It's time to re-enter the NFC West with a big home game against the Rams Sunday, in an effort to snap a two-game losing streak. First, this week's mailbag. To leave a question for a future mailbag, go here.
From Nicholas Reif via azcardinals.com:
"Hey I watched the game Sunday, and the loss is devastating. The defense did well (despite the few penalties) but the offense didn't look like it should. Is that due to Kyler somehow not fully healthy, seeing as he did not run a whole bunch? Was it due to Larry not being there? I would like to hear your opinion."
I wish I knew. I think some of it is that Bill Belichick knows what he's doing on defense. But it's fair to wonder if Kyler is 100 percent (although Murray insisted he wouldn't have played if he couldn't play his game, so take that for what it's worth.) I don't really think it was Fitz's absence. I just think this offense still has yet to fully come together. I do think the threat of Kyler running means something to this offense, and the Cards have to find a way to work it back in even if the other team focuses on it -- or make teams pay for playing that way. I wish I had exact answers, because then I'd get paid a lot more money.
From Chris Waldrop via azcardinals.com:
"Hi, Darren. Any word on how Larry is doing? I figure it's like him to stay quiet, good or bad, but we all care about him and want to make sure he's doing well. Also, what is the length of time he will remain out (assuming he tests negative)?"
Kliff Kingsbury said Fitz was doing well, but obviously, that's fairly vague. Assuming Fitzgerald did test positive as reported, basically a person has to isolate for 10 days or two negative tests since the positive test if he is asymptomatic (which would be this Friday I believe) or if there are symptoms, 10 days since first reported. Kingsbury said he's hopeful Fitz is back this week but we will see.
From @EdBurmila via Twitter:
"Do you think that adding a dedicated offensive coordinator will be considered this offseason, to free up Kingsbury to focus on game plan, clock management, etc.?"
I do not. I think one of the reasons they hired Kliff -- and one of the favorite parts of the job for Kliff -- is calling plays. Same how Bruce Arians was during his time here.
From Jay Dapaele via azcardinals.com:
"Full disclosure; Big-time armchair QB comment coming, but I've noticed Kyler has an odd habit of not using the laces on the football. He's one of those QBs who just palms the thing. But here's the problem, Kyler doesn't have the giant hands those QBs have. So for smaller-handed Kyler to do the no-laces thing, that absolutely has to impact his accuracy. The reason I bring this up is because every so often we see the ultra-accurate Kyler become Skeltonesque without explanation. He needs to spin the balls laces into his fingers, rather than being 'cool guy I don't need laces.' You do need laces. Thoughts?"
My first thought is I appreciate the self-awareness that you note it is armchair quarterbacking. I think Kyler's dad is one of the most well-respected QB coaches in the Dallas area. I think Kyler played for Lincoln Riley, who is a pretty good QB coach, as is Kliff. I think if that was a thing, it would've been fixed by now. Kyler doesn't strike me as the kind of person who wouldn't fix a flaw if it was a problem.
From Bruce Chamberlain via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, I'm an original Phoenix Cardinal ticket holder and fan ever since. I am excited about our team but hugely disappointed with the outcome of New England game. The TV coverage appeared to show Kyler pouting a lot. I would expect him to be encouraging his teammates and not sit alone on the bench with that poor me look. Is this a reality or are the cameras playing tricks? Also does Kyler have a sports psychologist? Thanks for your candidness in all your answers."
I don't know the answer to the last question. I'll be honest, I didn't see the broadcast so I didn't see what Murray might've done (although I have seen a lot of people talking about it.) I did see Murray spike the ball in disgust after a second-half sack. I don't know if he is just "sitting alone." Most QBs spend most of the game looking over pictures or talking to a coach while sitting on the sideline when off the field.I could see wanting him to encourage teammates a little more, but I think that will also come with some time. The thing with this to me is: Everyone wants a driven player, which is why he got to where he is and why he is as good as he is. Sometimes, those guys can be heated in-game, and that's not a big deal to me. Michael Jordan wasn't patting his teammates on the butt.
From Rea R.R. via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. From your perspective, what's up with the lack of Hopkins involvement? His only consistent contribution are those quick first-down routes he runs. Which are great. But we see Tyreek Hill putting up 250 yards and 2 TDs games like today. Or if you want a more similar comp for Hop, Green Bay's Davante Adams is routinely putting up 120+ yard games and multi-TDs. Hopkins essentially is looking like Larry out there. Couple catches here and there. 55 yards. No TDs. It's a major problem."
