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You've Got Mail: Panthers Week

Topics include Colt McCoy's impact, the trade deadline, and Benjamin's role

Kennard mailbag 110921

No Kyler, no Hop, no Green, no ... a lot of people, and yet no problem in San Francisco. This has become a dream season in a lot of ways. The struggling Panthers come to town next, but first, a mailbag. As always, you can send a question for a future mailbag right here.

From Robert Malicki:

"Could the Cardinals have the most reliable and effective QB one-two punch in the NFL? The week 9 games are almost overflowing with intrigue and it would require a podcast to discuss them, but I think we fans of the Big Red learned something about Colt McCoy, that he is a Drew Stanton for the team. In the team learning what they had in Kurt Warner when Matt Leinart was the starter and then the gem we had in Drew, now we are strengthened by Colt. Twice our backup QB jolted us to the NFC Championship game when called upon. I feel another run will happen."

Well, let's not be part of revisionist history. Warner was the backup in 2007, technically, but in 2008 he won the starting job back when they went to the Super Bowl. And the year the Cards got to the NFC Championship game, Carson Palmer was healthy for every game. Yes, Stanton was crucial in 2014, but that season ended with third-stringer Ryan Lindley having to play. I think Colt showed exactly why the Cardinals wanted to sign him. There are some other good backups around the league. But part of the reason Colt (and Kyler, for that matter) was successful is that he plays on a good team. That helps.

From Juan de la Peña:

"Hi Darren! What an enjoyable win, this team is clearly just a little better than the others (or maybe more than just a little). I remember when people were asking for Steve Keim's head, well, you don't hear them anymore. Let's just hope we don't start to hear some KM-McCoy drama. How did the first series D lineup look like ? We saw a lot of Vallejo but I don't know how the secondary looked. I'm guessing it was Budda-JT-Byron. Do you think we will see a lot more of this or was it just game-planning for the Niners. Thank you as always, greetings from Argentina!"

The secondary in the 4-4-3 alignment at the beginning of the game was Wilson-Murphy-Baker. And the group did a good job -- the Niners only ran for 39 yards, and while getting the lead was part of that, so to was the execution of Vance Joseph's plan.

From Jay Draudt:

"I've been a Big Red and Mizzou fan since 1965 and was wondering if you think Markus Golden might be the defensive MVP of the Cardinals so far? The national media doesn't give him any credit (remember Mel Kiper on draft day?) but he just does the job. Any thoughts? P.S. When you see him give him a M-I-Z-.."

I think you could probably make an argument. I might lean to Byron Murphy right now, but Golden has been excellent and deserves to be in the conversation.

From Caspian Russel:

"With Eno Benjamin out there on Sunday, he looked good. What are your thoughts on his performance? He scored his first TD today, if Edmonds is out next week would Benjamin get a bigger role in this offense?"

It looks like Edmonds is going to miss multiple games. So yes, they will need Benjamin. I liked the explosive touchdown run. I don't know if anyone has ever questioned his ability to carry the ball. Can he do the other things? Work as a receiver? Pick up the blitz as a blocker? Play a little special teams consistently?

From Ian McMechan:

"Hello! Have you seen a more effective display from a backup QB in your time covering the club than McCoy vs the 49ers? Is it unfair for people mainly to characterise him as a ball control game manager -- he seems to offer quite a lot more?"

I mean, this is kind of cheating, but Kurt Warner was the backup in 2007 when the Cardinals were in Baltimore, and Warner lit the Ravens up in the tempo-offense that day. Plus when Leinart got hurt a couple weeks later, Warner was excellent the rest of the season. Generally, though, McCoy probably was the best backup showing I've seen. As for McCoy himself, he played well, and it doesn't hurt to have a good team around him. I don't know what this would look like over 17 games, but he can help you in the short-term (and already has.)

By Steve Jurich:

"Why aren't we trying to convince Larry Fitzgerald that he is both needed and wanted. It sounds to me like the Cardinals are not even making an effort? D-Hop is awesome, but a hamstring does not just go away. It could come back any time, including the playoffs. Fitz is a reliable possession receiver that can get first downs. He has stated that he has to be asked to come back. Has he been asked? Are there discussions? The fans would love to see No. 11 again. Why not? (Yes I know he said he is waiting to feel like it. But he also said he needs to be asked -- are we doing that?)"

