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You've Got Mail: Niners Week Part I

Topics include the need to practice, Conner v Ingram, and Dobbs' future

Gannon 49ers Mailbag 0926

The Cardinals are coming off their first win, and it was impressive at that. The Cowboys were being trumpeted as potentially the best team in the league entering the game. Now the Cardinals play another team many think is the best in the league in the 49ers. That's Sunday. First, a mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. You can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Terry Graunke:

"Impressive win, but we all know the Cardinals have a lot of work to do. Do you have their record against the Cowboys since the Cardinals have been in Arizona? I, and I'd bet a few others, live to see the Cowboys go down to the Cardinals."

Acknowledging that the Cardinals and Cowboys were both in the NFC East from the time the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988 through the 2001 season (and playing twice a season), the two teams have met 41 times (including a 1998 playoff game) since 1988. The Cardinals' record is 17-24. (At one point the Cowboys won 13 in a row and 16 of 17 when Dallas was in their Super Bowl heyday.)

From Jack Irvin Jr.

"Hi Darren. Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs tore his ACL in practice. Joe Burrow hurt his calf in practice. Budda hurt his hammie in practice. I always ask the same question: do they really NEED to practice? Important caveat: young players need to practice. But established players? Not to go too far down the rabbit hole, but Michael Jordan didn't need practice. Tom Brady didn't need practice. Wayne Gretzky didn't need practice. And Allen Iverson sure as heck didn't need practice. DeAndre Hopkins never practices and he's the No. 1 WR every Sunday. So that begs the question, do they really need to practice? Time to sync up with teammates and learn plays and timing and spacing? Absolutely. But full running? Cutting? Things that blow out knees and hammies and ankles? Absolutely not."

I am going to quote former Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who says this now even as a player who tore his MCL during a Cardinals practice and tore his ACL in a preseason game -- so basically what you are talking about. "You don't practice until you get it right. You practice until you can't get it wrong." Another guy who would think you are way off-base: Larry Fitzgerald. Look, I understand the frustrating part of players getting hurt when it doesn't count. But it's laughable to think Jordan or Gretzky or Brady ever would have reached the heights they had without practice.

I'd need you to explain how you "sync up with teammates" with timing and spacing in a walkthrough. It cannot be done. How do you get timing when you aren't practicing in the time that it would unfold in a game?

From Richard Kemmler:

"Through the first three weeks what unit do you feel is the bigger surprise? The linebackers or the offensive line? I feel like both are playing better than anticipated all things considered and both have had a rough go of it in recent seasons. I know the season is still young, but they're both trending upward."

I agree that both units have impressed, and it's hard to pick one or the other. But I suppose I would go offensive line, especially since center was such a big concern all offseason and Hjalte Froholdt is proving to be a solid part there.

From Al Gilbert:

"When can we expect Kyler Murray back?"

No idea. He is eligible to come off PUP and at least practice as soon as next Monday. Will he? I don't think that's a lock. Once they activate him he has a three-week window. They are going to need to make sure he can hit that window when he starts to practice.

From Fitz M:

"Why does it seem like the offensive line hates Keontay Ingram? I swear they just stop blocking when he's in. And to before you say no, that's not true, I have evidence (data)! Look at this.

  • Connor: 5.2 YPC
  • Ingram 1.2 YPC

Connor is good, but he's not some young Adrian Peterson who is that much better than Keontay. The difference is saying a lot about the play-call and blocking efforts when Keontay is in there."

No, that's not true.

Man, do you conspiracy-theory much? There is an old fact: Correlation does not mean causation. Are the playcalls a variable? Certainly. Is the fact Conner gets many more plays/touches a variable? I would expect that too. But to suggest the offensive line, what, doesn't try for Ingram? I don't understand that. Why would that be? (It wouldn't be. That's rhetorical.) Ingram still looks like he is getting his feet underneath him as an NFL runner. He doesn't have a lot of experience and he isn't getting a ton of snaps. Conner, meanwhile, is cut from a different cloth than most players. He has a drive most guys don't, and I think it has shown on the field.

