Merry Christmas everyone!
One game left, and the Cardinals have a two-game winning streak along with some questions at quarterback for the finale in Los Angeles. Also, one last mailbag for the season, although the mailbags will continue in the offseason, as long as everyone out there still wants to send in questions. Speaking of that, you can send in queries by clicking here.
From Don Patterson via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. I seem to recall Carson used to hold minicamps with receivers in the offseason. Has any one asked Kyler if he has considered doing the same? The way he talks it's like he lives for football and him spending time with our wide receivers, in particular the rookies, could give them a leg up on the season, I doubt he has even considered it."
I'm not sure why you think he has not considered it. But I do not know yet if he has thought about anything like that. If Fitz comes back, maybe he could organize. Or Kirk. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened. But even when Carson Palmer was doing it, it doesn't have to be necessarily next level. A few guys getting together running routes.
From Wilbur Astononie via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, could you tell me please what has to happen for Kyler to go to the Pro Bowl as an alternate? Would it require one guy to drop out? Or 12 guys? I'm confused. And also does the 'alternate' count as a Pro Bowl on his resumé if he doesn't go?"
The NFL does not announce alternates. That is left to the teams, and not every team announces them, so we do not know who all the alternates are. We also don't know the order, so we can't say if it would take one QB or three or more to drop out. The league also probably wants to keep it under wraps too if alternates decide to turn down invitations too. Doesn't look good when you start getting down the list. As for "counting," being an alternate would only "count" if he played in the game. As it should be. (Guys who are voted in but don't play already "count.")
From Trixie P via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. I'm pretty happy with the new ability to challenge pass interference. Despite the low-overturn rate, it's nice to have the option. Did you see they were discussing the 17-game season as part of the new CBA? What do you think about that? And also, do you think any changes should be made to the playoff brackets? Some feel the absolute best teams should go, not division winners. And I think I agree with that when you consider the NFC West is so far above all other divisions in terms of competitiveness. I seems unfair. And yes I do recognize Arizona was one of those 'bad' teams who unfairly made the playoffs in 2008."
Whew. You asked a lot of things there, Trixie. Lemme try and quickfire some answers.
- I don't think the PI challenge is going to continue unless they find a better way to work it.
- I don't love expanding the regular season, but I think it might be inevitable. A neutral-site game is intriguing.
- I feel pretty strongly about keeping the seeding as is. https://www.azcardinals.com/news/no-change-needed-for-playoff-structure-win-your-division
From Oscar Park via azcardinals.com:
"Why does Budda Baker still play special teams? I get hes good on STs, but he's too valuable to be exposed to the danger. Recall Tyrann Mathieu? He got hurt on special teams. Patrick Peterson is arguably the best returner in Arizona history, but as soon as we realized he was our all-pro cornerback, they immediately yanked him off the line. Budda is likely to get paid this offseason. Do you expect at that time he will be retired from special teams?"
Someone has to play special teams, Oscar, and Budda is really good at it. He's not returning the ball, so I think that mitigates some things. Yes, Mathieu got hurt -- twice -- on special teams. But while the P2-as-star-cornerback did influence his special teams work, he was still sent back there plenty of times. Ultimately, he wasn't as successful at it as he once was, which was the final nail in the coffin. I don't expect Budda to come completely off STs. Even Peterson still plays there occasionally.
From Bob Haines via azcardinals.com:
"Why do you think coach Kingsbury does not use David Johnson in his offense? David has great hands and route-running skills. He would be a great compliment to Kenyan Drake in the Cardinal offense. I feel David is in Kingsbury's doghouse!"
I don't know if he's in the doghouse, but the Cardinals just gained nearly 500 yards and had more than 250 yards rushing against the then-No. 1 seed in the NFC, so I'm thinking Kingsbury is doing something right with his offense.
