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You've Got Mail: Lions Week

Topics include Isaiah Simmons, Kyler's ceiling and Fitz's snaps

Mailbag-Fitz-092220

The Cardinals are 2-0, their best start since 2015. That was also the last time they were 3-0. We weren't doing mailbags then, but we are now. On to the many questions, and if you have one for next week, send it here.

From Joe Cardea via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, Campbell looks like a keeper. So does Reddick. Reddick is a rotational player, does he/would he play special teams? Based on league rules can Campbell be extended and his dead money hit put to use? Or will he be too expensive? Which brings up 2021 cap. What a blow to the Cards if they can't build on this 2020 team."

So can Reddick play special teams? I mean, he played 10 snaps Sunday, so the answer is yes. As far as Campbell, the dead money will be the dead money. I'm pretty sure any new deal will essentially be separate. Will he be too expensive? If he plays like this, maybe. But when you bring up the 2021 cap, that's going to go for every team. The landscape for free agents is going to be very interesting next offseason. A lot of guys are not going to find the money they want. When the cap is stagnant or goes down, it's the the middle-class that gets undercut -- the rookies are cheap, and the stars will get paid.

From S.W. via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, loved the win against Washington. Cards didn't play great and still won a game they would have lost in the past. Very excited to see the defense play pretty well overall, and the offense show so much potential for more. Also, so nice to have football back and an opportunity to ask you an actual football question (rather than asking about your off-season favorite movie, the possibility of new uniforms, or status of Daryl Washington). It felt like most of the game (particularly in the second half) the Cardinals had a hard time on 1st down. Not sure my perception is accurate, but always seemed like it was second and long. I googled around and could not find any statistics on how the Cardinals did on first down. Do you have have info on how the Cards did on first down?"

I looked up their first downs, and I gotta say, I'm not sure your view makes sense. They had 32 first down plays. They had two for negative yards (a sack and a run loss to run out the first-half clock) and eight of incompletions, zero yards or penalties (including Kyler's first TD run that was called back.) But they also got a Kyler TD run, and the bombs to Kirk and Isabella were both on first down. In the second half, they averaged five yards on first down, even with the incompletions factored in.

From Dee Jessup via azcardinals.com:

"Considering Hicks and Campbell are entrenched as two terrific ILBs (I hope we can re-sign Campbell) and Reddick is playing very solid as the backup OLB, do we start thinking about moving Simmons to safety? I know it's been mentioned before but I think its important that there is is an NFL comparison for a guy his size, that being Kam Chancellor. I'm just terribly worried that we are only two games into the season and it already looks like Simmons doesn't have a job, now or possibly years to come if we re-sign Campbell."

This is gonna be a weekly thing, is it? Look, as it stands right now, it feels like long-term for Campbell might be tough to do under the circumstances. We will see. I mean, the Cards clearly have a package for Simmons and Hicks and Campbell all to be on the field at the same time -- so this is more about Simmons than Simmons v. Campbell. But again, two games in and people want to punt Simmons and I don't get it. If they are winning, which they are, there is not a rush. I agree with Vance Joseph -- losing the entire offseason as well as preseason games means something. If he were playing safety, I believe he'd be in the same situation. I also have come to agree with my cohort Kyle Odegard, which is at his size, I don't know if playing safety all the time makes sense. If he has had a couple of issues in coverage, for instance, how does moving him to safety help? Be terribly worried about climate change, or the political division in our country, or racial inequality. Simmons' situation after two games doesn't warrant it.

From Robert Malicki via azcardinals.com:

"These trying times we're experiencing prevented fans from knowing anything about Larry Wilson and we are all saddened at learning of his death. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family as we remember his contributions to the team and community. He truly was a class act of the highest order. My brother and I visited Cardinals' summer camp with our father in the '50s and into the '60s when the team trained at Lake Forest College just north of Chicago. Larry Wilson (would interact) with children present as the players loosened up for the afternoon practice. He would talk to us and teach us about football. His backfield mate, Jerry Stovall, was the team's punter, along with Jackie Smith, and he would have them punt to us 11-14 year-olds and teach about how to catch the ball.