Maybe I missed something, but I don't remember anything about him saying he needed to be asked. I don't think that's a thing (but I am sure someone will point it out to me if I am wrong.) Let's address some of the other points though -- Fitz is one of the all-time greats. But he has done nothing football-related since before the end of last season (because he was hurt at the end.) As great as he was, is he a better choice right now than Green or Kirk or Wesley even? Also, what makes you think he'd want to come back as an insurance policy who may or may not even be active? I'm never going to say never, but while I think the Cardinals would take him back if he wanted back, they aren't going to reach out. Frankly, I don't think Fitz has any desire to play -- he just doesn't want to say he's done, for whatever reason.

From Dan Marks:

"I love that you actually tweeted midseason awards at halftime. That being said, Simmons is the obvious pick for most improved, right?"

I said Murphy because I think his game has made giant strides. But yes, Simmons is in the discussion (and honestly, I considered it for 60 seconds -- the second tweet of that thread wasn't planned.)

From Steve Drumm:

"Hey Darren, J.J Watt was put on IR last week potentially ending his season. Does the team still anticipate J.J. possibly being back this season at some point or does it look like he is done for the year? Thanks!"

The team isn't saying anything officially. If I had to guess, I'd guess Watt's season is over.

From Meghan Stroh:

"Hey Darren. My husband was proud of Kliff Kingsbury on the penalty because he said it shows Kliff is fired up and is fighting for our team. Do you think it's it's good thing or bad thing about Kliff's personal foul. Go Cards. Go Red Sea. Thank you for the mailbag."

Certainly, Kliff got heated, and I know fans often want to see that from a coach -- at least, until they don't. A coach does it all the time, and eventually the fans start to wonder why he can't control himself. (Of course, it's also on the backdrop of winning. Kliff does what he does when they are down,by 20, and fans are saying the team is a mess from the coach down.) Personally, I don't have an issue with what happened Sunday, although if a coach is doing that, he certainly can't get mad if a player gets a similar-type penalty.

From Glenn Garrison:

"Hi Darren. This message was inevitable, but I guess I have to be that guy. Kyler Murray on the sidelines has terrible body language. Particularly the fact the camera didn't once show him talking to Colt. Maybe he did, I'm not claiming he didn't, but we never saw it in any Kyler shots over the course of the game. He was always standing off by himself. Whenever Kyler is starting, where's Colt? Right next to him. Going through the Surface. Doing his job. On the best team guys, you consistently see that trait where even when they are hurt, they want to be with the team and are actively coaching on the sidelines. Kyler did none of that (which we could see). Given this was his first experience as a injured non-player, it was a new experience and he reverted back to young Kyler. So he can be excused. But it was a bad look."

I guess Kyler should've lined it up with the Fox cameras so he could look better. I mean, I wasn't watching the broadcast, but when you say Colt is always right next to Kyler, Colt is also dressed and active. I do have to say, it's kind of funny when you say he "reverted back to young Kyler." He is young Kyler still. He's 24. My sons are just about the same age. That's sometimes what they look like, especially like you say he's never had to miss a game like this. I also know McCoy said himself in an interview Murray was engaged and helping during the game. I'll say this like I've said before, it's dangerous to take snippets that are shown on TV and extrapolate them out. You even acknowledge this - "which we could see." It's like when a person says, "No offense, but ..." and then proceeds to say something that would offend.

I'll leave you with this tweet to hopefully make you feel more at ease.

From Duane Wisner:

"Hi Darren, I'm curious what Phoenix promised Mr. Bidwill to move from St. Louis. Why did it take so long for the Cardinals to get a stadium? Did he expect a stadium built sooner? It seems strange that he would want to play in Sun Devil Stadium from 1988 until the vote for a new stadium finally passed in 2000 meaning they played in a college stadium 17 years. If the close vote had not passed, where would the team have moved to in your opinion or would they still be at Sun Devil Stadium? I don't believe the NFL wanted them in Los Angeles market. Thank you for your time, have a wonderful day!"

There is no question civic leaders lead Bill Bidwill to believe their own stadium would be built at some point if they moved to Arizona. But nothing was in writing and, as things in politics do, the landscape changed. People were leery about money. Those who made such promises weren't in power anymore. I have no idea where the team would've moved, or if they would've moved, but it sure seemed possible to me at the time. Would it be L.A.? Who knows.

From Nick Park:

"Radio mentioned Zaven is injured, that's why Tanner Vallejo started, but I don't understand why Zaven played on special teams. It's like are you hurt or not? As we saw with Chase, you can get play in one snap in this game. So if Zaven was well enough to play STs, then he was well enough to start. I don't get the philosophy."

Just to understand -- either a player can play every snap if needed or he needs to be held out altogether? I've got news for you -- some weeks, you won't have enough players to fill out your 48 on game day following that line of thinking. I'm surprised you didn't send in the same question the week before when D-Hop only played 15 snaps. Same concept, right? (Although in Hop's case, you probably have enough receivers.)