From Freddy Rodriguez via azcardinals.com:
"I keep seeing that wide receiver is a big need in next year's draft/next year in general. I thought we would be set at wide receiver after using three draft picks last year? Would you say we picked the wrong wide receivers this year? Seems a bit silly to me to focus on that position and not other positions that we clearly haven't used picks on."
It's too early to tell if they picked the wrong receivers. But at this point, you can't say they will get a star out of them either. I think it's silly to pass up on good players because you haven't used picks on/have guys at a certain position. That's why they took Levi Brown over Adrian Peterson, for instance. You should never be ruling any options out, especially right now. Except for maybe picking a first-round quarterback.
Reddick is under contract for another year so I expect him to be part of the rotation at least going into the offseason. Whether he is a starter, or if the Cardinals decide to find someone and use Reddick as the top reserve is another question. I don't know what happens with Marsh. I guess it'll depend on the market out there.
From Donald Perry via azcardinals.com:
"I don't quite understand the purpose of the inactives list. It seems with the possibility of in-game injuries 53 active players could be needed . Do the inactives get paid for that week?"
You have raised a point that as been raised many times, that there should not be any inactives. The idea behind the list is simple -- it's about leveling the playing field for a particular game. Let's take this past weekend's game. Of Seattle's inactive list, off the top of my head, there were four guys hurt -- Jadeveon Clowney, Shaquill Griffin, Quandre Diggs and Duane Brown. Every one of the Cardinals' inactives were healthy. So if there was no inactives list, the Seahawks would have 49 available players and the Cardinals would have 53. The NFL has decided they'd rather not have such an inbalance going into a game. But yes, every player on the roster is paid, inactive or not.
From Peter Bluntschli via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, what major changes do you foresee happening to the Cards and the Cards' front office in the offseason? Best wishes to you and your family for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"
Major changes? I mean, I think there will be some significant roster change as Kliff Kingsbury goes into his second season. But if you are talking about coaches and the front office? I don't anticipate major changes.
From Cy Fredrick via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, mailbags are almost done for the season, I will miss reading them. I have a two-part question about Byron Murphy. 1. Does Vance Joseph and the defensive staff see him as a long-term outside corner or slot corner? Also, when you bring in highly touted young guys like him, you tend to hear the long-standing vets comment on their progress and their skillset. Has P2 said anything in that regard about Byron Murphy?"
Yes, Patrick just talked about Murphy last week. https://www.azcardinals.com/news/cardinals-want-byron-murphy-to-play-slot-cornerback I think Patrick has high hopes for Byron. But he said he sees Byron deployed like Tyrann Mathieu, and assuming Peterson is around in 2020, it'll be Peterson and Robert Alford on the outside and Murphy in the slot. I'm not 100 percent sure if Murphy ever moves for good outside -- he's got some things he must learn -- but I wouldn't be surprised. Like I said, I am guessing the slot is his home for now.
From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:
"Who do you think are the most disliked fanbases in football, not necessarily the teams but the most disliked fans? I'm going Seahawks #1 for NFL and Ohio State #1 for CFB."
I don't know if I am the best to answer this. I would find it tough to believe if you were a member of a fanbase, you'd never consider your own group. But I'm sure this could lead to some lively debate.
From Michael Travers via azcardinals.com:
" Hi Darren, thanks again for this opportunity to ask Cardinal questions. We're coming to the end of another season in which changes are the norm not the exception. Recently our General Manager stated that he has a plan for next year and moving forward. Surely this is a ongoing process, evaluating potential free agents, draft picks, and the current roster. But my question is about the head coach. Since you have witnessed almost a full year of Kliff Kingsbury how do you rate him as compared to recent past Cardinals head coaches? What are his strengths and weaknesses that you seen and what do the core players think of him? Thanks and Happy Holidays."
There is only one way to compare coaches and that's with wins and losses. We'll see where that ends up. But from what I can tell, I think the core players like him. There might have been some doubts at the outset, but his ability/willingness to adapt and pocket his ego to make sure the changes to make things better has been a big deal, especially on offense. He does not care about the credit -- I think he genuinely wants to make sure the players and assistants get that. I don't know if there are big weaknesses. Early I thought he might be a bit timid when it came to going for it, but he's come around on that. I think he also needed some time to understand the business side/personnel side of the NFL game, and I think he'll be better off going into this offseason understanding what he wants and needs.