"Another thing about Larry is the almost forgotten fact that he coached the Cardinals for a short time. The year O.J. Anderson was a rookie electrifying NFL fans, 1979, the HC, Bud Wilkinson, was fired with three games to go and Bill Bidwill asked Larry to finish out the schedule. Now Larry Wilson had accomplished much, Pro Bowls, team and NFL records, being All-Pro and the Hall of Fame. Now he had the chance to add to his story by leading the team himself. He coached our team to a winning record, two wins and his lone loss to the hated Bears that my father, brother, brother-in-law and I attended at Soldier Field. The weather was brutal but we there cheering for our Cardinals. Rest in peace, Larry Wilson, we fans appreciated you and will tell your story with pride."

Thanks Robert.

From Joshua Hawrylak via azcardinals.com:

"Long time Cards fan here, back to the days of Jake 'The Snake.' With it being 'one one zero one one,' is too early to call Kyler (1), Hopkins (10) & Fitzgerald (11) the Morse code connection?"

I don't know Joshua. It may or may not be too early, but it's probably too something.

From Carl Bershere via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. Thrilled to be 2-0 so I don't mean to be a downer, but with Chandler only at one sack across two games, it seems his goal of 23 sacks might already be kaput. And perhaps a part of his somewhat slow start is the fact he has his hand in the dirt? Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't he play OLB last year, and he noted that he's more comfortable in that position."

So, with all due respect to Chandler and his goals, breaking the sack record was/is going to be difficult. He got close last year because he had two four-sack games, something a player has had in one season in NFL history only twice. I don't know if he has had a slow start -- he had four QB hits Sunday. Sometimes sacks aren't everything. Corey Peters sack came on a stunt with Jones, who ate up the blockers. Teams aren't going to let Jones go one on one. I don't think it has anything to do with how he has been used.

From Cy Fredrick via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, thanks for the mailbag! I really feel like it brings a sense of community to the fanbase and we all know right now we can use as much community feel as possible. My question is about Kyler. I thought this last year and now having seen the pre- and post-press conferences he has done this year, he seems uncomfortable in front of the media. If not uncomfortable, then at the very least annoyed to have be there answering questions. Do you get this feeling at all and if you do, do you see this being a potential issue down the road in his career? Most interesting was his response last week to a question posed about the Chris Streveler play. He was very quick to snap back at the reporter. Seemed like it struck a nerve with him. Thanks again!"

Ha. I think Kyler understands media is part of the gig. I also think there are times when yes, he's annoyed he has to do it and perhaps isn't as engaging as he can be. The Streveler question might've had more to do with talking too much about a certain gadget play. I don't know. I've seen both sides of him. I don't think it'll be an issue per se. As reporters, we know our jobs and we know how certain players are going to react to it. He is still pretty young too; Fitz wasn't all that great in front of the media his first couple of years. Now he's a savant.

From Snopes Owl via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren, not certain if you're experienced with this at all, but on the radio Dave Pasch was discussing (in the first week) his setup for remote game commentary. And he said he had two screens. One was the standard broadcast that we all see. And another was a special field view that the audience has never seen, but it's great for commentary. Could you please explain this special commentary field view please? Dave hinted its great for seeing alignments. Do you know what Dave is talking about? Now I'm really curious about this super-secret insiders-only game angle we've never seen before."

It's not that super secret -- it's just that most don't usually see it. It is essentially a live-action all-22 view, the same "coaches tape" that you can see if you get an NFL Game Pass subscription (albeit after the fact.) With the vast majority of radio announcers across the league not traveling this year and not able to see and analyze the game like normal, the league made sure they had this video version live so guys like Pasch and Ron Wolfley paint the picture like they normally would.

From Raine Voights via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, overall the defense played really well against Washington. However, should we be concerned about the play from Patrick Peterson? Terry McLaurin made it look easy to get open against him."

I know there were at least a couple McLaurin catches where Pat P wasn't in coverage. And Kliff Kingsbury said the Cardinals intentionally played softer coverage late so there would be no deep passes. Pro Football Focus didn't give Peterson the best grade, and there were times when McLaurin beat him. But I struggle with the absence of context, and the reality is McLaurin did his most damage when the game was basically decided.

