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You've Got Mail: Raiders Week

Topics include Kyler/Hollywood, Simmons/Collins, and Moore's health

Mailbag 0913

Not a good Week 1 result. Not surprisingly, some anger filtered into some of this week's mailbag queries, which is OK. Gotta get it out somewhere. I'm sorry I couldn't get to everyone's questions this week; we had a heavy inbox. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Lyle Lerner:

"Hiya D. Sorry to pile on, I know you're feeling it . But my biggest worry going into the season just came to fruition. The unknown experiment called Zaven+Simmons. GOOD GRAVY did that go poorly. I understand they are young and learning. But this is also a season, with an entire franchise and jobs dependent upon winning. Not to be a Debby Downer, but assuming Zaven+Simmons don't figure it out quickly, how soon do you think they make a change? Vigil+Wooten? Three games? If we start 0-3 I think a lot might happen, but just keeping it specific to Zaven+Simmons."

You aren't the only one to bring up the struggles of those two linebackers. But a couple things here: Vigil played a lot himself Sunday; Simmons again is playing more like a third safety. And Pro Football Focus thought Vigil struggled too. As for Chandler Wooten, you are talking about an undrafted rookie who is on the practice squad. I don't know if I see them jumping him into a suddenly significant role. I don't know how this is going to go for Collins and Simmons. You are not wrong in the idea that the Cardinals desperately need them to play well.

From Sashi Bernau:

"Kingsbury did his normal 'our offense was off-schedule, I have to do better' rigmarole postgame. One, I'm tired of that. The offense sure is unimaginative. But really the question is when was the offense ever on-schedule Sunday? Hollywood barely got targets. The tight ends got barely any targets. Darrel Williams got no touches. Green got like two targets. There was no flow really at any time in the game. The fact Dortch got so many touches seemed less to do with Dortch dominating, and moreso with Kyler just using him as a security blanket. That's not good."

The offense needs to be better. I'm not going to deny that. With some of your points, not sure they matter. Eno Benjamin is your No. 2 running back, so barring injury, Williams isn't going to be part of the offense. Brown was targeted six times, and while that wasn't as much as Dortch's nine, it was the second-most among receivers. I agree there was little flow. I guess I'm hoping they needed to get the rust out; otherwise, not sure what the answer will be.

From Rondo G:

"Thoughts on Kyler/Hollywood non-productivity Sunday? I feel like this storyline isn't being discussed. It's not so much his lack of contribution that's alarming, but lack of targets definitely is. If Hop was playing, Hop would get 10+ targets. He is our offense. As far as I can see, Hollywood was brought in to be our offense with Hop out. And he wasn't treated as such. Not game-planned for. Why?"

First of all, let's not be hyperbolic about stats. In 2020, yes, Hop got the bulk of the work. Last year, however, here were Hop's targets game-by-game: 8 4 6 7 9 4 9 2 2 13. Forcing the ball to a receiver usually doesn't work. That said, I did think Brown's role would be larger earlier in the game. I don't know how much of that was Brown, how much was Kyler, how much was playcalls, and how much of it was the pressure Kyler felt, especially early. I don't know if I agree that Brown is supposed to be the offense with Hop out; I actually think he'll be a better piece with Hop. But I do think he needs to be more involved early.

From Bobby B:

"Dave Pasch just nailed it on the radio (per usual) and said the game was basically Week 19 of last season. A perfect continuation of the last time we saw the Cards play football. That's a big red flag. Hes 100% right. And worse yet, it sure feels like Steve Keim didn't do much to address issues (other than trading for Hollywood Brown). The DL seems thin. CB depth is thinner than my hairline. Both have been for months. Where is Alford? I don't care if he's 40. Alford is better at CB than Simmons will ever be."

With Alford, Keim was asked about that the other day. But it is clear the Cardinals were/are counting on development of younger players instead of chasing veterans, especially on defense. I'm not sure Alford or most cornerbacks would have been able to keep up with Kelce on Sunday. But it's fair to wonder how long the Cardinals will wait on the younger players, some of whom aren't really NFL-young anymore.

