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You've Got Mail: Panthers Week

Topics include the No. 8 patch, Simmons at safety and Johnson's targets


The Cardinals are looking to rebound from a difficult loss that had all kinds of self-inflicted pain. They have to do so on the road in Carolina, where the Panthers just got their first win. If you have a question to send in for next week, go here.

From Leonard Pearson via

"Why were the players wearing a black eight on their jerseys?"

It honors the late Larry Wilson, who wore No. 8 when he was playing.

From Matt from Glendale via

"Did anyone ask Kliff or Vance what happened with that 12 men on the field penalty? It was clear Kliff and Vance were completely out of sorts, and I thought we were actually going to see Kliff angry for the first time."

I went back and looked at the video, and yes, they looked out of sorts -- it seemed like Kliff wanted to know if he needed to call timeout. But I didn't think Kliff was angry per se (Vance looked like he was), and the defense ended up holding the Lions to a field goal inside the 10 anyway.

From Georges Lopez via

"Hey Urban. Full disclosure, I'm an overly passionate fan. Football doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Our world has much bigger problems. That said, I'm not a big fan of Kliff's 'I need to do a better job' schtick. Either do a better a job, or find a new job. I know you're getting inundated with the same questions. Why did Larry get one catch? Why is KeeSean Johnson our late game go-to? Why did Kyler barely run? I'll stop ranting and ask a question: Is there anyone in real-time who can counsel Kliff? We at home saw what was happening. Why did nobody say 'Hey coach, stop calling plays for KeeSean. Larry is right here. Hopkins is right here. Also Kyler isn't using his No. 1 weapon, his legs.' "

Hey Lopez. I appreciate that you're willing to acknowledge your emotions in this equation. You are correct -- he is going to be asked the question. He has to answer it some way. If he said something like "The players have to execute better," people would be mad he's throwing players under the bus. He's in a no-win on the answer, because people are salty they lost. As for Sunday, I'm sure there are people weighing in. Hopkins can't be targeted much more. He admitted -- and actually, Kyler did too -- that they could've/should've used Fitz more. And Kyler said he should've thrown to Isabella on the final pass, which potentially changes the whole game.

From Red1 1976 via

"Since we are essentially down to a fifth-string practice squad safety, is there a chance Isaiah Simmons starts getting the safety snaps? I'm just thinking if it's 'the best 11 guys on the field' then Simmons, even as a rookie, must be better than the fifth-string practice squad guy. Thanks! Have a good week."

Kingsbury acknowledged Simmons is going to at least be in the discussion to play safety -- but again, this is with both your starting safeties out. Once Baker and Jalen Thompson return, I don't know if we'd see him back there. Again, I think eventually they'd like to get him working in a lot of spots. Maybe this is an opening to start that process.

From Jess Pollea via

"I was just looking at the snap count and KeeSean Johnson had 46 snaps to Andy Isabella's 26. I think myself and the rest of The Red Sea are incredibly confused by what happened Sunday. When and why and what, KeeSean? You even wrote articles talking about this was Andy's time to shine (and he did!) But KeeSean was getting Hopkins-level targets. It was bizarre."

I wouldn't say Hopkins-level. Kyler did throw the ball his direction more than anyone expected. But as for the snaps, that feels like a fairly simple answer. Christian Kirk was the absent player, and Isabella has spent most of camp as a slot receiver. Johnson is the top backup as an outside guy. Most of the time, he's the guy who is going to be outside, at least for now. We will see if that starts to shift.

From Chris Waldrop via

"I'm sure someone else will be asking this too, but the Chris Streveler plays seem to be irritating Kyler. Last week he didn't want to answer a question about it, and this week the TV crew catches Kyler and Kliff in a small argument after the failed Streveler fourth down attempt (false start). I don't want to read too much into one little sideline argument (surely they happen all the time), but is there reason to think Streveler may not get his one attempt each game anymore? Want to keep QB1 happy, right?"

