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You've Got Mail: Rams Week, Part One

AZC_CardinalsMailbag

The Cardinals are back to the regularly scheduled schedule this week, hosting the Rams on Sunday. Before that, a mailbag, of course. (The "part one" is because there will be a second Rams mailbag in late December.) As always, leave a question for next week's mailbag here. And now, on to your questions.

From Cy Fredrick via azcardinals.com:

"Thanks for the mailbag, love to read it! Let's say the Cardinals are competitive in the last five games, but ultimately come up short and lose all of them. That would most likely have us picking in the top 10 in the draft, maybe even the top 6. Would the damage to the psyche of the team, by losing out, outweigh the benefit of getting a top 10 pick in the 2020 draft?"

This question is something that seems to come up every year, at least in context of those fans who -- once the playoffs are out of the picture -- prefer a better draft pick as opposed to a few wins. I am leery about talking about damaging the psyche, mostly because everything resets in the offseason anyway. I've made the point a few times that I do think the strides they have made this season are solid regardless of wins and losses. That said, you could sense the frustration after the second 49ers loss and these guys are no different than anyone else with a job -- if your progress isn't validated, in this case with a win or two, the frustration grows. Always remember, and this includes a team like the 2018 version: The players could not care less about how high the team's draft pick is. It really doesn't impact an individual player much.

From Mark P via azcardinals.com:

"Why doesn't the NFL schedule Thursday night games after each team has a bye week the previous Sunday? So instead of the players playing a Thursday night game on only four days of rest they would have 10 days to recuperate. It would make the quality of the Thursday night games better, would you not agree?"

I would agree. I'm not sure about the logistics of such a thing -- we all know all the factors that must be figured into the schedule every year (venues, TV, special requests, balance) and then to try and figure in the Thursday game-previous bye question just makes it more difficult. Your proposal makes sense. Again, I just don't know how easy it would be, given all the other constraints.

That is a good question at this point. He has stayed healthy. He has been penalized too much (according to footballdb.com, his 11 penalties are tied for the most in the NFL this season overall with two other offensive tackles, David Bakhtiari of Green Bay and Laremy Tunsil of Houston), but he has been relatively solid. I think the Cardinals would like him back. I think he would like to return. But as always with these situations, money is the key. Humphries is going to be a 26-year-old left tackle on the open market (or at least with the potential to be on the open market). Those guys usually generate pretty decent contracts.

From Blaine Pierce via azcardinals.com:

"Hello. Why is there so much talk about the WR position? We drafted three last year. If Fitz doesn’t come back for 2020, signing a quality free agent shouldn’t be a problem. I certainly would not use a draft pick next year as there are many needs elsewhere. Signing Michael Crabtree wasn’t an answer, why not consider a younger player like Zay Jones (now with Raiders)? Still wondering what the WR question is?"

I understand the sentiment. And it's true to an extent. But, for instance, what if you are staring at the possibility of getting another Fitz in the draft in the first or second round. Are you passing because of your current guys? Free agency is a possible place to mine. But this wide receiver draft class has a bunch of players who truly could be special. As for why the wide receiver question, I mean, there is a chance the three draft picks will blossom. Maybe Pharoh Cooper can keep moving forward. But it's about making your team better, and right now, aside from Christian Kirk, I think the Cardinals are still looking for a dynamic wideout to help Kyler Murray. (All that said, I think there is a chance this offense can turn less wideouts into productive players.)

From Jerry Brown via azcardinals.com:

"Pat P still looked ineffectual at times on Sunday. Do you agree, and, if so, what do you think is the reason(s)?"

I think the spotlight is white hot on Patrick since he returned, and I think his poor game against the 49ers the first time around has helped color how his play has been seen. I do not think he has been perfect, or even playing at the level he has been at previous. I do not know why that would be -- anything would be speculation. But I also disagree with the notion that he had a poor game in San Francisco (not that you said that directly). There were, unfortunately, bigger issues.