From JV:

"Will we be able to keep Joshua Dobbs around as a backup next year or could he get a starter role somewhere else? Is this the most fun under-.500 Cardinals team you ever covered? I love how JG seems to get those players fired up for the game. How do we all feel about not having Sean Payton as our head coach? P.S. The German Free-TV losing streak ended Sunday. It was dating back to the Palmer/Arians era including the 2020 and 2021 season where they only showed games late in the season."

I'm happy Germany got to see a win. I don't know if this team is even going to be under .500 -- we've got a long way to go and huge strides have been made in a short time -- but it has been intriguing for sure. As for Dobbs, we will have to see how that all goes. I'm sure, given how this is playing out he could have interest elsewhere to be a starter, at least a bridge guy. And I'm sure the Cardinals would like to keep him around. Knowing the little I do, there isn't a team in the league who wouldn't want a person like Josh Dobbs on the roster.

From Glenny Booth:

"Hi Darren. I understand Monti was just doing his job in attending the ASU v USC game in Tempe. He was scouting good players. He's a GM. With that said, he could've been a little more subtle, don't you think? Did he have to be on the USC sideline? It's hard to publicly support Kyler and then be around the obvious 'other' QB that everyone is talking about."

OK, so I wasn't at the game. I am assuming you were? Because the only evidence I saw of it on the internets Saturday night was a few seconds of Monti and Cardinals scout Chris Culmer talking with what looks to be a USC staffer. And it looks like it was before the game. I apologize if there is other video out there, but I don't see the issue here.

From Willy Red:

"As well as Paris Johnson Jr. has been playing, I don't think it's slanderous to say Kei'trel Clark has been the best draft pick of the Monti era so far. Sure he's going to give up a catch or two, as we saw against Dallas, but overall he has been very solid. I'd venture to say he's been quite a bit more dependable than Marco Wilson (who seriously needs some extra tackling instruction after practice this week). Wild that a sixth-round rookie is arguably our No. 1 CB. When does Garrett Williams lace them up?"

The best part about this is that no one has to pick the best rookie because frankly, the Cardinals need all of them. Clark has been solid. There is a learning curve, but what I like about him is that he understands he needs to bounce back quickly when he gets beat. As for Williams, no one is talking about him like Kyler but it's the same deal -- they aren't going to activate him until they are sure he'll be ready to go in that three-week window.

From Kyle Curtis:

"In the Giants game there were a couple blatant red flag challenge plays that Gannon should of thrown. Saquon Barkley's catch, that the ball was on the ground. That was no catch and got me throwing my hands in the air. Am I missing something? Thanks."

I do believe you are missing something. On the Barkley play, yes, the ball touched the ground, but only after Barkley had two hands on it and was in complete control. The rule says that the ball can indeed touch the ground and be called a catch as long as the ground didn't help the catch be made. I think that's what happened on that play (and what Gannon thought too) and it was smart not to throw the flag. I think they would've lost the challenge.

From Kenneth Schroeder:

"Greetings to you from Nebraska. I have actually been encouraged by the coaching staff so far. They put our team in a position to win against the Giants and that should be our goal this season is to be competitive every game as we continue to build. My question is with Budda Baker. With his contract issues, though settled, and now his IR stint, this feels like this could be his last season as a Cardinal. Thoughts? Thanks as always."

I can't tell you how to feel about the contract situation, because I do not doubt he will again be seeking an extension after the season. But the hamstring injury is just bad luck, and Budda certainly seems like he is still very much engaged with the team. This team is better with Budda on it, and Monti Ossenfort understands that.

From John Tharp:

"Not a Cards question, but a football question. Is Byron Murphy Jr (DB Cards/Vikings) related to Byron Murphy II (D-Line Texas Longhorns)? And, a second part, a story that I would find interesting and read is a week in the NFL. How is a players schedule? Off day, film, treatments, practice. How does a coach spend his/her week? Monti's week? What type of work and research is needed for the TV guys, the radio guys, etc? Just an overview of an NFL teams personnel from the top to the bottom, weekly preparation for a game."