Well, I'll give you that Adams catches more touchdowns but this season, he has four 100-yard games and five games of 66 yards or less; Hopkins is at five 100-yard games and four games of 66 yards or less. Not every guy gets 100 yards every game. That said, I do think they should find a way to target him a little more often; it feels like they have lost some of that in November. At the same time, their big-play factor has also shrunk, and you can tell with the offensive production.
From Hank North via azcardinals.com:
"You mentioned in your post game article 'Kyler took a looong time' to meet the media. Can you elaborate what a 'looong' time is? 20 minutes? 45 minutes? An hour? What's the average you guys wait?"
From the time Kliff began the press conference sequence (it was him, Markus Golden, Justin Pugh and then Kyler) to the time Kyler started it was almost an hour. It all depends, and it is different this year than in non-COVID times too. The first three talked fairly back-to-back-to-back. It depends on the guy. Fitz can take his time. Murray sometimes talks as soon as the game is over in his uniform, or then there is a game like Sunday where he decides to shower and change and have the interview be the last thing he does before getting on the bus to go to the airport.
From Matthew Stroh via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren thank you for the mailbag. I love it. Do you think the GM Steve Keim puts a focus on kicker and punter in next year's draft? I respect our current kicker and punter but it's a business and there are younger, better players like this year, kickers kicking 50-plus-yard field goals no problem and making several punts inside the five. Not to be mean but our current kicker and punter are just not cutting it."
I don't know what might happen at those positions in the offseason -- I could see them considering change at both spots if there is someone they find out there. But draft one? That's not something Keim considers important enough in the draft -- I think they feel they can find someone at those spots without spending a pick.
From Zach Maple via azcardinals.com:
"Given his long-time service to the Cardinals, do you think there would be any opportunity for Freddie Kitchens to return to the team in some capacity? Possibly as a QB coach? The reason I ask is because while coach Kingsbury has proven to be a very good offensive OC, I question whether he is a QB whisperer as some claim he is."
I don't see Kitchens coming back at this point. He had connections on the two staffs he was on in Arizona and I don't know if he still has any connections like that. And Kliff has done a pretty nice job working with Murray so far. Besides, Kingsbury likes to work with the quarterbacks and I don't see that changing.
From Jem Gulo via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, my worry with this team is it doesn't seem like we're getting better. We aren't necessarily getting worse either. We are sort of the same lukewarm team every week. Our defense is fine enough to win games. But our offense is just consistently blasé. Even during the wins. Any ideas what's missing?"
Anything I would suggest is just spitballing. I don't know I would say consistently blase -- they did have a handful of games with more than 30 points. I think the last two weeks have been surprisingly flat, and there is no question the offense has been consistently inconsistent. But if I could put my finger on it exactly, I'd have a talent many hope to have -- especially not being involved in the day to day of the offensive work. I just know that it doesn't get easier this week because the Rams defense is playing pretty well.
From Emery Day via azcardinals.com:
"What's going on with Devon Kennard? Is he still coming back from injury or has he slid down the depth chart? Looking at the snap counts, it's clear Golden is a starter now, but the opposite side is primarily manned by Reddick. Is that just what it is? It's a little surprising considering Kennard got a three-year deal."
Well, contracts aren't everything, and the Cardinals have had to adjust on the fly once Chandler Jones got hurt. The reality is Markus Golden is probably a better pass rusher and Haason Reddick is a little more athletic in terms of rushing or dropping into coverage. Kennard only got 11 snaps Sunday, and part of that also might be the matchup. I don't know how it will play out going forward. It's a good question to ask Vance later this week.
From Dave Long via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I can't get enough Cardinals up here in Spokane, WA! Here's my problem and I know I'm a few weeks late for this season... but... the Seahawks HOLD on every play! I have been watching them ever since Russell Wilson signed and their big secret weapon (in my opinion) is that the refs don't see (or choose not to see) the HOLDS because Wilson is spinning and turning around and generally distracting them. I seriously think it needs to be brought to the attention of the league office, the rules committee or The United Nations! What can be done?"