From Cris P via azcardinals.com:
"Good Morning Darren. What a fantastic Monday. I will get to my question, but want to just say WOW what a performance in all aspects of the game. My hands are sore from clapping so hard/constantly and my throat is a little sore from screaming so much (Sunday) from my couch. My question though is in regards to practice squad pay. I know they get paid around $8,000 a week, but how is their pay affected when they get added to the active roster? Is it like the MLB where players get called up to the big leagues and League minimum pay is prorated based on number of days? Also, do coaches, players, team personnel get Per Diem when on the road? If so how much?"
Yes, when they are promoted to the active roster from the practice squad, they are due a pro-rated portion of the minimum salary (unless their team actually signs them to a bigger contract.) That is approximately $28,000 a week, so a significant difference. As for per diem, yes, players, coaches and staff all get it, but all three get different amounts, and I can assure you my per diem is much less than what, say, A.Q. Shipley is given -- but we both went to dinner at Umi Sake House Saturday night (separately), and it was delicious.
From Michael Tuckman via azcardinals.com:
"Thanks for this mailbag column Darren. Appreciate your level-headed responses. So let's get into a hypothetical. Arguments being made of getting Kyler a true WR1 vs fixing big holes on the defensive line. Going in to the offseason, do you think the Cards are better off spending big money on free agent DL (Chris Jones, anyone?) and using the draft for WR or using the first pick for defense and the FA money on other positions?"
Totally appreciate the question, and I know people hate it when I do this -- except you have to. There are too many variables at this point. I know there are some good receivers at the top of the draft. But is there a vet that makes sense? What do the defensive linemen look like at the top of the draft? Can you get Chris Jones? Does he fit for the money it will cost? If you are asking in a vacuum, I'd probably pay for the lineman and draft a receiver. But that's because there are high hopes for the receivers and like I said, I don't know what's really out there as a DL.
From Amy Pierce via azcardinals.com:
"Hello. As fans we all send in our questions, make comments attached to articles and generally try to make our feelings about our team known. To what extent, if any, does ownership and/or the front office pay attention to what we say? Do they read the Mailbag? When you have a 'trending' topic, do you share with the front office?"
Depends on the topic. Have I passed along thoughts about the uniforms? Yes. Do I forward comments/complaints to Michael Bidwill about who fans want fired or hired? Uh, no. I do not know if they read the mailbag -- I wouldn't be surprised if some do peruse what's on the site -- but I feel pretty certain they aren't looking for suggestions to act upon.
From Michael Langston via azcardinals.com:
" I am a very strong Cardinals fan. I am 70, a career Air Force Vietnam vet and fighter pilot. I know a little about football, being an all-state quarterback in high school. My older brother played for Iowa in the late 50's and won two Rose Bowls. He was small, and not very fast, but had extremely soft hands. As he said, if I can touch it, I Should catch it. Period. This background leads me to my question. Why do we not target Larry more often? Let's see, I think he may have dropped about two passes he should have caught in 16 years? The best hands in football. Don't tell me it is because he is double-teamed. How about Edelman? How about Thomas for the Saints? Their coaches figure out how to get them the ball."
It's a question that gets asked repeatedly I know. It's hard to argue with the offensive performance of the last two games, however. Part of the reason, in my opinion, is that with Fitz, there is still a high level of trust you have to have as a QB to throw it to him when guys are near him -- when a quarterback has spent his life risk-adverse, that can be a tough thing to do all the time. I do think they should look his way more often. But again, it's tough to go against what they have done offensively of late.