From Down Peak:

"There's similarities between Barry Sanders and Larry Fitzgerald. Barry would've captured the rushing records, several times over, if he kept playing. Fitz would've very slightly taken the receptions records from Jerry if he played one more year. For two guys who care deeply about legacy there has to be a smidge of regret there right? The record is right there."

I don't know Sanders but I never got the sense he really cared about that stuff. As for Fitz, he did care about that stuff. But he played much longer than Sanders, and while Fitz could've set that reception record, he was not the player he once was, either. If there was any regret about that for Fitz, I sincerely doubt it would still be there. He's got a ton of other stuff going on in his life.

From Chris Pritchett:

"Darren, as a guy who lives in the UK, my access to a lot of what many of your readers take for granted, is limited. As such, I love, love, love reading the mailbag and any news updates on Thanks for what you guys all do. My question is in regard to Andy Isabella. I've pulled the below quote from your 2019 article:

'At the Senior Bowl, Isabella was named MVP of the winning North squad. He had the 102 catches for 1,698 yards as a senior. He ran the 4.3 40-yard dash. Kliff Kingsbury can be seen calling Isabella a 'little beast' prior to the pick. For a 5-9 kid who no one wanted coming out of high school, it was meaningful.

"It's cool that they believe in me," Isabella said. "It's kind of a different scenario now. Usually no one believes in me and I'm trying to fight my way into a spot."

I find something intriguing about this man. I know the pre-emptive answer is 'There is a deep WR room and others are better.' But, really? In what way? I love Rondale Moore too - but how is what seems to be an 'equivalent' second round pick seemingly catching on so much quicker? Is it Rondale picking up more opportunities in-game or more of a consistency of attitude and performance during training? Bottom line, as a relatively ignorant Brit, I'd just love to see more of Andy Isabella."

To be honest, I'm a little surprised that if Isabella hasn't found a spot to play at this point, why they have kept him so long. Now, once Hopkins got suspended and definitely once Wesley got hurt, that changed the equation. But as we saw Sunday, Greg Dortch is ahead of Isabella. Clearly, they don't see Isabella as a slot guy, and I think that's how they hoped he'd be when they drafted him. When he wasn't, that's when they went after Moore for the same role. I don't expect Andy to be here next season, and after one game, I'm not sure of his role now or especially when all the receivers are healthy and available. But it doesn't look like Isabella is going to get a significant role.

From Sally Avenire:

"I'll tell you what, perhaps the most important takeaway from that game was Kyler's growth as a leader. I thought handled that extremely well. That's really good to see because we are married to Kyler. Simmons is replaceable. DL and CBs and OL are all replaceable. A newly highly paid QB is not, so it's really good to see him present a noticeable change of demeanor from years past. I think he's finally getting it and taking on the 'franchise QB' persona."

I don't know if it was the most important takeaway -- we don't need to go negative again, though -- but yeah, I noticed that. I do think he handled it well. He noted you can sulk or do something about it. When you are one game into a season, with 16 to go, there is absolutely no reason not to do something about it. Again, Kyler, like everyone, needs at least a little leeway to grow up, especially on such a big stage.

From Juan de la Pena:

"Hi Darren! What was it that worried you the most Sunday and what do you think the Cardinals should do to improve that aspect? After last season, we miss J.J. Watt a lot and it was really noticeable, do you think they are looking to add a vet this week in case he is not ready for Las Vegas? Thank you."

I think it's much more likely, if they sign a veteran, that it would be a cornerback at this point. I've said all along a healthy Watt was an important thing. Having him already miss some time is not good.

From Kevin from Canada:

"Hey Darren, was hoping to get your opinion as you're closer to the team than us fans. Watching Week 1, I paid close attention to K1 and his body language/ leadership skills. It really seemed like he's grown and matured from last season in that regard. I feel like if this loss happens last year he would be much more visually upset and be alone on the bench. Last game it seemed like he was still very much involved and had far better body language. Since you talk to him and the team, does it seem like he's made a big leap leadership-wise?"

I do think, as I mentioned above, Murray has made strides in that area. It seems he has come to understand his place and what it means with all of that. That said, it doesn't mean Murray won't or shouldn't feel disgust once in a while; he is human, and I can think of clips I saw of both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady with "bad" body language in Week 1. It's inevitable.