From dancardsfan via azcardinals.com:

"Really good story on Reddick. I'm happy he's playing well. I don't want to be a pessimist but why has it taken the team so long to realize he's a better OLB than ILB? It makes me worry about Simmons a little bit. I hope they don't waste 2-3 years of him struggling at ILB when he's destined to be something else."

Two games. We're two games in. And Simmons has played exactly 25 NFL snaps. That's probably about a third, maybe, of what he would've played in preseason alone.

From Mark Hogan via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. Kyler Murray's snap clap disappeared against the 49ers. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that's new this season. Do you think coaches actively wanted to remove it or is it simply down to Murray developing as an NFL quarterback?"

I will have to correct you because you are wrong. The snap clap basically disappeared midway through last season. The officials could figure it out, frankly, and the Cardinals decided it wasn't worth swimming upstream.

From Rudy Runlo via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, I did it. I wish I put this much effort into developing my personal life, but oh well, you're passionate about what you're passionate about. For me, it's discovering the Cardinals are number one at something. I looked at every single roster in the NFL at the defensive linemen. Obviously 3-4 teams are going to have bigger boys based on scheme. All the 4-3 teams had a lot of guys in the 280s-low 300s. I am proud to report that my query presented last week was in fact truth. The Cardinals have the largest collective DL in the NFL. Both in height and weight. It wasn't particularly close. We and another team, the Panthers, significantly have bigger DLs than the rest of the league. Team #3 (the Bears I think it was) was a mile behind the Panthers. Regarding the Panthers, we beat them by 5 pounds. So it was close, they have some large lads too. However in collective height, we beat them by 7 inches. So there it is. My time and effort well spent. Am I proud? No. Am I ashamed? No."

No one outworks Rudy.

from Benjamin Garcia-Blanco via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. Used to watch KeeSean Johnson when he was a Bulldog here in town and sucks that he got put into that situation with the COVID. Has there been any update on when he will be able to get back to work? Also in regards to Andy Isabella, I though he was the KR? I seen some news that he fumbled a ball in pre warm ups before the SF game, then seen Chase was the KR. Did that fumbled ball make him turn out to not start as their deep returner or did Chase just show out more?"

Isabella was listed as the first PR and KOR and I would suspect that was for show all along. So no, some random drop in pregame didn't change anything. And with Johnson, he came off the COVID list Monday.

From Dale from Wylie, Texas via azcardinals.com:

"What was the reason that Eno Benjamin was placed on the inactive list?"

He isn't good enough yet. He's not going to get snaps at RB and D.J. Foster is better at special teams. We will see what happens now that Foster is hurt.

From Zero Leeroy via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. Great win Sunday. I know Kyler is young but we are 18 games into his NFL career, more than he played in college, and I'm not certain if Kyler is ever going to be a prolific passer. He's a very good passer. A Super Bowl-winning caliber QB, which is all that matters certainly. However I keep hearing people comparing him to Russ Wilson and Patrick Mahomes, and I just don't see it. Those guys routinely throw four TD games, and in 18 games with Kyler, I just don't think that's him. I think he's a 1/2 passing TDs per game + 1/2 rushing TDs per game guy. And its arguable to say four TDs is 4 TDs, but I do think its important for both player and coach to be aware of the difference. I thought the game vs. Washington was more indicative of that growth. More designed runs. Acknowledging that Kyler must run more to win games, as he probably isn't a prolific enough passer to win on his arm alone. Am I wrong?"

I don't know. I mean, 18 games in, and only two with a true No. 1 receiver with no offseason or preseason with which to work. The crowd is a tough one around here. I'm not going to say he's going to be Mahomes -- hell, Mahomes might end up being the greatest QB ever. Not sure that's a fair comparison. Guess what? Russ Wilson was not throwing 4 TDs a game in Year 2. Is Murray going to be Wilson? Maybe not -- I think Wilson is still underrated for some reason. But this whole insta-gratification thing is amazing, really. People want to write off possibilities so quickly.