Dave, I appreciate your passion. And I appreciate the difficult life you lead as a Cardinals fan in the heart of Seahawks country. That must weigh on you on a daily basis. However -- and I know I am in the minority here -- I do not think the Seahawks hold on every play. Do they get away with some stuff? I am sure they do. As do the Cardinals and other teams. Officiating is not perfect, and there will be mistakes. I don't believe officials favor one team above others (just as I don't believe media does either.)
However, if you do speak to the U.N., I am curious to see what they say on the subject.
From Jonathan Madrid via azcardinals.com:
"You guys have had a great year so far with DeAndre Hopkins, but why has Larry Fitzgerald not been involved like last year? He doesn't even have a touchdown yet. I don't know what's going on but that is not acceptable, for Larry playing for you guys for 16 years and you guys don't want to get him the ball. And if you only do the short passes to him, that's not fair. He just needs to be treated with more respect then what you guys are giving him right now. Yes Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the game today, but what about all time greats? (Go Cardinals)."
C'mon Jonathan. This is year 17 for Fitz. This one is pretty simple -- with Christian Kirk banged up last year and D-Hop not here, Fitz was the No. 1 receiver most of 2019. This year, in reality, he is the No. 3. That's the reason Fitz isn't as involved. Fitz is a future Hall of Famer, the best player this team has had. But fair isn't part of this. Larry understands that. I'm sure he'd like to get the ball more often, but he wants to win. Now, would I like to see him as an option more often near the end zone? Yes. I am stunned he doesn't have a TD yet. I do think he can help this offense a little more than he has been used up until this point. But otherwise, this is how it's going to be. I don't expect any more 80-1200-10 years for Fitz.
From Charlie Klackston via azcardinals.com:
"We sat behind the Miami bench a couple of weeks ago and noticed that when their defense made a stop or special teams made a play, Tua ran out on the field and congratulated each player even if he had to run 15 yards to get to the last one as they came off. We hear that everybody shows leadership in different ways. It seemed to fuel a spirit and energy in the Dolphins. With the reduced crowd noise you could hear them. How does Kyler practice leadership? Carson Palmer, I believe, used to take his O-line out to dinner each week. Does Kyler do that? What does Kyler do?"
First of all, I'm not sure where you saw Carson taking out the OL every week. I don't recall anything like that. And neither Palmer, nor Kurt Warner, was running out on the field to congratulate special teams plays. Not on a regular basis. Look, this keeps coming up, and I am not sure why a team of professionals needs Kyler to be some rah-rah guy. If he was, great. If he isn't, that's not why they lose games. Now, does he need to deal with in-game setbacks better in terms of some body language? Maybe. But if Kyler is throwing and running and scoring like he is capable, it does not matter if he sits silently on the bench when he isn't in the game. And I guarantee you the rest of the team wouldn't care either.
From Hale Wayans via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I'm mildly annoyed watching the Buccaneers' success this season. I get they have the GOAT QB, that goes a long way. But I'm annoyed at the fact the entire coaching staff is BA & Friends. The exact staff that was supposed to be dismantled after BA's supposed retirement. Who knows why BA came back. Was he bored in retirement? Did he retire in the first place under pressure at home? But it bothers me man, because you can't say Kyler and the Cardinals wouldn't be better off with BA. We absolutely would be and thats not a disrespect to Kliff. BA is just that great of a coach. Partially why I bring this up is because the radio was talking about the fact that both Kyler and Kliff are newbies to this NFL thing, and maybe it would've been better to have an established guy in place (ala Mahomes with Andy)."
Ah, the radio. Thanks radio. Granted, this question came in before the Bucs played the Chiefs, but the Bucs have had their own trouble with offensive inconsistencies, and that's with the GOAT and B.A., right? I would also disagree that it's a foregone conclusion the Cardinals would be better off with Arians coaching Kyler. First of all, Murray is exactly the kind of QB Arians never really liked. Does he come up with the right playbook for someone like Murray? We'll never know, because he's never had a QB like that. If you ask Murray, I'd think he'd think Kliff is exactly the right kind of coach. Andy Reid has been great for Mahomes. That is true. But I think we have found that Reid is a Hall of Fame coach (and interestingly, was the Cards' top target before he chose the Chiefs -- and the Cards went with B.A.)