From Chase Simmons:

"Doesn't get said much, but needs to be said often: D.J. Humphries is an outstanding left tackle. It's so funny, because I remember years and years and years of poor LT play and searching for that cornerstone LT. We briefly had it with Veldheer, but it didn't last. Now, D.J. is so rock solid at LT that we are at the point where we don't even think about it. We're spoiled, Darren. Assuming we re-sign him to a extension, that first-round bust who was benched and dubbed 'Knee Deep' is on his way to being one of the best left tackles in Cardinals history. I don't count Pro Bowls. I count performance, and he's just great."

I would agree with you. Hump has turned into a very good left tackle, even if few notice it Pro Bowl-wise, and I personally hope he retires a Cardinal -- but I am way biased because he is one of the best interviews I've ever had.

From Will K:

"The mailbag is great. It's appointment-reading every Tuesday. Two questions for you, one website-related and one roster-related. Website first: When do your articles qualify as general news vs. 'Word From The Birds' blog vs. other? I read ALL OF IT, but wondered about how it's organized. With the roster, like the rest of the #RedSea, I'm on Cloud 9 after the 49ers win. So short-handed, on the road and our toughest challengers in the NFC (GB, DAL, LAR) all lose. Had we joined them, I personally wouldn't have been that upset. Short so many starters + losing Edmonds & Pugh early … WHAT A WIN! But in the stretch run, my fear is sustainability. If we need more help, we're limited to who's on the street. How much waiver activity typically happens after November?"

With the site, most of the time, the blog is a place where a) I get opinionated or write it like a column; b) maybe a smaller story that would be a note otherwise but I'd like to put a headline on it; c) a inside moment in the locker room or a good quote (like Watt teasing Collins about speeding) that isn't a news story. The straight news and feature stories are the "regular" ones. (I could make the snap count/grades one either; makes more sense to me in the blog.)

As far as the player additions, the roster is going to be churning. But you aren't getting a difference-maker now. You might get someone to plug the hole, but the trade deadline has passed and if someone on the street was that good, he'd already be on a roster. That's why winning a title is always part luck, because the healthier teams go the furthest.

Lastly, how could you have any fear watching this team right now? They are 8-1, which rarely happens. Enjoy the ride.

From Carlson Chemist:

"NFL Network reported that Watt tore his labrum, bicep, and rotator cuff in addition to dislocating his shoulder. That's one messed up shoulder, yet it was also reported that after surgery and rehab, Watt could be available to return late in the postseason. I think it would be nothing short of miraculous that Watt could return, let alone be the force he was before the injury, but let's assume the best case scenario happens. But because the Cards have yet to find a replacement for him, it seems that the Cards believe they can overcome the loss of Watt by committee for the second half of the season. So, if that's the case, then why would the Cards have signed Watt in the first place if they feel they can get by without him or a replacement?"

That feels like faulty logic to me. You aren't replacing Watt. That's impossible. He's one of the better defensive linemen out there. If someone that good was out there now, he'd be on a team. What you really would be doing is replacing one of the guys you have on the roster now, right? Someone to play instead of, for instance, Zach Allen, because in your way of thinking, they aren't good enough to play in Watt's sted. Are there guys out there better than who you have active on the roster now? Well, probably not, because they would already be on your roster before Watt even got hurt, and you'd have cut Allen or Fotu or Peters or whomever.

From Steve Zukowski:

"Two observations on the Packers game: 1) Aaron Rodgers is the best I've seen for varying his snap count to prevent the defense from anticipating the snap. Even with the outrageous noise level, he varied his silent count and caught the defense off guard. Murray needs to study the tape to see how it's done, since every Cardinal snap is triggered by a singular hand clap. 2) After a 7-0 start, Kingsbury is reverting back to his roots with having Murray in shotgun for most of the game. A mush-rush with a delayed spy/rusher is having Murray run for his life much of the time, and I don't think he can endure the punishment for a whole season. Your thoughts?"

My thoughts are a) it's amazing how many people find the slight faults with a team that was 7-1 (and now 8-1); b) I agree Rodgers is great with the snap count, but frankly, if Murray is guiding an offense to 30 points and 400 yards a game, he can get the ball snapped however he chooses; c) I don't understand the idea that Kingsbury is "reverting" to anything. Murray has been in the shotgun 95 percent of the time all the time, since he arrived in 2019. In eight games, Murray has been under center exactly 40 times the entire season. (Colt McCoy was under center five times, with Chris Streveler under center both of his snaps.) Murray likes shotgun, Kingsbury prefers shotgun. It's not changing. And the punishment Murray has taken has nothing to do with shotgun or not; it's not like this latest sprained ankle would've been prevented had he been under center.