From Bruce Berg:

"Hi Darren, first of all, I am going to be a regular writer throughout this season. When I criticize a player, I'm criticizing the play. Not the person. With that said, Isaiah Simmons. If not for his No. 8 overall draft status, he'd be cut after Sunday. That was atrocious. That was not fit for the NFL. Zaven Collins played like a redshirt rookie, but he flashed a good play or two. Jury is still out on him. But Simmons, he's a bust. That was abysmal and his draft status will keep him employed, undeservedly. At bare minimum he loses the green dot. I am 100% in support for Wooten to start."

lt's becoming clear that, wherever Chandler Wooten might be in his development, he is the equivalent of a popular backup quarterback. (A quick aside: Wooten has yet to beat out Nick Vigil and Tanner Vallejo and Ben Niemann as well as Collins, so he's not next in line.) (A second quick aside, regardless of what the depth chart says, Nick Vigil and Zaven Collins are playing linebacker right now as Wooten would, rather than Simmons.) Now, as for Simmons, 1) God I hope no one is criticizing the person because most of the time, the people sending in questions have no earthly way to analyze a player that way; and 2) that's still some heavy criticism even if it isn't personal. It wasn't a good first game for Simmons. I want to see what happens the next couple of weeks.

From jpr cards:

"I am very concerned after reading Kingsbury's quote, 'You can't say you're going to do it on game day and not do it in practice.' Obviously the result of the KC game was concerning enough but to me there is only one way to interpret Kingsbury's remark and that is that the team isn't practicing well. Wouldn't you agree? These guys are professionals and it is their job to prepare themselves and it is also every coach's responsibility to make sure the team is ready to play. I guess my main question would be do you think that there is far more to be concerned about than just the obvious mess we saw on the field on Sunday? It seems so to me."

I would say yes, that would mean practices are suspect. So does that mean the players aren't all in? The coaches need to be harder on them? But I'm not sure about "more" to be concerned about. The only thing we're talking about here, in the end, is whether the team wins or loses, and possibly how that happens. But the problem is exactly what happened Sunday, nothing more -- the question to me is can you fix it. It reminds me of the line in Bull Durham, when Crash notes that if you have stuff growing on your shower shoes and you're in the majors, you're a "colorful personality." If you do it in the minors, you're just dirty. Same here. Winning is the deodorant to all. Losing just spotlights all the warts.

From Dawson Schilz

"Hey Darren, did Kyler pull himself out of the game, or did the coaches decide to put McSorley in?"

The coaches put McSorley in, and rightfully so at that point.

From Nathan Palmer:

"Hey Darren, some questions regarding the RB room. First off, any word on the return of running backs coach James Saxon? Second, what will the roles be of the RBs on the team, will we run a committee? I think Connor should be the lead back but we should rotate them. Eno should get majority of the backup handoffs but Darrel Williams should be involved."

It should be noted you sent this in a number of days before the opener. Nothing has changed with Saxon. As for the running backs, as we saw, Conner is the bellcow and, at least after one game, Eno is the backup. Williams didn't have an offensive snap. Part of that was because the Cardinals didn't have enough plays to go around. They will be smart with Conner.

From Walker:

"So let us vent Monday: McVey/Kingsbury preseason vs Andy Reid preseason, I will take Andy Reid's strategy. It should be crystal clear more preseason injuries occur in practice than in the games. The preseason was designed to get the players ready for the regular season, every sport does it. The NFL preseason has been turned into a five-week evaluation and film making session for 850 players who are going to get cut. An absolute waste of time, money, and effort. If players like Murray and Rodgers do not want it, fine. Go to a 20-game regular season with two 10-week halves and a two-week break for player recovery. Stop this absolute crap we are doing now. What say you Mr. Urban, do you like the way the preseason is conducted?"

Players aren't going to go for a 20-game season. They will have 18 eventually, I'd guess. Don't forget that the more regular-season games means players have to be paid more and not all the owners love that. But let's back up a minute. I'd like to see your numbers about preseason practice and games; for starters, the raw numbers are always going to be more practice because there are simply more chances for guys to get hurt. And the main players barely play in preseason so they aren't getting hurt for that very reason. Coaches do want it for the younger players. I don't love it, but because I am selfish. I will say, I'd rather have a few games than 2020, when there were no preseason games and camp lasted five weeks with just practice. When I do what I do, that stinks.

