The Cardinals are coming off another win and are heading to Los Angeles in a battle of undefeateds. I wanted to say thanks for all the questions -- there were so many there was no way to get to all of them. As it is, this took a while to write. As always, to send in a question for a future mailbag, you can do that here. (Also, Ryan Eilers, your message was forwarded.)
From Jonathan Keen:
"I already know people are going to be upset about the decision to kick the field goal before halftime (in Jacksonville.) Can I just say I completely disagree with these naysayers? Matt Prater hit one from 62 that would've been good from several yards further. No reason to think he couldn't do it again. Even if he ended up missing, no reason to think we wouldn't be able to tackle the returner and go to halftime. I feel like a lot of fans judge decisions based on outcomes rather than the information available when the decision is made. Anyway, there's my rant. Thanks for listening. Would love your thoughts. Go Cards!"
Without being a part of the specifics in real time, I did not have a problem with the decision. I'd love to see an actual breakdown of the outcomes -- i.e., what the analytics might say for a 68-yard field goal try being made or missed vs. a miss being returned all the way for a touchdown vs. a 60-plus yard Hail Mary actually resulting in points. (Edjsports actually measured the kick versus the Kick-6 that resulted and found it a "defensible decision" to try the field goal.) I understand those who didn't like it, but I'm not one of them.
From Tim Bellman:
"Heya Darren. I for one loved the Prater 68-yarder. First of all, he can make it. Guy absolutely has the leg, so it's not like it was doomed or anything. Just came up short. Secondly, running it back for a TD was one in a million. Prater didn't talk post game, but do you happen to know his true range? I'm sure every kicker knows. Not the game range, that's always conservative. But in practice I bet Prater knows he can drill 62 automatic. So I'm curious what his actual long is, in practice. And if he has any thoughts as to why that one was short. Possibly the humidity? Maybe he just took a weak stroke, focusing on accuracy."
I haven't talked to Prater, but last week he said every week is different for his game-day length. I am guessing he's hit from 70 before in practice.
From Alex Stevenstein:
"Now that Anquan Boldin is a HOF candidate and shoe-in eventual Hall of Famer (not certain if first ballot, but he'll get in) do you think that helps his case for the Ring of Honor? Secondly, Karlos Dansby has to be very high on the list of all-time great players who's criminally underrated. Compare his stats to any HOF LB. Ray Lewis. He's up on Ray in several categories. So with that said, do you think Karlos could be a ROH candidate? I do. I think he had a terrific career in Arizona. Always a good team guy. And I think the ROH would be the best (and only, honestly) accolade to his pretty stellar career. Also, would Chandler setting the Cardinals' sack record stamp his entry into the ROH?"
As much as I love Q, I don't know if he is a shoo-in for Canton. Do I think he'll eventually get in? Yes. Do I think he's a lock like Fitz? No. That said, the Ring of Honor is a good question. I know he said there was no bad blood from his side about the team. That's a start. But whether it is Boldin or Dansby (who did leave twice as a free agent, so we'll see) or eventually Jones, those are ultimately decisions made by Michael Bidwill. I do think he has conversations with people in the organization, but it's different than having a voting panel.
From Drew Holliday:
"It's been two weeks in a row now, the Cardinals officially have personnel mismanagement issues with the defensive line. Watt played 52 snaps (82%). Leki played 13. Peters only played 17 (I assume that may be injury-related). Chandler played 90 percent of snaps. It is not remotely surprising to me that Chandler suddenly can't buy a sack when the guy is out there on every down. The guys are tired, man. This is a substantial issue. Not just game to game where we are seeing a lack of pass rush, but long term, we're redlining Watt and Chandler, two guys with injury histories. Not to jinx them, but they can't keep this up. Nobody can. They must rotate in Leki and Dogbe and (when ready) Gardeck at least 30 percent of the game. Watt and Chandler should never see more than 70-75 percent of snaps."