From John Staszkiewicz:

"I just wanted to say that I am a Cardinal fan from St Louis and I am so excited about how the team is doing. Do you think that the Cardinals have a chance to go to the Super Bowl. I am so happy for Michael Bidwill. He has proven to be a great owner."

Do they have a chance? Of course. They are 8-1 and have proven they are a good team. But they will need to get healthy (or at least, healthier) and they will need a little luck. It's harder than hell to reach a Super Bowl. But yes, they have a chance.

From Eliseo Ruelas:

"Will we see Dennis Gardeck get more playing time. He's a beast on the run stuff 💪🏼."

If we see any more of Gardeck, it won't be to defend the run. That's what Golden and Kennard and Jones do. I think 10-15 snaps on defense is about all we will see per game from him.

From Michael Schmorr:

"So the Broncos send Von Miller to Rams for picks and agree to pay his contract, is this a way to for the Rams to skirt the confinements of the salary cap? Doesn't seem fair. Also, I was disappointed seeing A.J. Green run such a poor uninspired route on that last play against Green Bay. If nothing else, it was a teaching moment for my son, an 8 year old football player, even if the play isn't going your way you don't just mope around. If the play isn't there on the other side they'll be looking for you or if the defense shifts making the original target not desirable you're now No. 1. Just not a good look for him, especially on the last play of the game. But we all make mistakes and we never stop learning from them and hopefully that will be the case with A.J."

Not sure how you saw him running an uninspired route when I'm pretty sure he was run-blocking. Whatever happened with the mixup, I guarantee Green wasn't "moping" because the ball might be going the other way. As far as the Miller trade, I guess you can look at it as skirting the cap, but the reality was the Broncos wanted two higher picks and no one was giving those unless some of the money was paid. But all trades have to be OK'd by the league, so if some team started doing something that didn't make sense just to skirt the cap, I am sure the league would deny it.

From Kyle Vane:

"The obligatory 'why not us' submission. Why not us Darren? Rams trade for Von Miller, clearly swinging for the fences. Why are we sitting on our butts, knowing our defensive line needs help with Watt out. The Rams are spot on, traded away those picks. You don't need them. They are late-in-the-round anyways. Imagine Jordan goes down (as he does). What then? Go pre-empt a catastrophe by adding good depth, because we are one defensive injury away from the season collapsing."

Obviously the trade deadline has passed. But I will ask the same question and make the same point I did to the previous questions on this. What player did they "miss" out on, and are they better than what they have? Someone asked me about Melvin Ingram at one point; he's not a defensive lineman. So who are we talking about that they didn't go get?

From Chad Johnson:

"I remember when Edgerrin James had to champion a cause to allow the players to wear black cleats on game day, but noticed now we have some colorful shoe choices from red to yellow to black to white (highlighted by Murray switching from yellow to white against GB). Did the league soften the rules on that over the years or was that a AZ club policy or something?"

The issue with black cleats was a Dennis Green thing. He wanted the guys to all wear the same thing and he thought white cleats looked better. Edge convinced him otherwise.

From Steve Drumm:

"Hi Darren. Since 2000 the Cardinals have had four playoff teams, the 2008 Super Bowl squad, 2009, 2014 and 2015 teams. You have had a front row seat to dissect those teams fully and now this years Cardinals' squad. My question is how well, in your opinion, does this 2021 Cardinals team compare with those past four Cardinals playoff squads in terms of skill position talent, QB, RB, WR, and also defense and overall roster talent? In what order would you rank these teams based on this criteria? Thanks!"

That would take more research than I have time for in any depth, but the teams were totally different. The 2008 team could not run the ball much at all. The 2009 team was a little bit better. The 2014 team simply didn't have its starting quarterback long enough but that defense was pretty stout. I think this offense has the chance to be the best -- Kyler's ability to move changes the dynamic, but Kurt Warner is a Hall of Famer. That 2015 offense was awesome though. So many weapons. Defensively, I think the 2015 defense before Tyrann hurt his knee was probably better, although this defense -- if it stays healthy -- has a chance to be pretty good.

From Howard Noble:

"When does the team get a chance to go to church?"

Those that want to can go to service Sunday mornings at the hotel. There is usually something held for guys who want that. Or they can attend a service on another day.

From Eno4Lyfe:

"We are NOT the 'Eno Hive.' We are the 'All About the Benjamin Babies' "

I see what you did there.

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