From Nat Shirley via azcardinals.com:

"I know this is almost sacrilege on azcardinals.com but is Larry playing too many snaps? (In the opener) two of his four receptions were on the first scripted drive in the SF game and only had 2 more targets for the entire game after the first drive. Last year he played all 16 games and only notched 800 yards and we are paying him over $11m for 2020, a premium price for a No. 2 WR. Obviously he has earned that money insofar as being a legend for the franchise but purely in terms helping the team win this year, I don't think Larry is providing much value. At what stage does Kliff contemplate allowing our other young WR's Isabella, Kirk and Sherfield to flourish and for Fitz to start conceding some snaps?"

One question: Would you feel better without Fitz on the field? On the fourth down against WFT, who else would you trust to get that catch more than Fitz? I get it, but I still think Fitz gets you value and he's not out there every play. Kirk is already out there. If he is taking snaps from anyone, it is Isabella, and right now, Fitz is better.

From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. Great though scary to watch the uneven progress of the offense from half to half. Can't get away with that vs. a good defense i.e. Rams or Dallas. What is your take on that apparent letdown? Thanks."

It's something that can't happen, but every team has its lulls. I do think the lack of crowd impacted them after the halftime layoff. But they will have to figure it out. Something tells me they will against better teams. Doesn't mean it is OK. But that doesn't change the fact it could happen that way.

From Chris Minton via azcardinals.com:

"On a recent edition of Cover 2, they mentioned Kingsbury talking about a scoring play (in the opener) that he took from the Titans a couple of years ago. Since all coaches love to eat tape, and hearing about how K2 also watched some XFL tape this offseason, what is the process for the coaches having film at their disposal? There's a staff for it, but is it something where Kliff would say 'I'd like this film from this game on this date' or does he give the video staff more of a broad idea of what to look for and they find it themselves?"

I don't know specifically but my guess is he comes across some of it in his normal scouting of the rest of the NFL. The XFL, I could see him asking for a certain team if they had an offensive mind about which he was curious. But I think he'd be specific in that regard.

From Sebas Quiros via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. I'd like to hear your take on this. I just finished reading a recent mailbag and I was quite shocked. Why are so many people doubters. I saw one guy who was already going at Isaiah for not having the greatest of debuts and it felt like he was pretty much putting Isaiah as a bust already. I know people like the team and the players to perform, but I feel like people are just to imnpatient. What do you think of this?"

Sebas, I think I've made my thoughts pretty clear on the subject in this mailbag alone.

From Kellen Hunt via azcardinals.com:

"I'm a sucker for rankings, but biases give lead to some big eye rolls. Take David Carr's top 15 offensive players ranking (last week): He highlights the Bears but doesn't include a single player, and he shows a slight dip for Michael Thomas (likely hindered for weeks) while Alvin Kamara can't make the list. Granted, he noted that the rankings will include 2019's momentum, but it doesn't seem to serve any real purpose. Why use the column to talk about the Bears if none of them are on the list? Why rank the players if the leading factor is last year's work? So I'd like to lean on you to at least fix this ranking with a more actionable question: Who are the top 15 threats defensive coordinators are planning for?"

I gotta say, Kellen, you know none of that matters, right? Rankings and power polls and all that stuff. It. Doesn't. Matter. It's to get people reading and fired up and talking. But I have never been able to get that excited because in the end, no one remembers. I have no idea, for instance, what the power poll looked like in, say, Week 6 last year. No one does. You remember the Chiefs beat the Niners in the Super Bowl.

From William Barry via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren: Would it be possible to add a small piece, every week to the mailbag, and title it 'Where are they now' and feature a former Cardinal player/or coach and do a small paragraph/profile of that particular person? Can Kyle do a Pro Football focus observations piece for each week/game of the season? The statistics are enlightening! Thanks."

Kyle is doing a PFF post each week. As for the Where Are They Now, we will see what we can do. We have a lot on the plate as of now.

From BDUB Wooten via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. l'm from an hour south of the St Louis area, I'm 48 and have been a Cards fan since I was 5. In fact, I have a picture of myself and Wolf when he visited my elementary/middle school back in the day. Anyway, I'm not concerned with new uniforms but I actually like when they wear the red on red or the white on white. So occasionally when they do wear, say the red on red, who makes this call? Michael? Kliff? I'm just curious and thanks for the mailbag!"

Michael Bidwill ultimately has the say in the uniform combos. And it's refreshing to have a uniform question not about just having new ones.

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