Lot to take in here, Drew. 1) Chandler does not have an "injury history." He got hurt one time, last year. 2) Jones is a linebacker, so we are talking about different positions. Fotu and Dogbe don't help you with Chandler Jones. And they certainly don't provide the same kind of pass rush. 3) Jones in particular was playing the same amount of snaps when he had 19 sacks in 2019. The Watt argument is stronger, especially when they said they wanted to dial it back. But I am going to go with the coaches and players actually there to determine who is tired and who is not.
From Max K:
"As you noted in your article, Kirk is really setting himself up for a nice contract. Question is, with who? We love the guy, he's a local dude. But what do we do? It's time to start thinking about Byron Murphy being the next major extension (excluding Kyler obviously). Murph is our clear No. 1 CB. Those aren't cheap. What do you think, is it possible we can make it work with Kirk or is he outpricing himself?"
I don't know on Kirk. I don't know if being a slot receiver hampers him -- he isn't as good on the outside. But the Cards, after Hop, don't have a lot of money in wideouts. Green is a free agent. Moore is on his rookie deal. They could make something happen here. If Kirk ends up with a huge year, it might be tougher, but at the same time, if he wasn't playing well, they'd probably let him walk.
From Joe Sundevil:
"It's great we are 3-0 but little talked about is our anemic run offense. Conner has been great punching it in. Chase has flashed here and there. But overall it'll surprise no one that Kyler is our leading rusher. That's somewhat a problem. We know the game dictates the play balance, but when we do call runs, they often get bottled up. Two years ago the OL was one of the best run blocking units in the league. Why have they suddenly been unable to open up holes this year? Or possibly, is it the RBs?"
Do I think they would like more production out of the non-Kyler running game? What team wouldn't? But they are gaining 110 yards a game on the ground, which is good enough as a team. They need to be able to run in short-yardage better. There is no questioning that. Also, I am not sure how you see Kyler as the leading rusher; his 70 yards is behind both Chase Edmonds (135) and James Conner (112).
From Jayson Wing:
"Thanks for your mailbag, long-time follower. Early in the Jaguars game, while Rondale Moore was set to field punt, an official threw a flag that hit the ball. It broke Moore's concentration and he muffed the punt. If the Cards hadn't recovered, is it something that can be reviewed? How else can the play re-done? Or like refs getting in the way of players, nothing can be done and it was fortunate that Cards recovered?"
It's the latter. Just like a play where a pass would accidentally hit an official, if it then bounced into the hands of a defender for an interception, it would be terrible luck but luck just the same. But, I mean, the official could try that 100 more times and likely miss the ball every time.
By Nate Zilla:
"Any insights on the release of Brian Winters? At worst, he's a backup. So why release him? Notably he missed a practice 'due to personal issues.' Was that a part of it?"
I don't know if the missed practice was part of it, but it's an easy dot to connect given that he was released the next day. I don't know anything other than they decided to move on. Was he good being a backup? Maybe not. Maybe they just felt like he struggled too much in his brief playing time in the first two games. But it is interesting -- they did like what Sean Harlow did in camp, so I'm not sure they are disappointed Harlow takes Winters' role. The irony is that he would've played Sunday.
From Bel Dubois:
"Hiya Darren. I've noticed something with our cornerbacks. I know Patrick Peterson was special in that he traveled and now that he's gone things change. But has our defense started mirroring Seattle with the one-sided CBs? I was watching replays from Sunday and noticed Marco is always on the left side (meaning he aligns on the offense's LT side). With Murphy always being on the right side (the RT's side). If so, that's cool. I myself am a big fan of specialization. I've never understood how they treat cornerbacks in the NFL. Offensive linemen have one position. They don't jump around to different spots to mirror the defense's best pass rusher. Why is cornerback any different?"
I wouldn't say they are mirroring Seattle; having cornerbacks play one side is probably the majority of defenses. Unless you have a stud cornerback that can travel, keeping a guy on one side makes sense. The Cardinals don't really have that guy (although Murphy moves inside some too.)