Two different things here. A cut would be about $16 million in dead money, a trade $6 million. But that's because of the $10 million salary that would carry over in a trade, a salary guaranteed. I do think the Cardinals are going to push hard to keep Kenyan Drake. I would think a restructure -- which just means the money due on the contract is distributed in a different way, such has converting some of that guaranteed salary to signing bonus -- is possible, especially if there is a trade. It would be more difficult to deal him with a $10M salary. Again, the running back situation is one of the biggest questions Steve Keim must deal with going into the offseason.
From Jeff S from Scranton via azcardinals.com:
"This isn't a question about the Cardinals but rather a rules question. I noticed in the early games this past Sunday that two players -- TJ Watt of Pittsburgh and Mike Thomas of New Orleans -- both took off their helmets while still on the field after making big plays. What is the rule concerning a player removing his helmet after causing a turnover or scoring a touchdown?"
The rule: "REMOVAL OF HELMET (h) Removal of his helmet by a player in the field of play during a celebration or during a confrontation with a game official or any other player." While I did not see the plays you mentioned, it certainly sounds like they should have been flagged.
From Micah Brown via azcardinals.com:
"Happy Monday Darren. If Vance Joseph is retained as defensive coordinator, what is 'the answer' to the tight end issue? Because it's ongoing. The Seahawks' No.1 weapon (after Chris Carson) was a tight end. Vance doesn't have an answer and this cannot continue into next year. Is it a scheme problem? Is it a personnel issue and we need a new ILB next to Hicks? I think we are approaching the point where coaches and front office can start speaking honestly. I think we just don't have any coverage linebackers on this roster."
You seem to be all over the place here. So you think the Cards need a new DC? Or they need players? I do not think Joseph is going anywhere. I do think they need to find a player on defense that can cover tight ends, and I don't know if they have him now -- Joseph believes Deionte Thompson has a chance to be that guy. The Seahawks' game though, I mean, the defense played well. Period. The tight end made a couple of catches. But their best two pass catchers -- DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett -- had one reception. If that's the case, then if the tight end makes six catches, oh well.
Free agency and the new league year does not begin until mid-March, so the timeline to get something done is still pretty lengthy. They only have about $2 million in cap space at this point so waiting a bit also makes sense. There will be some deals. As we get closer to free agency, some guys will have an idea of their worth on the open market, and that can change the dynamic of extension talks too.
From Neil Chiba via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. I feel like this Chase Edmonds issue is a bigger story than David at this point. Kliff's standard answer of 'Oh well he is third string' is completely invalid. Last time Chase played in a game he scored three touchdowns. Dan Arnold is the fourth-string TE and he gets plenty of reps. This Edmonds issue is big and fans are very unhappy, and rightly so. Kliff needs to be pressed hard, or go in the locker room and do some snooping. Did something happen?"
Let's pump the brakes here. Have some fans questioned it? Yes. Are fans "very unhappy?" Why? This team has rushed for more than 200 yards in two straight games. I have to wonder exactly what those unhappy fans are so unhappy about. That seems pretty odd to me. Also, Kingsbury has never once said anything about Edmonds being third string, period, much less as a reason why Edmonds isn't getting offensive touches. So I have zero idea where you got that. I've made the point many times on many platforms: Kliff basically uses one back. It was Johnson until he got hurt, then it was Edmonds until he got hurt, and now it's Drake. He just doesn't use multiple backs and you can't argue that Drake is doing the job right now.
From Edward Barton via azcardinals.com:
"Where can I obtain one of those kelly green AZ Cardinals ball caps I've been seeing on the team sidelines during the game? Thanks in advance for any response."
Unfortunately, those hats are right now available for coaches only. But I have passed along your wishes.
From Hank Jr. via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, I think somebody asked a few weeks back, but Chandler only has one year left on his deal. Do you think it behooves the organization to extend him now? Pragmatically the best reason being that the price only goes up. The deal he signs now will be cheaper than the one in 2020 or 2021 when Clowney has reset the market again. Thanks!"
Chandler Jones is under contract through 2021, so he has two years left. And the Cardinals generally prefer not to extend guys before they are down to a year left in their deal.