With all due respect to Kyler, if he gets overly frustrated with Streveler getting one snap a game, I think there's a bigger issue there. Can you make the argument defenses sweat more if Kyler is at least on the field with Streveler? Sure. But let's face it, the chances of you throwing the ball to him are tiny -- I'm not risking that -- and if you want to pitch it to him or hand off in some way, you might as well make him QB. I went back and looked at the video and, you are right -- it was small. We also don't know if that was just because Kyler was out of the game or if was extra frustration after they didn't even get the play off.

From Darrell from Pinetop via

"Hey Darren, while we were close to holding Detroit at bay, it pained me to see the defense try and blitz Stafford over and over. It seemed that just about every time they lined up to blitz, Stafford would read it and throw a first down. At what point does Vance Joseph adjust his strategy so that we can keep opposing offenses from marching down the wide open inside lane when we blitz?"

It's a hard question. There seemed little question yesterday that blitzing was not having the intended outcome the Cardinals wanted, not altogether surprising against a vet like Stafford (a good vet). The last big play for Detroit -- a 20-yard catch-and-run out to Marvin Jones -- in fact came when Patrick Peterson was coming off the edge and never really was a factor in the play, and then backup safety Curtis Riley couldn't get to Jones. Joseph wants to be aggressive. I don't know how the blitz overall did without breaking down the video, but there were definitely times it was exploited.

From Fay Doty via

"I originally respected the Cardinals organization for stating that they would wait to make a decision on attendance but then decided to allow 750 family and friends. I had tickets for yesterday's game as I'm sure others did and maybe we were all a little disheartened by their devising to allow family and friends. That said, do you think perhaps the Cardinals were not as aggressive in their defense yesterday? I know they did keep Adrian Peterson in check but do you think maybe the defense didn't do as much as they could have?"

Those are pretty disparate comments there, Fay. Defensively, it's funny I saw this right after Darrell's question about blitzing too much. Bottom line, the Lions did not have great statistics and the Cards did a good job on third downs again. If Kyler Murray had taken care of the ball, I'm thinking the defensive performance would've been seen a lot differently. As for the fans, everyone needs to understand that the only reason any fans were in the building was because they wanted a test run for the stadium in case of fans in the future and this way seemed the safest and most controlled. We will see if there will be any fans at any remaining games. That'll depend on the state's health guidelines.

From Nat Dapaele via

"Hi Darren, do any of our coaches call plays from the box at all? I've noticed Kliff and Vance are always on the sidelines. So that's our OC and DC. (WR coach) David Raih is always on the sidelines. I think I've seen (OL coach Sean) Kugler on the sidelines, but can't say for certain. So I'm happy our coaches are so 1-on-1 with their guys, but aren't we at a small disadvantage? The skybox gives coordinators a better view of the schemes and formations."

Coaching from the field or the sky has always been about personal preference. But there are always some coaches sitting up high to get necessary info to the sideline, whether it is a coordinator or not.

From Mark via

"Hey Darren, do you have a backlog of your mailbag posts from a year ago? I'm trying to set up a told-ya-so about Lamont Gaillard. I've been saying for the longest time that that obscure little sixth rounder who nobody seemed to pay any mind was a darn good player. Nick Saban and a number of first-round Alabama D-lineman identified Gaillard as one of the best interior OLs they faced. That's the highest praise, so I knew he was talented and its really showing right now. I also thought Mason Cole did a good job before he got injured. But isn't that funny how suddenly it seems like we might actually have two good, young options at center?"

The Cardinals wouldn't complain. I do think Gaillard has been solid. It'll be interesting to see where that position goes the next couple of years, and whether either of them ever moves to guard to get both on the field. Props to you for being all Nostradamus-y.

From Clem Burt via

"Other than the bye week, is there a day coaches ever have off during the week? Tuesday through Sunday is football. And I see Kliff is at the office Mondays doing his postgame recap with you guys."

If you are talking full days, not really. In season it's seven days a week in some way shape or form. (To be honest, it's not much different for me -- Saturdays of home games, I suppose, unless they make a roster move.)