From Cy Fredrick:
"Hey Darren, thanks for your work. One question, one comment. I loved the (what I took as) take from the Cover 2 guys that Rondale Moore was a few flips of the coin away from having a rookie mistake-filled game that might have cost us the win against the Vikings. Football is crazy like that. My question: There has been some more hate thrown Kliff's way after his comments on coaching Johnny football. Darren, I'm curious where you fall on the debate. Do you take it as Kliff has trouble holding players accountable or do you take it as Kliff does a good job of not letting his ego get in the way and let's players be themselves?"
I haven't seen that backlash, but people do love providing backlash to Kliff. Sometimes I understand, sometimes I don't. In this case, the two things that came to mind were 1) Kliff was not the head coach, so are these fans jumping on Kevin Sumlin first? 2) Given what we now know about Manziel and his issues, I'm not sure Kliff could've changed much even if he did lower the boom. 3) I think Johynny Football is absolutely a unicorn case if you are talking about any coach working with a player and keeping them accountable.
From Rand Owens:
"Hi Darren. Kyler is good for one bad interception per game. It's strange. Especially when he's completing more than 80 percent like he did versus the Jags. How can we cut that out? It's on Kliff to 'get guys going,' not Kyler. As much has I've enjoyed the deep passes, maybe it would be best if we started incorporating quick passes into the O? I've actually noticed we have very few slant plays. I feel like that play is PERFECT for Hopkins. Why don't they use it?"
I'm impressed. I feel like there is so much criticism of short passes in this offense from fans, but you say there aren't enough. In this case, I don't think the interception issue has to do with too many deep passes or too many whatever -- I think it has to do with Kyler making a poor decision on a given play. Hopefully, it will continue to get better as he learns more, but we will see. But Brett Favre is a Hall of Famer, and he never did cut it out of his game.
From Guillaume Henri:
"Hi Darren. I want to comment on this Hop controversy that's swirling around (his lack of catches). Honestly I think its warranted. On the NFL Top 100 this year Hop was the No. 2 WR, behind Davante Adams. I'm sitting here watching the Green Bay vs San Francisco game, and as I speak Adams has 10 catches. Do we not think defenses are keying on Adams? Of course not. Adams and the scheme are defeating the defenses. So no more of this talk about defenses taking Hop away. You'll 100% disagree with this, but I think it's time Hop goes diva-mode and starts flipping tables on the sideline. Kliff/Kyler aren't getting the message."
You are correct. I 100 percent disagree. That would be a brilliant plan -- throwing a fit in public view, while your team is averaging more than 30 points and 400 yards a game and is 3-0.
Look, I think Hop needs the ball more, and yes, they can always find ways. But what are they playing for, exactly? This is a quote from Hop in camp: "I can go out and get 1,400 or 1,500 yards but it really doesn't mean anything if the team is losing. I don't want to be looked at as a No. 1 receiver. I want to be looked at as a consistent receiver. It's not really a numbers thing, it's a championship thing – nirvana."
From Matthew Stroh:
"WOW what a crazy first three weeks. We need to keep growing and getting better but I love that after we beat the Titans Week 1 and in Week 2 they beat the Seahawks and now the Seahawks have lost to the Vikings. Do you think it matters how well the teams we beat have played after we beaten them? I know we still need a lot of work but the fact that as a team we find ways to win is a big thing and we just got to keep that same mind set find a way. Thank you again for the amazing mailbag. GO CARDS."
Matter to who? I'm sure it matters to the Seahawks, who lost to the Titans and Vikings. But this isn't college, so analyzing outcomes doesn't matter in any power ranking sense. Your record is your record. I don't know if I buy that the Titans and/or Vikings were in any better shape to beat the Seahawks because the Cards beat them.
From James Best:
"Weird question, but is the 'team plane' the jumbo jet 747 or the small jet that Michael Bidwill flies? Or does the team own both? When you guys fly to away games do you have to go through security at all or is straight from the tarmac and up?"
I mean, I guess I need the context from which you are talking about. The Cardinals/Michael Bidwill owns the small jet he flies. The team charters the large plane the players, coaches and staff travel on for road games. The last question is both: We do board on the tarmac, but pop-up security spaces are created from wherever we depart -- sometimes at the stadium after games, sometimes near the tarmac where we board.
