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You've Got Mail: Needing D-Hop's Return

Topics include team culture, NFC West schedules and a first-down line on the field

Hop mailbag

The Rams just had their parade, but a week from now all the teams will be in Indy for the Scouting combine. There truly is no offseason. On to the mailbag, where questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Peyton Roberson:

"Will DeAndre Hopkins be back the season coming up?"

Of course he will be. There was real optimism that he'll be healthy by the time the offseason work starts (although we'll have to see what the offseason voluntary work will look like and how many players decide to participate in it.) The injury Hopkins has isn't nothing, but it certainly is not expected to derail anything in 2022.

From BDUB Wooten:

"Darren, just my two cents on the RB situation, but if we can only keep one of our guys, I say keep Conner and let Edmonds walk. Try to groom Eno for the Edmonds role and/or draft a mid round RB with Edmonds-like traits. Thoughts?"

It's a realistic plan. They are two years in with Benjamin so I am guessing they have a good idea if he can fit that Edmonds role. But as I have said many times, re-signing these guys comes down to money. At this point, I won't be surprised at any one of the three possibilities -- signing both back, signing one back, or losing both in free agency.

From Isaac Nash:

"Hey Darren, here's a topic that's not been discussed, why did we pay Hop $27M per year? And let me be clear, I'm not asking 'Why did we make Hop the top paid WR?' I'm asking why so much, because the player making the second-most is now Julio Jones at $22M."

It's a fair question and one that came up when the deal was signed. I know that part of the Cardinals' situation was trying to rectify how Hopkins' felt underpaid coming into his time in Arizona; his guaranteed money per year is just a shade higher than Jones', and I am guessing it is the guarantees that Hopkins was aiming for. The deal was also structured to anticipate the coming jump in salary cap. Could it have been for less? I suppose. I am guessing by the end of his deal, he won't be the highest paid.

From Nick Jacobs:

"In your experience, where does team culture come from? The Patriots are an exception, because there's a clear answer. Bill. He's judge, jury, executioner at every level of the organization but that's a rare arrangement. I actually really like looking at the Ravens as something to aspire to. Despite changing players, year to year, and occasionally coaches, the Ravens just always seem to maintain the same level of excellence. They really do have a strong, organizational culture. So what is that? Is it ownership? I look at the Suns, who for a long time had very questionable ownership, and that same ownership is still in place, but now the culture could not be stronger."

Culture is an interesting question. I think you need to have the right people, of course, but you have to have stability too. They have had that in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, for instance, with coaches and GMs. But "culture" is a funny thing. People like to say the word and I'm not saying it doesn't mean anything, but, for instance, the Rams won a title (IMO) not because of culture as much as good players. They had the same culture in L.A. when Goff was there, but they had to get a better QB (and trade for Ramsey and Beckham and Miller and develop Kupp) before they got to where they wanted to go. In my experience, culture only gets you so far. And if you aren't talented enough to win enough, the culture wears out quickly.

From David Jacobs:

"Hi Darren, we draft at 23. It looks as though there is a chance Tyler Linderbaum will be available. Watched him since high school and his wrestling victory over Tristan Wirfs. As a Hawkeye fan too I can tell you this is a center to pair with Kyler for a decade. Would you be able to write this somewhere so that the Cardinals' front office will see it and do their due diligence? Regardless of Hudson's contract there won't be as good of center coming for a while. Would be a huge get and one this organization needs. Thanks for any attention you bring to this!"

So you want me to make sure the Cardinals vet arguably a top-3 available offensive lineman and the best center coming out because ... you think they wouldn't otherwise? Got it. Here you go.

From Terry Graunke:

"Do you think Andy Isabella still has a future with this team?"

Define future. He has a year left on his contract and given their free-agent situation, I don't see them just cutting him anytime soon. But with his lack of use in his first three years, I'd guess he'd probably benefit from a fresh start. We'll see how the offseason plays out.

From Tyler Boatman:

"Hey Darren, I have been looking over the NFC West's schedules, and I would like to say we are in pretty good shape compared to the other teams in the division. Who do you think has the hardest schedule? The easiest?"

I know this isn't the answer you are looking for, Tyler, but there is no way to know right now. A month ago, the Cardinals' scheduled looked considerably harder because the Bucs were on the schedule and Tom Brady was the QB. A few weeks later, that game looks much different. So until we get closer to the season, I don't know how you could really tell.

From Mark Georgetti:

"Hey, Darren. I wondered earlier this week how things may have turned out if after the 2018 season if the Cardinals retained Steve Wilks as head coach but hired Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator. Just interested to hear what your opinion on that scenario would be. Thanks."

Kingsbury was already the OC at USC, so I don't think any team was going to pay a buyout just to get an assistant. I don't know what a marriage like that would have looked like, but the Cardinals moved on from Wilks before Kingsbury was an option, so it seems moot.

From HH AZCards:

"Hi Darren. I personally do like Kyler, and I think he is a good accurate QB. My own conclusion is, because of Kyler's height, we lost some part of the playbook, and we do put more pressure on the O-line. What adjustment could we do to help Kyler? Why don't we add a sixth O-lineman to give Kyler more time to see the field. What usually determines the distance between the QB and center in shotgun position? If he is farther away behind center, it gives him more time, and more visibility, but then there are gaps between the O-line and the fifth pass rusher can go through the gaps. I think there should be an ideal snap position for Kyler to serve him the best, and then on top of that adding a sixth offensive lineman."