The latter is a very interesting concept. I will look into that. And no, the Murphy's aren't related.

From Mason Nuzman:

"Hey Darren, why is it that on third-and-long, the Cardinals and every other NFL team always seem to run some sort of draw/screen or other short-yardage type play? I don't understand it. There must be something behind it because it happens so often but if it's third-and-15, why not throw it 15 yards? It's so frustrating seeing a halfback draw or WR screen when you need 10+ yards for a first down."

Mason, it's OK to punt.

I get it. And time, score and field position play into it. But if it is third-and-15 and you are at your own 33 and it's 3-0 in the first half and the defense is sitting at the sticks and playing two-high, you take what you can get and probably need to live to fight another day. Because in that same situation, if your quarterback throws into coverage 20 yards down the field and is intercepted, I am guessing, Mason, you will probably be wondering why the QB threw that terrible pass.

From Tom Cowley:

"Hi Darren. It appears that we have suffered our share of injuries in the early going. When do you think some will return? Who is the latest acquisition LB and will he play this week? Why so little playing time for our TEs? Looks like we need another RB to back Connor? Thanks."

Don't know about the injuries -- too early to know on Zaven Collins and Krys Barnes. If you are talking about practice squad ILB Tyreek Maddox-Williams, he could be in play if Barnes is out and Josh Woods can't play. Tight ends had plenty of playing time Sunday, they just weren't targeted with passes. That's OK when you are rushing for 228 yards. As for a back behind Conner, that is something to think about -- although Corey Clement remains on the practice squad as an option.

From Matthew Chadduck:

"Obviously this was a trap game for Dallas. I'd bet my next paycheck they were looking ahead. However we've quietly owned the 'Boys in recent memory. How many more games do we need to win in order to initiate a transfer of ownership, a la A-Rod and the Bears?"

This is weird, Matthew. Not sure how you can in one sentence infer the Cardinals only won because the Cowboys weren't ready, and then in the next want to pile on the Cowboys with an "ownership" joke. Feels like you need to pick a lane.

From Haalen Deegan:

"Hi Darren. Have we gotten comment from JG yet on the second two-point conversion attempt? The first one was fine. Try from the 1, don't get it, oh well. The second one was concerning. All the analytics in the world say DO NOT go for it. They were chasing the lost points is what happened. Not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but its troubling that this coaching staff seemingly gets emotional with decisions and starts making very bad choices that aren't backed by analytics."

Here is what Gannon said after the game: "We tried to get the points back and they stopped it again. Then you've got the field goal. That kind of gave us the points back, so sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but I felt good about the calls. Hats off to Dallas for executing but our guys know we're going to be aggressive and try to win the game. We're not playing for ties. We want to win the game."

You can accept this or not but that was the answer. I don't know what the analytics might say in that regard, but I do know they have a entire analytics department so to think it was made emotionally doesn't make a ton of sense to me. They had all the time from when they were stuffed the first time to think about doing it a second time.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren thank you again for the mailbag. I still hear people saying we want the Caleb Williams but no draft pick is a sure thing and I feel like if Kyler Murray comes back and plays good then Monti Ossenfort can use the draft next year to sure up the O-line and D-line. Do you think Marco Wilson might be surpassed by Kei'Trel Clark to be the No. 1 cornerback? Also, when is Cardinals Underground going to have a game episode where the three of you all compete, where the loses has to eat a mayo-covered Oreo? Thanks for the mailbag."

I don't know if it matters if Clark is "1" or "2" because the Cardinals need both he and Wilson to play well. We will see how things couild shift when Garrett Williams returns and eventually gets up to speed. As far as your second question: Never.

From Michael Weber:

"Thanks for your answer about the top football movies Darren. Didn't know 'Rudy.' Maybe it was never on German TV. But I ordered it and will watch it on the weekend."

I bet it was on Irish TV.

From Brian C.:

"How many draft picks did we give the Cowboys back in 2021 for Dani?"

That's the beauty of it, Brian. Dani was a free agent, so there were no picks. The Cowboys let her walk and they have had a hard time replacing her since.

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