From Jeremy Heathcote:
"Hey Dazza, do you think players read the mailbag and get peeved at the gate shown towards them sometimes? The NFC West is crazy stacked, so do you think we need to beat them all twice to get to the playoff spots? Hopefully we can jag a few whitewashes and props to Maxx Williams -- wasn't really sold on our tight ends but he's really impressed when he gets a look in."
I highly doubt the players read the mailbag. But one can always dream. No, the Cardinals don't need to go 6-0 in the division to make the playoffs, but it'd be nice to go 4-2. And yes, Williams has done a nice job this season.
From Joe Bevack:
"Can someone explain how a second-round pick in Andy Isabella isn't getting an opportunity to play. The little time that he has seen on the field he has shown breakaway speed and good hands. I understand that there are veteran receivers that are ahead of him but Moore as a rookie is getting every opportunity his way. What am I missing?"
For starters, you are missing practice, which the coaches are watching every day. But while Isabella has flashed, he has not shown as much as Moore from what the coaches have seen. They have seen him for more than two years. At this point, he's probably not playing unless there are injuries.
From John Dunne:
"Hey Darren, it's been awhile but my question is how's Shaun Phillips doing? Last I heard he was hurt and on IR I believe. Do you know if he's almost ready to return? The Cardinals can definitely benefit from his presence. I gotta imagine the Cardinals are disappointed in his time here so far?"
I assume you mean Jordan Phillips. He remains on IR for now, although he is eligible to come off at any time. They need to see where he is with his conditioning and his health with whatever the injury is (it was not disclosed.) Phillips has been solid when he has played, but as they like to say, availability is as important as ability.
From Chris Wayans:
"Do you think now that Fitz is gone that Kurt Warner's relationship with the team and presence around camp will be diminished? Other than Keim, Mike and a couple execs, Kurt doesn't have a connection with anyone on the team. It was always fun when Kurt would come to preseason camp for NFL network and he'd always get Larry talking more than any one else ever could. Not sure if that continues now."
I mean, I'm still around for Kurt, so ...
Warner was still here in camp and I don't see that changing a ton. He lives in the Valley so I don't think he's going to disappear. He wasn't coming around just because of Fitz.
From Don P:
"Hi Darren. I know there is nothing specific but any speculation on when Dennis Gardeck will be back? I really expected him to be at least light practice by now. We could really use him."
To be clear, Gardeck is out not because of his knee but because he hurt his hand in practice. So it was a new injury that landed him on IR. He is eligible by now, but his hand will have to heal before they activate him.
From Van Young:
"Do they still weed test players? I feel like they quietly rolled back penalties. You kind of notice a lot fewer suspensions this year than in the past. I like it."
They didn't do it quietly. It was kind of a big deal when it happened -- it just so happened to come about right about the time when Covid shut down the country. Players don't get suspended, but they still get fined.
From Houty B:
"Thanks for the mailbag Darren, I look forward to it each week. I've got a few, you can use just one or all of you please.
- I notice D-Hop doesn't wear a branded shoe or glove. Does he not have a deal with anyone? Or does he not want to give a brand free advertising? Or does he have his own brand?
- Kyler does so well with scrambling right or left when he gets pushed one way or the other by happenstance, have you or any other media ever asked Kliff why he doesn't run any bootleg pass/run options? If not why do you think we don't try those? Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but this seems like a play with which we would do very well.
- I'm just curious on this one, what's the schedule/plan for when you and the rest of the media are allowed to be in the room for interviews like post game and when they are zoom type interviews? Do you have any insight on when you will be able to get back in the locker room and pick your own player to interview?
Thanks for your time 🤙🏼"
Here are my attempted answers:
- I don't know if Hop has a shoe brand. I could see, the fashion plate that he is, that he wouldn't mind coming up with his own brand.