From Lawrence Lane via

"Hi Darren, in watching this years running game, outside of Kyler's designed runs, it seems a lot more predictable. Their rushing efficiency last year was amazing, and to me, part of the reason why was the jet sweep and varied attack. It seemed as though the offense would run any direction out of each set and keep the defense guessing. It was also a great way to get the ball into Kirk and Isabella's hands. Is there a reason they seem to be running less varied attacks?"

I'd have to go back and look at last year but to be honest, I don't see it being a lot different. It's the same coaches and the same playbook and virtually the same players, so there was really no reason to change. The running game has yet to be as productive outside of Murray, but that was a pretty high bar they set a year ago.

From John Colangelo via

"Is it possible to get a jersey with Pat Tillman and what was his number?"

It's right here and his number was 40 with the Cardinals.

From Cris P via

"Hey Urban, as always, thanks for your insight. I know we are only three weeks into the season, but was curious about your thoughts on the COVID rules and if you think the NFL will keep any of them after this year. I particularly like the three-week minimum IR and the ability to move two practice squad players back and forth each week without going through waivers. Are there any rules you really like and would want to stay? Thank you and go Cards!"

At first I was wondering if you were talking about the testing and Zoom interviews and I can't wait for those to go away. But you are referring to the football stuff. That's a good question. The fear always was, with the IR, that teams could "fake" an injury to stash guys on the roster for a time and bring them back later -- the reason they became so stringent was because teams flaunted it. But it does make some sense, even if you adjusted it -- four weeks, maybe? The practice squad thing is interesting too. Some of this would need NFLPA agreement too.

From Boston Mike via

"Heya Darren. For players and coaches to say 'we didn't have our best game' is to put it lightly. That was almost as frustrating as the infamous 58-0 Seattle loss in 2012. Why did Kyler not run? 26 yards? Running was the key to our victories in weeks 1 and 2? Who is this new INT-prone Kyler Murray? I don't like him. Why did Kyler target KJ so much? Why did KJ get twice as many snaps as Andy? Why didn't we target Hopkins more? Yeah he had 10 catches. He could've had 30. The thing that grinds my gears the most is, even with Kyler Favre's four interceptions, we still could've won that game if Kyler ran for 1st downs, Hopkins vs a rookie CB was actually taken into consideration, we didnt throw it to KeeSean ever again, and Larry got any targets."

Sorry Boston Mike. You lost me at that game being as frustrating as 58-0. I'm gonna chalk that up to frustration and move on.

From Troy Ezeh via

"On one of the podcasts you were on with Paul & Kyle, it seemed like Kyle was hinting that Andy Isabella could be a better 'deep threat' receiver for us than JJ Nelson turned out to be. To me at least (after a small sample size) they seem like carbon copies of each other as far as skillset.Are you guys seeing things in practice from Andy that show he can be better than what JJ was? And of course, GO CARDZ!"

First, Kyle wasn't hinting. I think he flat out said he could be better. I know Isabella has had hands issues early, but yes, I think he potentially could be better long-term. He's more sturdy in his build than Nelson. Isabella looks a ton better this year than last. The Cardinals just need that to continue, Nelson comparisons or not.

From Yinz Kaa via

"Considering the team practices in the empty stadium during the preseason, do these home games feel like extra-rough practices to you? Or do these games feel distinctly different? I watched the post game highlight video of players walking on and off the field, and it looked exactly like any other camp practice."

They feel different to me, although again, it is distinctly different for me -- I'm in a suit in the press box rather than a polo and shorts on the field. I think for players it has a different feel than a practice, although it's definitely different than a normal game with fans. What impact that may leave is hard to tell, exactly, but it's been a weird season already.

From Garth Short via

"Darren, thank you. My question concerns the guys who are listed as Inactive. As fans, we see the Inactive list about 60-90 minutes before the start of the game. But, when are the players told that they won't be playing?"

Most of the time, those guys know before Sunday what the plan will be. But there are guys who are injured who become game-day decisions. I can think of one time Anquan Boldin had a hamstring issue and wanted to play, and didn't find out he was inactive from the coaches but another indirect way -- and he wasn't happy. But those guys always know before the public.

