/statement is more of an observation. You indicated that you are not a fan of Zoom or the interview process. From my perspective, it has been great hearing both the interviewer and interviewee. Hearing both adds context to the question, and allows the fans to feel involved with the question. I know things will inevitably change, but I would like you thoughts on this and moving forward. Thanks again for being the peanut butter and jelly to the fan/team sandwich. I also can not leave this post with asking ... new team uniforms? jk."
When you say I'm not a fan of Zoom or the interview process, it's because of these COVID times. I do like the ability for fans to hear/know the questions. But when the tradeoff is access and volume -- we have lost the chance to cover so much more, or talk to so many more players (and the players we do talk to are mostly dictated by media relations) that I cannot wait to get back to where we were.
From John Lombardi via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, the numbers on the uniforms are too damn small. Compare the Cards' uniform numbers to other teams jerseys and you can see the difference. They look like pee wee jerseys."
Well, Chris Stone, clearly John was not just kidding.