From Marvin Standorge via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. Now this is going to be some spectacular speculation, but I think its pretty legitimate. Larry Fitzgerald says all the right things in front of the media. He's a team guy, doesn't care about stats, only wants the W. Which are all true. But Chandler making little comments like 'Larry told me I need two more sacks for the record. Larry is a big stat guy' reveals what Larry is REALLY like behind the scenes. Not to mention Kurt's famous story about putting Larry in his place when young Larry wanted that one more catch. Which is to say, now that he's comfortably No. 2 in all WR stats, and too far away from No. 1 to realistically chase them, he has no statistical reason to continue playing. This was a very long winded way of saying 'Hes going to retire now.' Also - super quick question No. 2, why is Larry's dad in the media scrum at the Seattle game? His dad is a beat writer for the Vikings, whats he doing here?"
- Um, so anyone who didn't think Fitz cared as much about his stats hasn't been paying attention. Of course he cares, and cares deeply. That doesn't mean he doesn't want to win more, or that it is a problem. But Fitz's own legacy is very important to him, and that is built in large part on his production. That said, I actually think he's more likely to come back in that regard, playing in this system, getting a chance to win with Kyler Murray in his second season. Besides, I think Fitz's big decision on retirement has nothing to do with wins/losses or stats. I think it comes down to him wanting to play and be with the guys versus what else he wants to do with his life.
- So Fitz's dad attends most of the Cardinals' games. Understandable, given that he has a chance to watch his son play professional football. He also covers those games in the locker room after. He's done it Fitz's whole career. But it can open him up to a jab or two, even from his own son.
From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:
"Our defense played incredibly well against Seattle, especially far more pressure on Wilson than I expected. Do you think the absence of Suggs helped? Either by allowing others to play (Reddick) or removing his presence or something else? Or just a coincidence the defense played well and nothing to do with Suggs?"
Well, it wasn't the first game without Suggs. But I do think Reddick had his best game and is looking good in that role. I just think the Cardinals matched up well with the Seahawks. The Rams this week, after what they did to the Cards the first time, will be a stiffer test.
From Lisa Maudestie via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren! Chandler is going to finish the season with the most sacks and forced fumbles. He should be the clear and obvious Defensive Player of the Year, every bit as much as Lamar Jackson is the MVP. I'll be honest, I don't like that we collectively just shrug and say 'Oh well, its not gonna happen.' The media molds these things. So I feel like we fans and you Darren, Paul, Ron, everybody who has a pen and microphone needs to make it known what Chandler has done out here in quiet Arizona. Pile the pressure on the next few weeks. The voters should feel ridiculous to consider any name other than Chandler."
I like Chandler. I think he's had a great season. I think he absolutely deserves to be in the discussion for that award. But ridiculous to consider any other name? Personally, I think it'd be ridiculous not to consider a couple other guys. T.J. Watt has been pretty good, for a better defense. And Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been pretty amazing for a unit that has carried that team to a top two seed in the AFC. We will see what happens.
From Gary Gammiero Gammiero via azcardinals.com:
"Darren could you show Kenyan Drake this Seinfeld clip where they say they love the Drake? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBdYmPnjyvo I hope Steve and Michael sign him! The GMan."
The mailbag hasn't been around long-term but I have been doing a version with the Tuesday chats before that. Honestly -- and the fans can have their opinion otherwise if they feel so -- I don't think I've changed on my responses since I've started. I have a little more time to think it through rather than when I was doing live chats. But I've always tried to be reasoned and rational, because that's how I am as a person. I don't go into it trying to temper anything -- I just think that almost all of the time, situations are more nuanced than how people portray.
From B.A.'s Kangol via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, what's better: Christmas or knowing that this is the last mailbag of the year you have to do?"
Oh, Kangol, I'm going to continue the mailbag through most of the offseason, assuming you guys keep sending in worthwhile questions. But of course, Christmas is better. Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!