From Ron Reed via azcardinals.com:

"Draft question: Would you take the 1A WR Jerry Jeudy, who would be the 'BPA,' or the 1B WR CeeDee Lamb, who has chemistry with Kyler? Essentially it comes down to do you think the chemistry with CeeDee and Kyler is of greater value than the razor-thin talent advantage Jerry has?"

It sure sounds like you have a definite way you are leaning. But frankly, not sure how at this stage -- especially if you acknowledge their talent levels are close -- who is 1A and who is 1B, or even if there is not another receiver that could make a move himself. But, for this mailbag's sake, let's say all of that comes to pass. Chemistry is fine and all that, but if a guy is a great player, it doesn't matter as much. You can't tell me, had Jeudy gone to Oklahoma and Lamb to Alabama that Jeudy's chemistry with Murray wouldn't have been pretty good. I would guess Kingsbury -- and Kyler, for that matter -- would take either one of them on the roster in a heartbeat. I guess I'm saying I'm not sure it matters when you are talking about this level of talent.

I am assuming you are talking about an individual player on the Cardinals. I don't know if I love the "turn things around" thought process, because it's not like the bye is some sort of magical sea change moment for any team or player. It's about a little extra rest. However, the one person that comes to mind at this point is Andy Isabella -- and this is just my guess -- gets a little more work as the Cardinals try to lay down the foundation to next season.

From Cardsfaninlouky via azcardinals.com:

"In the 2020 draft, what position do you think we will draft? WR? DT? Edge rusher? In my opinion, I think we go defense first, disruptive pocket collapsing DT, edge rusher or fast ILB that can cover. Some have said draft a No. 1 WR, we spent three picks on that position in 2019, they will develop in my opinion, so no. Defense first, that is the main reason we are not winning games right now. What do you think?"

My opinion about drafting a wide receiver I outlined in a previous question. In my previous mailbags, I've noted that, depending on who is available of course, I'd lean toward a defensive playmaker either on the defensive line or at linebacker. We will have to see how free agency plays out -- and what positions are taken care of in that regard -- before you're really going to have a good idea of the direction they will go.

Deals come together as they come together, and 99 percent of the time it's about money. You pay the guy the right amount of money, the deal is done. If he thinks he can do better, it takes longer. As for players wanting to come here, I do think having a good young QB makes a difference, yes. But never forget that as dynamic as Kyler Murray might be, or what Kliff Kingsbury can do as an offensive mind, it will not top the dollar figures.

From Michael Schmorr via azcardinals.com:

"I think we need to give Vance Joseph a chance to implement this defense. Scrapping him will put us back to square one. I think back to the Giant game (we sat along Cards sideline) and remember seeing Peterson take off from his corner spot and sacking Jones. It was one of the coolest plays I’ve seen live. That was similar to the cover 0 blitz against the 49ers in some ways. Of course it was 4th and long at the time and a completion to Peterson’s man at worst is probably just a new set of downs. I like the call but with the 49ers having a timeout left I struggle agreeing with it. If the 49ers had no timeouts then yeah go ahead with it because the middle of the field is off limits and I think that blitz may have won the game. What do you think? I like the aggressiveness and expect the defense to get better. It could always be worse. Imagine having to still hear about gap integrity."

As I have said before, I don't think Joseph has all the players and/or experience he needs on defense. Also, I think stability is important. Joseph is the Cardinals' third different defensive coordinator in three years. It's impossible to get much accomplished (on either side of the ball) if you are going to constantly change what you are doing.

From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com:

"Last year the offense was unimaginative and pathetic. This year it is basically the opposite. Last year the defense was about as bad as the offense but we had a head coach and defensive coordinator who made everything worse by being inflexible in forcing their system on the players and being unwilling to adapt to what the defensive players did best. Obviously the defense is not good this year but that is not because of Vance Joseph and his assistant coaches. We just don’t have the talent on that side of the ball. If we don’t make acquiring defensive talent through the draft and free agents I think the GM is who needs to be changed. Darren, I would like your thoughts on this."

