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You've Got Mail: Panthers Week

Topics include the inactive list, Murray's reaction to losing, and CB play


The Cardinals came up short on their first road trip, but now have back-to-back home games, beginning with the Panthers this week at State Farm Stadium. As always, you can leave a question for next week's mailbag by clicking here.

From Garth Short via

"Darren, could you help me with the Inactive list. I know that every week six (?) guys are inactive. Do they not get paid or get paid less? And if not why does the NFL have this rule? Thanks."

There are seven inactives each week. It used to be eight, including a third quarterback. But they changed the rule a few years back. They are not paid less, they are normal players on the active roster and get their regular salary. The rule is in place to ostensibly level the playing field for both teams when it comes to injuries. Let's say Team A has four guys who can't play that week because of injury, and Team B has one guy like that. This way, both team have 46 healthy guys active. Why the total is seven I don't know exactly. There have been talks over the years to expand gameday rosters, but at this point, it has stayed at 46 -- with seven sitting out.

I think plenty of players hate losing. Many of them don't have to stand on a podium and answer questions in front of cameras. And I think others do a better job of hiding it. But there is little arguing that Murray was grumpy and that was the question coming in -- how would a guy who never has lost handle losses? Maybe the season got so sideways last year it didn't seem like players were down, but I've been in plenty of locker rooms over the years and had guys be down and terse and angry.

From Robert Malicki via

"As a longtime fan of the Cardinals I've inherited my father's attitude them being a family owned-hands-on operation. My question concerns player injuries. We often hear the axiom, 'The best ability is availability.' All things considered with the CBA and all, how do you rate the organization in its treatment of the guys? Are the Cardinals thought of by the players as righteous in regards to player welfare?"

Are you talking about just how players are taken care of if they are injured? I mean, I don't know what it would take to be seen as "righteous." From what I can tell the players are cool with the care and rehab work they get. But again, I don't know what "righteous" would be.

Yes. Good teams have a lot of talent. Bad teams have lesser talent.

That's going to sound smart-ass-ish (and it kind of is) but that doesn't change its truth. I've seen a lot of different ways teams have operated here. But talent -- and solid coaching -- is why teams win. The other variables can change.

In general, I think you are correct. But we have all seen the strides KeeSean Johnson made in the offseason, and he earned his spot on the depth chart above Isabella. So did Damiere Byrd, who has impressed the coaches all through the offseason and training camp and who has been a pleasant surprise. Isabella, unfortunately, is further behind those four, and now Michael Crabtree is a guy who has a proven track record. And right now, the Cardinals are trying to make a push if possible to the postseason. Maybe that fades sooner rather than later, and then you can try some stuff out with Isabella. I agree that Isabella has the speed you'd like on the field. But he's got to prove himself enough in practice -- he was uneven in the preseason.

I don't know if I have a good answer for that, other than it's easy to be a frontrunner. I think it's easy to be encouraged looking at what Kyler Murray is already and what he can become. I think if you have a quarterback in this league, you are never far away. But I am a reporter and analyst. I'm here to give facts and my look at things. I don't know if I'm the guy doing the sales job. If you are a fan, I think there are reasons to have hope.

from William Herrik Nielsen via

"Hi Darren. Once again, thank you for your great coverage of our Cards! I'm curious to hear your best- and worst-case scenarios regarding wins this season? Do you have any hope of the team sneaking into the playoffs? I sure do - even though it is really optimistic for sure. Greetings from Denmark!"

Given the hot starts of everyone else in the division, it could be an uphill climb. Never say never, especially with a team that I think will only improve offensively as we go. (Given all the players the Cards lost off their defense, I think the defense has actually done well too.) But as I have said many, many times, I think a competitive team in which the offense/Kyler trends up as the season goes would be ideal, and if they win five or six games (along with that tie, right?) they'd be headed in the right direction.

Dennis Gardeck got first crack at playing when Haason Reddick was out. He played a ton in the preseason. And then when Joe Walker returned from an injury, Gardeck couldn't hang on to the spot. So that says something about that situation. In terms of Walker himself, you only have so many options. If you've already figured that Walker is ahead of Gardeck, there isn't anyone else. Reddick played more than 80 percent of the defensive snaps, so Walker is going to have limited defensive work at this point.

From Burt McCall via

"Hi Darren, if you were a betting man, do you think we resign D.J. Humphries to a long term deal this offseason? Or do we look to upgrade LT in the 2020 draft? He's a solid player, but I think the injury issues will play a huge part. I think the determining factor might be if he can simply make it through all 16 games this year "

I think you've handicapped this pretty well. If Humphries stays healthy, given the dearth of decent tackles in this league, he's going to get a big contract. I hope fans are prepared for that, one way or the other. But I think the future of Humphries with the Cardinals isn't written yet, for all the reasons you mentioned. Might the Cardinals need to find a new left tackle next season? Very possible.

He's not only going to sustain it, I think he can improve as the season goes.

From Pascal Pierre via

"Hi Darren, are you more excited by the 300-plus yards throwing of Kyler Murray and the promises shown by the offense or worried that the Air Raid could really be a 'pretty boy' offense -- fun to watch but ineffective?"