From Cards Fan:

"When do we expect the major absences to return? Mullen, Watt and Moore? None of them are on IR so that implies they will return earlier? We desperately need them. Notably there's been very little news on Mullen. Has he even had an intro presser yet?"

He did have an intro presser. Mullen is day to day and I think there is a chance he is back this week -- he intimated when he talked he might play against the Chiefs -- but he hasn't practiced in a long time. Watt and Moore might be back but I'd guess Moore will miss at least one more game with a hamstring. That's my guess. Bottom line, the Cardinals aren't going to give up much info about injuries. So best I can say is, we will see.

From Oliver Leggy:

"Trey Mcbride inactive? It's kind of comical at this point. It doesn't matter if they are a first-rounder or otherwise, Steve Keim's first pick of the most recent draft continues to be a non-contributor Year 1. Amazing. Is he hurt or just another bust?"


From Dale Hatfield:

"Hi Darren, thanks for the Q&A. It's one of the highlights of the Cardinals website. This could be a pretty rough season for the Cardinals. But there are a few things going in their favor. The Rams have a tougher schedule than the Cardinals (even if not by much). San Francisco can't figure out their quarterback situation. And Seattle is basically reloading. The Cardinals will need a lot of luck but hey, Lady Luck may end up smiling on them. I have a simple statement and then a simple question. The statement: If you're not available, you're not valuable. The question: who on this team can make up for the lost production when J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins are not available? Thanks."

I'm going to say no one can make up for the lost production because otherwise, you'd not have to pay all that money to those two guys. They need both those guys. Who can help with the production? I think they need to get a lot from Hollywood Brown, and Zach Ertz. On the defensive side of the ball, I don't know if the answer is there. Zach Allen maybe?

From Victor Ochoa:

"Hello Darren, thank you for your great coverage and the mailbag, also gotta say I feel a bit bad that some of the fan base takes it after you during the games, they should know better than that. That said, the loss was against a championship-caliber team which places our feet on the earth. It really hurts to begin the season this way but at least it wasn't against a bottom team, I also have the follow takes:

  • Collins and Simmons really have to get better.
  • Budda and Jalen are all over the field. Budda is a great leader and it would be great to have that heat he had last year on the regular season game in LA.
  • Dortch looked good
  • The overall lack of sense of urgency in the team is notorious
  • I know coaches and players will provide cliche and not deep replies when interviewed but Kliff saying that they should practice better is just bad.
  • We should all agree it is better to lose a couple this early in the season rather than going flat on December.

I know these are not really questions but I am personally relieved that I didn't took the decision to make a six-hour drive from Mexico Sunday."

I see you trying to go glass half-full.

From Chad Johnson:

"It seems one of the consistent things with the Cardinals defense is the willingness to use skilled players outside of traditional roles (like Deone Bucannon or Simmons). Is this a typical thing to do for other NFL defensive schemes? I'm not knowledgeable enough about football to understand it all, but it seems like creating 'new' positions in a traditional defense requires all other 10 players on the field to learn how to interact with that 'new' position."

I don't think it really impacts the other players as much as the player himself. But I assume you aren't talking about a Haason Reddick playing an inside linebacker role instead of outside, but literally a new kind of spot. But again, it's about putting players in the best positions for them to succeed more than some crazy new invented job.

From Mike Kensworth:

"At what point do you say 'we can't rely on this guy to stay healthy' and start making other plans? J.J. Watt, great example. He will miss time this year. I fear Rondale Moore is approaching that point. Larry Fitzgerald played 18 years at the same position and avoided serious injury, and here's Rondale getting soft tissue injuries on the regular. I understand the team eventually moves on from viewing you as a building block. Is Rondale there yet?"

I understand what you are talking about but I don't know why you'd be so ready to bail on Moore. He's missed one game this season. Perhaps the injuries derail him but we aren't there yet.

From Michael Sozinho:

"Do you know when the media guide will be available? Now that Kyler is signed long term, it'll be interesting to see how far he climbs up the teams all-time records."

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