As I said on the above question, I think stability is crucial. I would hope certain players gaining experience will help remove some of these repetitive mistakes mentally -- I'm not sure you can put the multiple coverage miscommunications this season just on talent level -- and yes, adding a player or two will help.

From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:

"What in your opinion will be the biggest personnel change, coach or player in the next five games? We need something on D."

To paraphrase the great Rick Pitino, Simeon Rice is not walking through that door. Aeneas Williams is not walking through that door. My prediction with this, in the next five games, is that those waiting for some seismic change are going to be disappointed.

From Young Neal via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. Kliff said tongue-in-cheek that Michael Bidwill would never allow Larry Fitzgerald's catch streak to end, and so I'm just wondering, in general, do you think Larry has a standing contract? It being Larry, his value to the team is greater than money. But so long as Larry wants to keep playing, Mike will always have a standing offer for him?"

I don't know if I would say there is a standing contract. But I think the relationship between Michael Bidwill and Larry Fitzgerald is close enough and important enough that I don't see the contract ever being an issue if Fitz wants to keep going.

From Nathan Palmer via azcardinals.com:

"First off, what exactly is the reason David Johnson isn’t getting touches. Second, is Kenyan Drake getting started in hopes that that will make him want to re-sign in the offseason? What do you think of us re-signing Drake and trading DJ?"

I'm not sure why there is mystery at this point of why David Johnson isn't getting touches -- when Kliff Kingsbury says he feels like Drake put them in the best position to win, it's just that. He feels like Drake is more effective right now, and as we have seen all season -- when Johnson was starting with Edmonds earlier, when Edmonds was the lead back with Zenner as backup, and now with Drake -- the coach sure looks like he'd prefer to use one back mostly each week with limited work for whoever is No. 2. No, I don't think Drake is starting for the purpose of convincing him to stay. I think he's starting because Kingsbury thinks he's better right now. I do think the Cardinals would consider bringing Drake back -- Steve Keim acknowledged they had already talked about trying to sign him as a free agent after the season before trading for him -- but trading Johnson doesn't seem likely, given his large contract that another team would have to accept.

While I'd figure that Johnson would prefer to play (much) more than he is, I think it's a leap right now to call it growing animosity given that, other than one one-word tweet, we have not heard from Johnson since the 49ers game, and he was saying all the right things after the Tampa game. Now, for what has been discussed behind closed doors, no one knows. I would think someone has talked to him about his current role, yes.

I am guessing this is in regards to fantasy football, and for those who spent an early draft pick on Johnson, I'm sorry this is how the season has played out. But there has been nothing that has happened with Johnson that azcardinals.com has not kept everyone updated about. If you are expecting a detailed plan of action before each game, that's not going to happen. (Although I can say that fellow RB Chase Edmonds is also expected to return from his hamstring injury this week, and Kingsbury said he "definitely" thinks there are ways to use all three backs.) Not sure why Kingsbury or any of the players would benefit from announcing specifics, or why anyone playing fantasy football would expect that. But I think people have gotten a good idea of how this is playing out at this point. Of course, whatever is said going forward, we will have it.

From Jerry Brown via azcardinals.com:

"B.A. claims rookies aren't ready to play untill about Thanksgiving. Well, we're there. How has Byron Murphy progressed? Is he a solid cover corner?"

First of all, all coaches are a little different in how they see rookies. Ken Whisenhunt and Bruce Arians were definitely a little more resistant than Dennis Green or Steve Wilks or even Kliff Kingsbury. (Sometimes, this was out of necessity, but still.) I understand Arians' philosophy. As for Murphy, this year will ultimately help him a ton. I think he is still working on the "solid" part of his game -- he's done well, I think you can tell at times he is still learning. He deserves to be starting, and I think he's only going to get better.

Well, given that every time Kyler was asked about having down time, he reacted like a 5-year-old being asked to eat his broccoli, I'm not sure there is a lot to mine there about Murray's time off. I am sure Murray has learned a lot about the game, but again, these guys come in and a lot of the time, they look at it like the same thing they have been doing in high school and college, just with real paychecks and different uniforms and faster opponents.

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