- I haven't asked, but the way it is set up now seems to work well for Kyler. Now, he can be in the pocket and then scramble either way.
- The way it stands right now, I don't think we're going to be in the locker room regularly until next year. I would love to be wrong, but I would guess the rules will not change for 2021. Right now, we do few Zooms -- Monday and Tuesday, which are non-practice days -- but we are in the press conference room Wed-Fri and postgame.
From Nancy Everson:
"Why do the players do those stupid dances and poses after a goal? And what's with Murray doing that yoga thing? Please stop - they look foolish. Be gracious and thank your teammates and fans. It's not all about you, just play the game."
I gotta be honest, Nancy, why would it bother you so much? Kyler's pose is there for, what, five seconds? What's the big deal? Also, these things aren't mutually exclusive -- I've heard Kyler and Chandler and others thank teammates and fans and celebrate sometimes.
From Michael Stofko:
"Hi, Darren. While Keim stated recently that the Cards are not in the habit of letting go of talented players, that is exactly what they did with Haason Reddick. The minute they signed J.J. Watt, whom I respect tremendously, I thought to myself, 'big mistake.' I knew that meant Reddick would be dealt. Not sure what the respective salary difference, but I don't remember Reddick ever being hurt or missing time, and he had an unbelievable year last year with Chandler Jones out. There is also about a 10-year age difference. That's like trading in a five-year old race horse who just won a bunch of impressive races for a much older horse who, admittedly, has had great success in the past, but whose best is likely behind him. Can you explain, please?"
Let's start with the premise. I think the idea that they let Reddick go because they signed Watt is incorrect. I would argue that the guy who they signed that likely meant Reddick was moving on was when they re-signed Markus Golden. I'd also argue that, given the timeline, Reddick wanted more money than they wanted to play, and by the time Reddick realized he was not going to get the big contract he hoped for, the Cards had moved on. A one-year, $6M deal kind of showed the rest of the league needed to see more from him too. I love Haason and root for him and he's off to a great start. We'll see what his future holds. Who knows -- he could end up coming back.
From Eddie Chan:
"How does the Red Sea coordinate on the road? I am in Los Angeles and would love to sit with the Red Sea at SoFi."
This is a question for the fans. If anyone has info for Eddie, put it in the comments.
From Robert Malicki:
"An intriguing challenge confronted the Saints when virtually their entire offensive coaching staff was not available for their game. I'm sure all head coaches have planned their own 'how to' if confronted with the loss of a coach or two on gameday, but Sean Payton had to be very challenged and I think it was a major factor in the poor play of their offense. Has our own coach developed an answer to this dilemma? If Kliff goes down, or the DC, Vance Joseph, who takes over? If several coaches are out would a veteran player like Jordan Hicks assume coaching responsibilities?"
Coaches cannot work remotely, so that would be out. I would guess there is a plan, yes. They were already without a couple of coaches for a preseason game, so there was something similar. But hopefully, they don't have a situation where a bunch of coaches would be out. It's unlikely, because since all the coaches have been vaccinated, they would all have to test positive/have symptoms in order to be held out.
From Max Lloyd:
"Hi Darren, Malcolm Butler is on the retirement list is he coming back is he retiring. What is the update on him we need to know?"
Good to have you back with the run-ons, Max. Perhaps we should get you your own area in the mailbag. Butler is retired. Last time we asked, Kliff Kingsbury said there was no change, and as the season goes on, I see any potential comeback becoming less and less of an option.
From Jonathan Keen:
"My wife and I got season tickets and the Minnesota win was my first home game. We had a great time! Question: was the Kyler TD to Rondale Moore the shortest height of players on a TD pass? Gotta be close if not. Thanks!"
Alas, I'm not sure that is a stat Elias is actually tracking, even if Mina Kimes might be.
From Zack Maus:
"Hey Urbz, no question this week.. just wanted to say Zach Galia can been killing it on the Rewind articles and that his Fresh Prince parody this week didn't go unnoticed and made me smile. Man needs a raise LOL."
Great. Now Zach's ego is going to be that much bigger.