From Lorna Green via

"Darren, in the Washington game, why did we get a delay of game penalty when the ref was in front of Kyler until there were only five seconds left on the play clock? Also, I know the numbers for the veterans on our team but not all the new guys. Is there any place I can download/print a copy of the players, info & numbers? Like what is in the booklets we get at the games? As always, thanks for your insights."

The rule is if the offense subs, the defense gets a chance to sub too, with the officials making sure the ball isn't snapped until they are ready. If I recall that case, there was an argument that the playclock should've been reset, but if an offensive team waits too long to sub, it's the risk they take. As for the booklet, here is a digital copy you can download.

From Mark Douglas via

"When will you guys start the Film Room again? We're two games into the season and no Film Room. I really like the breakdown of plays from a player's perspective."

Alas, with the coronavirus and the constraints we are under in terms of interviews, Film Room was not logistically feasible. Kyle hopes to get back to it post-pandemic.

From Charlie Tick via

"Hi Darren. I want to talk about this 'Isaiah Simmons to safety' thing, because I think you misunderstand the intention. Those of us in Camp Move-Him-To-Safety are not panicking about Simmons sub-par play at ILB. You are right, it's only two games. Our feelings are that Simmons would be a better safety than he'll be a ILB based on his skillset. To put it like this, he might develop into a B+ linebacker someday. That's pretty darn good and we'd all be happy if that happened. What we're saying is we think he has A+ safety potential. If you watch his college film and usage, he's a safety. He's a Jamal Adams. A Kam Chancellor. A bigger Budda. Heck, an Adrian Wilson. Let's not force Simmons to play ILB out of a perceived need. What if we do re-sign Campbell? That closes the door on our No. 1 pick in his 2nd year. Thanks."

Well, obviously they may look at him there. And Charlie, you seem very reasonable and have a well-thought out argument. But forgive me if I can't buy into your discussion of your "camp" -- go through my emails and Twitter, and you will see those calling for a move a) absolutely panicking after now, three games, and b) absolutely saying he'd be an F at linebacker so he needs to move. Just sayin'. Maybe he will turn out to be that kind of safety. I personally see him more as a linebacker, but we could find out. I disagree re-signing Campbell closes the door on anything. Simmons was already working as both OLB and ILB and I believe his role was only going to become potentially more varied anyway. (I also have doubts, given where the salary cap may go, that they will be able to keep Campbell, but we will see on that too.)

From Tim from Phoenix via

"Darren, the Cards seem pretty high on Streveler as the No. 2 QB but there was preseason talk about also using him on special teams. Has he taken any special-teams snaps?"

He was used as the punt protector once in the opener but that is the only snap, I believe.

From Raine Voights via

"Does Andy Isabella's play on Sunday put Christian Kirk in the hot seat? As far as Krik maybe getting less snaps? Also can you please explain intentional grounding? I always understood intentional grounding as a ball thrown in the area where there is no receiver. Now there is always the question of was the quarterback out of the pocket?"

The hot seat? I think Isabella has played well with limited opportunities the past two games, but I don't think he's run Kirk out of a job -- especially since, right now, they play different spots. As for intentional grounding, there are two things you must do to avoid a penalty on a ball thrown away: Be out of the pocket and throw the ball at least back to the line of scimmage. If you fail either of these, it is a penalty. This is already assuming you threw it with no receiver in the area.

From Nick Islip via

"How come we don't throw deep to Larry anymore? I remember the first Lions game last year Larry had two catches over 40 yards for the first time in years and everybody was like, 'Oh my gosh a new era, Larry can still catch the deep passes on occasion.' Except those two passes were the last time in the last 18 games where Larry went deep. What happened?"

They don't see Fitz in that role, and with both those plays against Detroit in 2019, they were long developing and Fitz made great plays. They could still do that on occasion but there have been few coaches willing to let Fitz work down the field over the past few years. I do think they need to make a better effort to get him the ball, period, however.

From 602 Crew via

I actually wasn't. Wondering, that is.