Before the Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury said he believes in the shotgun snap and that there isn't any part of an offense that can't be run in shotgun. So that's his philosophy, and that's even before Kyler making it plain he prefers to be in shotgun. I don't expect a major change in that (Kyler is under center once in a while. As for an extra blocker, if you are doing that that's one less option to throw a ball to -- or one less player for which the defense has to be concerned. That can make defending a team much easier.

From Tsur Perets:

"If I remember it right, we lost Calais Campbell in free agency because of his age. I think that was mistake and if we let Chandler Jones go it would be even bigger mistake. I think we should keep Chandler at all costs (and James Conner too.) What's your opinion about it?"

Yes, the Cardinals let Calais leave in large part because they felt the contract he was going to get on the open market was going to exceed what he had left as a player at his age. (And also because they hoped first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche would be a replacement. Obviously, that all turned out incorrect.) As for keeping Jones "at all costs," that's probably not going to happen. I think they would like to have Jones return, but they will have a number in mind, and whether that is going to be enough to keep Jones from leaving, we will see.

From Mike Mitchell:

"Would you be in favor of a technology that projects the line of scrimmage and first-down line onto the field so that the players can see it? There's nothing more frustrating as a fan than a player who steps out of bounds one yard short, or slides one-yard short, or just doesn't give that one extra umph to get the first down. Arguably it has to be because they didn't know where the line was. Or are you a purist who doesn't want to see technology in sports?"

If they could do it it'd be fine with me. That's a big if. Even the lines you see on TV are estimations, so you'd have to find a way to not only do it but be able to do it quickly enough to in game to make it work.

From Robert Malicki:

"Hello, Mr. Urban. Over the span of my being a fan of professional football and the Cardinals, in particular, the dissemination of league and team news has changed quite a bit. Access to, speed of and its content has allowed for it to be compared to the NFL and each team being an episodic soap opera. My question for you is how this impacts your job? Does it enhance or complicate your place in the media setting? After the Super Bowl the league quickly becomes a rumor mill of intrigue. Maybe this corrosive atmosphere is part of Larry Fitzgerald's story behind his choice to retire?"

Fitz retired because he was 17 years into his career and he didn't want to wait until he was pushed out. I don't think it had to do with "intrigue" -- if he was still a 1,000-yard receiver, he would've kept going. As far as the soap opera aspect, I think that's pro sports these days, thanks to the proliferation of social media (and the ability for the average fan to weigh in whenever they want) and the number of radio/TV sports shows in which they get better ratings by speaking on opinion and speculation. Does it make the job more difficult? It can. But let's face it -- that's why so many like sports, because it does provide "entertainment" beyond just the results.

From Jefty Joffer:

"I wonder how Zach Allen, Byron Murphy and Jalen Thompson must feel. Three-year starters like Kyler. They all were productive just like Kyler. They all have been in the league three years just like Kyler. They all are eligible for an extension just like Kyler. Will they receive an extension like Kyler is getting?"

We will see about the status of any contract extensions. But as good as Murphy and Thompson have done -- and to a lesser extent, Allen -- they are not in the same situation as Murray. QBs are different than anyone else, Murray still has a team option available for 2023, and most importantly, the Cardinals need to take care of their current business of free agents before talking extensions.

From James S:

"Hi Darren, can you reach out to your Suns contemporary (I'm not sure who does what you do over there) and ask why is Bismack Biyombo suddenly not playing anymore? When D.A. was injured, Bizy was getting starter minutes and thriving. We understand now that DA is back that Bizy will be a backup, but backup shouldn't mean healthy scratch every single night. It's very alarming. What's the scoop?"

Clearly, they were saving Biz minutes so he'd be ready to fill in at point guard. (But seriously, Biyombo, when the front court is healthy with Ayton and McGee, isn't gonna play much at all. Nor should he.)

From Panicking Pete:

"Why does Chris Paul have a cast on his right hand? Darren! DARREN! Call your contacts at the justice league of journalism! Wee-ooh! This is not a drill!"

Obviously PP, you sent this in before the harsh Sunday news. But really, are you surprised? This was my fear as soon as he got himself booted out of the game last week knowing he was hurt. This is probably more silver lining than I am used to having, but I do think it'll keep Paul rested and I do think the Suns are talented enough and have a big enough lead that they still can -- and should -- have the best record in the NBA this season. We will see. The only West teams with an easier strength of schedule the rest of the way are the Nuggets and Blazers.

From Cris Hoyte:

"Darren, just curious. In the impossible scenario that you left the Cardinals, would @Cardschatter go with you? Or does the team own that? Probably never stop and think about it but you have 146,000 followers. As someone with less than nil social influence, that's amazing to me that you have such a enormous audience who reads everything you tweet. The power!"

Impossible is a strong word, Cris. I would guess @cardschatter is mine, although such a handle wouldn't make much sense with a different job. I mean, that'd be like the New Orleans Jazz moving to a different city -- would they really keep that name somewhere else? And while I technically have a lot of followers, I'm willing to wager I have more than my fair share of bots and/or people that once followed and now no longer even check Twitter. Power? Probably not.

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