I am absolutely encouraged by Murray's start and what they can do in the air, although they do need consistency in the run game (although that was the same thing we said in 2008, so ...) The pretty-boy offense thing I don't get. Football is football. The game, however, is changing. If something works, then why wouldn't you do it? That's like a thought in the NBA that if you're pulling up from 25 feet and raining threes, it's pretty-boy because you're not getting into the paint. Then the team that made all the threes wins the game. Look, long-term, it'll be about wins and losses. But as I noted above, winning is also about talent, and there are places the Cardinals need to upgrade the roster, and that is immaterial of what the offense looks like.

From Jerry Brown via

"Opposing tight ends are killing us, and ours are barely a factor. Are our tight ends just not good enough to play? Given how little we run the ball (a separate issue) they probably aren't helping much as blockers. Why have them on the roster if we aren't going to play them -- especially in the red zone, where we clearly need to improve?"

It's been pretty apparent from the offseason the tight ends wouldn't be used a ton -- go back and look at Kingsbury's offenses at Texas Tech. That's how he plays it. I won't even address the 'why have them on the roster' question -- that sounds like a little kid complaining. They do play. They might not play as much as you'd like. Now, as far as the other team's tight ends -- I do think both Hockensen and Andrews have a chance to be Pro Bowlers. But the Cardinals have to find a way to defend that better.

This has been a popular theme from fans. I understand the questions. David is healthy (well, he has the wrist thing now, but that really isn't a factor.) No question everyone keeps waiting for the explosive David Johnson from a few years ago. There are still flashes, but it hasn't been the same. I don't know if it is a comfort level in the offense, potentially. Whatever place Johnson is, the Cardinals need him to have a big year. That's why they paid him what they did.

From Heinz Mueller via

"I have two questions relative to the signings by Steve Keim. How come they cannot get this injury situation on the offensive line figured out? Here we go again Marcus Gilbert and what about Max Garcia? You do not hear from or about him? Also why would you give up a 6th round pick in next years draft for Bruce Hector and then release him after camp.You just gave up a pick for nothing?"

1) Gilbert had a non-contact ACL tear in practice. I mean, that happens.

2) Garcia tore his ACL near the end of last season. He was signed knowing that he probably wouldn't be ready until into the season, on a cheap contract, and as depth. He's on the PUP list so he's not eligible to play before Week 7 anyway.

3) They traded safety Rudy Ford -- who was going to be released anyway -- to take a look at Hector. There was no pick involved.

Para começar, eu contestaria a ideia de que a defesa teve dois jogos fracos. A maneira como eles começaram os jogos não é ótima, mas eles mantiveram os cardeais em jogos e se saíram bem no segundo tempo. Considerando que Vance Joseph está perdendo algumas partes importantes que ele esperava ter nesta temporada, acho que a defesa realmente fez um pouco melhor do que eu esperava.

From Duane Wisner via

"Hi Darren, I enjoy your writing, you do an excellent job. I'm wondering what happened to the NoteCards (I think it's what is was called). It had milestones that can be reached in that particular game. It also had notes on the team they are playing. It was squares of info. I always enjoyed reading it. You have a big fan in Michigan! I'm a Cardinals fan surrounded by Bears, Lions and Colts."

We were having a tough time finding a good place for the NoteCards, but enough people have said something that we are bringing it back. There will be a link at the bottom of the "Three Big Things" article that is posted Fridays.

I think that's still a feeling-out process as he gets used to the speed of the game, knowing that he needs to be smart about taking hits. I expect his rushing attempts to increase some as the weeks go by. Obviously, when defenses know he can run, it is definitely a threat. I think the Lions played him that way, actually.

From Robert Malicki via

"My question is about special teams play? The Ravens have excellent special teams players and strategy. Along with their kicker they displayed quality returns compared to us but it was in their kickoffs I noticed something. Their kicker seems to have perfected a way to kick to the goalline which forces a return. We couldn't return any kicks even twenty yards and the Ravens could dominate us right off? Couldn't we work on the same approach and ashcan the touchback strategy?"

Certainly that is a strategy they could employ. Of course, there is the devil you know and the one you don't, and all it takes is one return to the house and that strategy can backfire, as opposed to the set knowledge a team is starting at the 25 every time. To me, if you defense is going to "dominate" it doesn't really matter if the kickoff lands the ball at the 18 or the 25.

I don't know if I'd say Brock was "toasted" a lot. The bomb at the end of the game, Brock couldn't have had better coverage. It was a perfect pass and a great catch. Sometimes the other team makes a play. But as Murphy gets his reps over these weeks, I could definitely see Brock going to the slot -- where he is most comfortable -- and Murphy staying outside when Peterson returns.

From Guilherme Rafael via

"Can the Cards or Peterson appeal to reduce his suspension to, say, four games?"

The appeals process happens before the suspension is announced. So whatever appeals Peterson made, he made them long ago, and the six games will be the six games.

From Millie Chiba via

"I noticed Michael Dogbe was inactive Sunday. Why? He got a sack last week and is arguably one of our better defensive line young guys."

He was also inactive for the opener. That sack came in the third preseason game back in August. Clearly, they don't see him as ready to play yet above guys like Rodney Gunter or Clinton McDonald. Dogbe has time to learn as a seventh-round pick. He is raw but has talent.

From Issac In The UK via

"After too much talk of a vanilla preseason, now with two games under our belts, what flavour would you say the offense is? And sticking with the ice cream language, instead of wrinkles, do you think we have enough sprinkles with it?"

Paul Calvisi would be so proud of this question. I think the offense is what was expected -- a version of the spread. Definitely a work in progress, given the newness of both Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. There will be more sprinkles added as the year goes on, I would think.